Tracking Baggage with RFID
No one is immune from losing luggage on a flight, not even the CEO of Alaska Airlines. Delta has a plan to introduce RFID luggage tags later this summer that they hope may significantly help with the issue.
At its highest point in 2007, worldwide, there were 46.9 million misdirected and lost bags. That adds up to 18.88 per 1,000 passengers. That improved dramatically by 2013, with 21.8 million misdirected bags, or 6.96 per 1,000 passengers.
The Pain of Lost Luggage
While the odds of getting your luggage are still in your favour, if you've ever waited at a baggage carousel only to realize that your bag did not make it to your final destination, you know how painful the experience can be.
The cost to airlines adds up to $4 billion per year. The cost of unhappy passengers is even higher. With passengers now paying for the luxury of checked bags, the expectation is that your bag will make it to the other side. Passengers are less patient and more likely to complain loudly.
Unique Use of Proven Technology
RFID is used extensively to help manufacturers and retail operations maintain efficiency. The technology allows for monitoring the supply chain and ensures shelves are adequately stocked with all the right SKUs. It is a reliable method of tracking goods in transit. Adding RFID to luggage tags is an innovative use of a proven technology.
Airlines have always relied on airport codes and barcode readers to ensure luggage makes it on the right flights. Most medium to large airports have automated baggage handling systems, complete with in-line automatic baggage tag readers that read the barcodes on the bags as they move through the system and sort them to their destination. Still, RFID should reduce the number of misread bags.
Delta plans to install sensors along its conveyor belts, which will scan the luggage as it passes and reroute any bag that has been misdirected. The move to RFID is expected to increase Delta's baggage tag read rate from 95% to 99.9%.
The Future of RFID in Consumer Interactions
The integration of RFID in luggage tags is an opportunity to change how companies interact with their customers. For airlines, incorporating electronic information into boarding passes as well could help streamline movement through security and customs.
Use of NFC in boarding passes could allow passengers to access information and instant updates on flight status or gate changes with the tap of their phone. Airlines could offer a customized experience for passengers by storing additional information and special instructions right on the boarding pass.
The innovative use of RFID to help reduce lost luggage is a good step toward better experiences between airlines and travelers.