Travelers Should Demand RFID on Bags

A New York Times story suggests air travelers in the United States are growing more frustrated about lost or misdirected baggage.
Published: June 16, 2009

Yesterday, I related a story told by Boeing’s Ken Porad about the delayed flight he experienced because the airline he was on was unable to locate a sick passenger’s baggage, which contained needed medication. No sooner had I posted that blog when someone sent me a link to a New York Times story dated Nov. 6: Frustration Grows at Carousel as More Baggage Goes Astray.

The article says the U.S. Transportation Department reported that 107,731 more fliers had their bags end up missing in August than they did a year earlier—a 33 percent increase.

That’s pretty bad, and it gets worse. In September, 183,234 more passengers suffered mishandled bags than a year earlier—an increase of 92 percent.

The article doesn’t suggest radio frequency identification could help reduce lost or misdirected luggage, but it calls the current technology used “relatively primitive.”

I’d like to see a study that explains what the impact is on travelers whose baggage is lost or misdirected. How many reduce the number of flights they take annually because of the bad experience? How many decide not to fly the same airline again?

It’s possible there is little or no impact on customer loyalty, and that’s why the airlines are unwilling to invest in a system that could solve the problem. The International Air Transport Association has taken a more enlightened approach, suggesting all airlines work together to implement a standard that will benefit everyone and keep cost low.

If all airlines move in lockstep to adopt RFID, the costs will be lower and the benefits more significant. Of course, getting 60 or so airlines around the world to anything in lockstep is a real challenge. But if air travelers get angry enough, perhaps they will force the airlines to take action.

Next time you are on a business trip and your luggage is delayed, stand by the carousel and yell: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.”