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Air France-KLM Embarks on RFID Luggage-Tag Trial
The carrier hopes to use the technology to provide new services and to improve its ability to return checked-in luggage to its passengers.
Aug 18, 2006—Air France-KLM is applying RFID tags to checked baggage at two drop-off points at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport and one baggage drop-off area at Paris-Charles de Gaulle. The company is looking to determine if RFID tagging can better track and trace information, and eventually replace the existing bar-code technology.
"To improve our baggage process, we have to better understand where there might be problems," says Franck Lucas, track-and-trace and RFID project manager at Air France-KLM. "To do that, we need better tracking and tracing. That comes from more tracking points, and RFID can help provide that with automated reads and a higher read rate than bar codes."
Since July 3, Air France-KLM has been applying RFID-enabled tags to luggage checked in by its business class passenger for flights between Paris and Amsterdam. Readers are set to be deployed next month, to track baggage en route between the two airports. Before the end of the year, the company expects to expand the trial to include more passengers flying between Amsterdam and Paris, and travelers going to Japan and potentially the United States.
The project is using UHF ISO 18000-6C (EPC Gen 2) labels, made with chips from Impinj and comply with the RP1740C RFID baggage-tag standard issued by International Air Transport Association (IATA). The labels, which look identical to the bar-code printed labels already in use, are produced and supplied by French RFID specialist IER, which is also supplying the RFID printer-encoders and readers. Each RFID label is encoded with the 10-digit unique ID number and three-digit date created by Air France's departure-control system (DCS). These numbers are also printed as bar codes on the label.
An RFID interrogator will be deployed at the baggage arrival area at each airport and an additional interrogator will be deployed at Schiphol, where the baggage-handling process requires a reader portal to help track and sort baggage checked in at the airport. Air France expects the RFID system will begin tracking bags in October. By the end of the eight-month-long trial, up to 10 check-in desks at each airport will be equipped with RFID label printer-encoders.
At the end of the trial, the company will deliver a report to the IATA. If the technology proves successful, the report could pave the way for wide-scale adoption of RFID by airlines around the world.
Air France estimates that 225 of its business-class passengers fly between Paris and Amsterdam each day. By the end of the summer, the carrier will expand the trial to all classes of passenger flying between Paris and Amsterdam. Air France says it expects to have an RFID system deployed this fall at Tokyo's Narita airport to track tagged baggage arriving on its flights from Paris, and there is also potential for Detroit's airport to join the pilot before the end of the year.
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