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Why Face Recognition Might be the Answer to Lost Luggage

When a traveler’s bag gets lost or stolen at an American airport, who do they blame? Is it the thief? The TSA? Ask your friends, and you’ll likely hear the same answer: the airline. It’s human nature: travelers tend to associate everything that happens on their trip with the airline that they choose to fly. Whether or not an airline contracts baggage handling to the TSA is beside the point. Every missing bag damages an airline’s brand. 

Unfortunately, a lot of bags go missing. According to a baggage report by SITA, 26 million suitcases go missing each year. And the unfortunate truth is that a great many of these “lost” bags are, in fact, stolen from baggage claims. In fact, some hubs such as New York City’s JFK airport see as many as 200 bags stolen each day!

The Transportation Security Authority (TSA) saw 30,621 claims of missing valuable from 2010-2014. These claims range from the cost of clothes and luggage to the loss of highly expensive goods. As an example, a traveler named Rita Lamberg had $160,000 of jewelry stolen from her checked luggage after flying out of JFK.  Over the last five years, the TSA paid $3 million for claims that airports screeners broke, lost or stolen luggage or the items inside, according to a review of 50,000 complaints. 

Who’s Responsible for Lost Luggage?  

While the TSA often incurs the monetary cost of these claims, we’ve all seen passengers post angry rants on Facebook or Twitter mentioning the airline by name. The brand damage is real and can add up quickly. But are the airlines always to blame? The answer is complicated. The task of securing baggage from theft at American airports is owned by lots of different people, and the extent to which airport police, airlines or other transportation authorities are responsible depends entirely on the airport.  

With that said, it’s laughably easy to steal bags at most U.S. airports. In addition to insider theft, baggage claims are incredibly vulnerable to external theft. It isn’t difficult for a perpetrator to hop off public transportation, grab a few bags and then hop back on a bus or get in a taxi before anyone is the wiser. Airports know that this is an issue, but often lack the technology to combat this serious issue. 

How Face Recognition Can Stop Luggage Theft

Face recognition offers airlines and airports the potential to stop luggage thieves in their tracks. The instant that known luggage thieves approach a baggage claim they can be identified and authorities can be instantly alerted to monitor or apprehend the suspect. Biometric surveillance can likewise be useful during forensic investigations. It can help identify who thieves are and which airports they have visited in the past. 

As stolen luggage claims mount, airports and airlines should do everything in their power to ensure that travelers can claim their baggage intact. Face recognition has the power to be a game-changer, and radically reduce stolen luggage incidents. And the sooner that airlines catch on, the less loyal customers they’ll have to lose to baggage theft. 


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