Mar 03, 2019Way back in October 2006, when I had much less gray hair, I wrote an article titled Baggage Tracking Is a No-Brainer. In that piece, I reported that the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which comprises more than 200 airline members, had conducted some research and had found that RFID baggage tracking could save the industry $700 million annually by reducing the number of lost or mishandled bags (that's about $900 million by today's value).
The IATA was encouraging airlines to embrace radio frequency identification technologies for baggage tracking, but that didn't happen. One reason is that passive UHF RFID was relatively new at the time and was somewhat inconsistent. It was not possible, in those days, to read RFID tags on luggage items in random orientation, moving down a conveyor, with 99 percent accuracy. Another issue is that the airlines were reluctant to spend money on a new, relatively unproven technology.
Well, passive UHF RFID systems have improved greatly, and—I think this is important—Delta Air Lines proved that RFID could not only reduce the incidence of lost or stolen bags, but also make customers more relaxed about traveling (see Delta Air Lines Shows the Future of Retail, RFID Data Equals Business Intelligence and RFID Reduces Oxygen-Generator Waste for Delta Air Lines). It's comforting to receive an email confirming that your suitcase was just loaded onto an airplane, or that it's waiting for you on a particular luggage carousel.
The IATA has decided to take a second bite of the apple. In June 2018, RFID Journal reported that the IATA's board had voted, at its general meeting, to develop a standard within one year for using RFID to track bags (see Airline Industry Embraces RFID Baggage Tracking and NXP, Other Companies Preparing for Influx of RFID Baggage Technology Requests). The industry body's goal was to have airlines start rolling the technology out globally in 2020—which, you may be aware, is next year.
To help airlines get up to speed on RFID and comply with this initiative, we are offering, as part of this year's RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, an RFID workshop for airline baggage tracking. This workshop is free to all qualified airlines and airports.
Andrew Price, the IATA's head of global baggage operations, will speak during the workshop, along with Magali Collot, the organization's project manager for end-to-end baggage. In addition, Brandon Woodruff, a senior analyst at Delta, will present a case study discussing the airline's RFID initiative. The event is sponsored by RFID Global Solution, which has carried out several baggage-tracking deployments around the world.
Some airlines might still drag their feet on deploying RFID technology, preferring to avoid the expense of tagging bags, but that is shortsighted, in my view. RFID can help airlines save money and improve customer service. I said it 13 years ago, and I'll say it again: airline baggage tracking is a no-brainer.
Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal.