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Milan's Malpensa Airport Prepares for RFID Baggage Handling

The airport plans to install the RFID system in two phases over the next three months, with its current bar-code system running simultaneously as a backup.
By Rhea Wessel
Aug 03, 2007Next month, Milan's Malpensa Airport will begin installing an RFID system to track baggage, as part of an effort to reduce the cost of baggage handling at one of Italy's largest airports. Malpensa signed a contract with Denmark's Lyngsoe Systems to install and integrate a system in Milan that is nearly identical to one used at Hong Kong International Airport (see Airport Says Payback Is in the Bag). The Milan airport served 21.7 million passengers in 2006.

Jan Poulsen, a sales manager for airport solutions at Lyngsoe, who is working with the Milan airport, says, "This is the first RFID baggage-handling system for commercial use to be installed in Europe. Up until now, there have only been pilots."

To reduce the cost of baggage handling, Malpensa Airport will install an RFID system to track bags.

Like most airports around the world, Malpensa Airport currently operates a baggage-handling system that uses luggage tags printed with bar codes to identify bags, but because bar-code scanners require a clear line of sight to read a bar-coded luggage tag, the successful read rate is below 100 percent. At present, when a bar code cannot be read, workers must manually scan the bag's tag.

Jan Kretzschmer, Lyngsoe's director for airport solutions, says RFID's nearly 100 percent read rates will help the airport reduce the cost of baggage handling. The airport will need less manpower, since fewer bags will need to be handled twice due to failed readings. What's more, Lyngsoe expects the RFID system to speed up baggage handling, helping passengers and airlines avoid late luggage.

The airport plans to install the RFID system in two phases over the next three months, leaving the bar-code system in place and running simultaneously as a backup. Ten RFID antennas will be installed over conveyor belts at the entrances to the central baggage room, in which all conveyor belts converge in two lines. After bags are tagged at the check-in counter, the belts will move them to the central baggage room, where the first RFID interrogation will be made. Bar codes will continue to be read at this point as well.

The second RFID tag reading will occur when the bags are loaded into unit load devices (ULDs), the carts used to haul luggage to an aircraft. RFID antennas will be installed on the ceiling over four load points where baggage handlers manually lift bags off the conveyor belts onto ULDs.

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