Jun 06, 2018The airline industry has steadily improved its ability to handle passenger luggage. In 2016, 5.73 bags per thousand passengers went astray, which represented a 12 percent drop compared to the previous year. Throughout the past decade, the industry has seen a 70 percent reduction in lost or mishandled bags. Still, airlines mishandled more than 21 million bags in 2016, costing them more than $2 billion in aggregate.
The airlines have known for more than a decade that radio frequency identification technology could be a cost-effective solution to the problem (see San Francisco Airport OKs RFID Bag-Tracking Pilot. But the cost and the sheer scale of the project—covering airports all over the world—caused the industry to delay implementing the technology… until now.
This week, the board of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) voted at its general meeting to develop a standard within one year for using RFID to track bags. The industry body aims to start rolling the technology out globally in 2020.
Speaking at the event, Alexandre De Juniac, IATA's director general, said the board "mandates IATA to move ahead quickly to meet customer expectations for the real-time tracking of baggage. We have got one year to develop a global deployment standard that will see IATA-standard RFID inlays in all baggage tags. During that time, we will align our partners in the value chain, especially airports, so we can achieve our industry's vision of rolling this out from 2020."
Part of me wants to scream, "Well, it's about time!" Another part is thrilled that the industry has finally summoned the will to implement RFID globally. It's great news for travelers. Losing your baggage is an incredible headache. It happened to me just once, but I had to spend a few hundred euros to buy some clothes so I could deliver a presentation in France.
My friend's parents recently flew to Germany. Their luggage was lost and never recovered. It ruined their vacation. Even when bags are found, though, the stress of not knowing if they'll arrive at one's destination can ruin a trip. Another friend of mine had bags go missing during a connection to Europe (both incidents happened within the past two months). They worried that they would not arrive in Madrid in time for a cruise they were planning to take. The bags did arrive, but the stress endured meant their vacation got off to an unpleasant start.
Delta Air Lines deserves a lot of credit for being the first airline to show that RFID could be a cost-effective solution to the problem (see Delta Gives Green Light to RFID Baggage Tracking). If you have the Delta mobile app and you check your bags, you will receive a notification when the bags are on your plane, which is wonderful-and Delta can quickly track down your luggage anywhere in its system should any bags be put on the wrong flight.
Using RFID on all baggage won't eliminate lost baggage entirely, but it will give travelers greater peace of mind and allow airlines to reduce the $2 billion they spend tracking down mishandled bags or compensating customers for lost luggage. Once airlines see how great RFID works on bags, they will no doubt be eager to use it to track assets, parts and other items as well.
Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or the Editor's Note archive.