SITA said the world’s airlines improved baggage handling in 2012 as the rate of mishandled bags dropped 1.8% compared to 2011.

According to the newly released ninth annual SITA Baggage Report, 8.83 bags per thousand passengers were mishandled in 2012, down from 8.99 in 2011. “The air transport industry achieved this improvement despite a 4.5% rise in passenger numbers to 2.95 billion,” SITA said in a statement, adding that “higher passenger volumes inevitably increase pressure on airport baggage operations.”

SITA cited improved bag transfers between flights as a key reason the mishandled rate declined. Transferring bags between flights “is traditionally the ‘pinch point’ in the baggage handling process and the leading cause of delay,” SITA said. “SITA’s report showed an improvement in this area [in 2012] with transfer bags, as a proportion of all mishandled bags, down 9% from 2011. This is a result of airlines and airports investing in processes and systems to improve both baggage handling efficiency and the speed with which bags travel through the airport.”

SITA CEO Francesco Violante noted, “Over the past six years, the rate of mishandled bags per thousand passengers has fallen 53.2%, saving the industry $2.1 billion in 2012 compared to 2007. While there is still work to be done … the six-year trend shows that our collaborative efforts to improve baggage handling are paying off.”

SITA defines a mishandled bag as checked baggage that is delayed, damaged, lost or stolen.