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Lisbon Airport Ups Throughput With RFID Baggage System

The system is not backed up by bar-coding technology, making the airport among the first in the world to rely solely on RFID for tracking transfer bags.
By Rhea Wessel
Oct 14, 2009Portugal's Lisbon Airport reports that its new RFID-based baggage-handling system (BHS) reduces the average time to process a transfer bag by at least 66 percent. The system is not backed up by bar-coding technology, making the airport among the world's first to rely entirely on radio frequency identification for tracking transfer bags, according to Sérgio Miranda, the airport's operational manager of baggage terminals.

The RFID application and the BHS with which it is integrated were provided by Lyngsoe Systems of Denmark. Lyngsoe's RFID on Baggage solutions are also implemented at airports in Hong Kong and Milan, Italy (see Airport Says Payback Is in the Bag and Milan's Malpensa Airport Prepares for RFID Baggage Handling).

Lisbon Airport built a new baggage transfer terminal in 2004, Miranda says, but passenger traffic rose significantly by 2007, and some airlines were beginning to complain about delays in the handling of luggage. ("We had manual sorting, one line and one X-ray machine," Miranda explains.) Therefore, the airport performed an extensive process-design review, together with an analysis of the needs of its largest airline customer, TAP Portugal, which operates a hub at the airport.

As a result of the analyses, Lisbon Airport—supported by Lyngsoe Systems—decided to monitor the quality of baggage transfers via RFID, using Lyngsoe's Automatic Baggage Quality Measurement System. Later, at the end of 2008, the airport installed the new RFID-based BHS, which was designed to help the facility deal with increased baggage-handling demand and security requirements, as well as help improve the accuracy of baggage handling.

According to Miranda, many of the bags that Lisbon Airport handles as transfer luggage originate in Africa or South America. Printed tags from these countries, he says, can be of poor quality and difficult to scan with bar-code readers.

The new RFID system involves tagging luggage as it is taken off airplanes and moved to the transfer terminal. If a bag arrives that already carries an RFID tag, Miranda says, the bag is forwarded into the handling system directly. "It happens very often that bags already carry an RFID tag from another airport," he states. "If it's IATA-compliant, we can use it and write on it."

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