RFID Baggage Tracking Review in Air Industry

Nothing seems simpler than to receive the baggage from the passenger on departure and to deliver it back to him or her on arrival at the point of destination. However, this is just the first impression as certain steps need to be taken between these two events: identify the bag and the flight for which it is registered, scan the bag tag, sort and load the bag. All of this for a record number of passengers which last year exceeded a whopping number of four billion.

According to Baggage IT Insights 2019 report, lost and mishandled baggage rates are on the decline despite the growth of passenger traffic. Long-term large-scale investments in IT and automation have brought about these results. Compared to 2007, lost or mishandled baggage decreased by 47%, from 46.9 to 24.8 million cases thus reducing significantly industry’s total losses.

However, baggage handling is still far from perfect, most notably during transfers involving several airports and/or airlines. Notwithstanding the reduction by 46.2% of the industry’s costs of baggage mishandling on an annual basis, it does still represent a substantial amount ($ 2.3 billion in 2017) meaning the issue remains relevant.

Tracking allows achieving reducing the number of errors

The situation is changing primarily due to the introduction by a number of airports of baggage tracking systems. IATA’s resolution 753 which came into force in June 2018 has served as an incentive to invest in delays and loss reducing technology. Under IATA 753 each registered bag should be tracked all throughout its route.

Baggage IT Insights 2019 report demonstrates that the introduction of a baggage tracking system helps airlines reduce the number of mishandled baggage by anything between 38% and 66%. The effect is less tangible if an airport has already been actively introducing baggage tracking technologies, and more, if not.

RFID baggage tracking solutions

To control the loading of registered baggage many airports are introducing joint use system accessible to any airline that operates out of the airport. Carriers are much better off using this system rather than developing a proprietary one, in doing so they may significantly improve the process of baggage registration and also get the possibility for its tracking.

Take for example Delta Airlines, which was able to improve the quality of handling and tracking of baggage by a significant 25% as compared to the previous years. The Delta-implemented RFID baggage tracking system improved the performance and reliability of baggage handling while also informing the passengers on their baggage whereabouts in real-time.

Tracking is improving client satisfaction

Not only IATA’s Resolution 753 serves the goal of improving airlines’ and airports’ performance, but it also provides the basis for increased passenger satisfaction. According to the study, this parameter grows when they use technology guaranteeing greater control over the course of the trip. It especially concerns the check-in, pick-up, and loading into the plane stages. Mobile notifications on the baggage location will help reduce passenger stress level and positively affect the journey’s comfort. According to Passenger IT Insights 2019 report, the possibility of getting mobile notifications on baggage increases passenger satisfaction by an average of 8.6%.

Airports and airlines that are aware of this fact are including such features into their programs of modernization.

Demand on tracking technologies

Many carriers have already realized the necessity to launch real-time baggage tracking mobile apps. Currently, this option is included in the investment program of many global airlines; we may see it being introduced within the next three years. Delta, for one, has already done that.

In other words, RFID baggage tracking is a factor contributing to significant changes in baggage handling. Since, as was said, the number of passengers continues to grow year over year, increased operational efficiency, cost control and, ultimately, improved travel experience for passengers are among key features.

Everything is interconnected

When implementing RFID baggage tracking it is important to understand that all airport systems are interconnected. Here’s a simple example: existent barcode solutions which read the bag tag barcodes and compare it with the baggage routing information err once in 10’000. In reality, the lost baggage rate is 5.57 suitcases per 1000 passengers, which is almost 60 times more. The difference is not related to the tracking and distribution system itself but to the rest of the internal processes. This is yet another set of issues in need of tackling and RFID baggage tracking solutions is the answer to that challenge.

Hong Kong International Airport, which introduced its RFID baggage solution already 10 years ago, is a good case in point. It is the largest and most successful RFID baggage sorting and tracking project to date.

RFID tracking technology

Oftentimes, in order to reduce baggage loss and delay an already proven RFID technology in use for a long time to track, for example, expensive aircraft parts and components are being implemented. Some airlines already use RFID tags for passenger bags and luggage.

Introducing RFID tags for baggage tracking has several distinct advantages. The technology uses radiofrequency electromagnetic fields for data transmission, automatic identification and tracking of tags attached to the baggage. No human intervention is required. The technology has none equal in read rate and can manage automation.

Delta Airlines was one of the first to introduce the technology at 84 airports in the United States. Ultimately this attracted the attention of the industry as well as the passengers. After all, the solutions reducing significantly the number of errors in baggage transportation are in the interests of both parties. February 2018 has seen Delta Air Lines starting to use RFID baggage tags on its routes between London and the United States. The airline immediately felt the impact as in the very recent months it has recorded the fewest number of errors with baggage.

The airlines are not the only ones to recognize the benefits of technology. IATA- and ACI-conducted polls at airports handling 2 million-plus passengers per year showed that 70% of these airports are already considering using RFID tags.

It is worth noting that RFID tags are compatible with already existent technologies, barcodes, reconciliation and tracking systems. Due to the very high read rate and relatively low infrastructure costs implementing RFID may have a positive effect on both the costs (reduction) and passenger satisfaction (increase). The IATA business case for RFID envisages a return on investment in the industry of more than $ 3 billion over the next seven years.

Longest Chance is a developer and supplier of RFID baggage tracking solutions for airports and airlines. The company has a unique experience in implementing RFID baggage tracking solutions in large-, medium- and small-sized airports. Longest Chance has a history of cooperation with IATA and ICA as a strategic partner since 2013. The company’s professionals are ready to advise on all the issues that may be of interest to you whether concerning the functioning of our RFID baggage tracking solution or the possibilities of implementing an RFID baggage tracking project in your airport or at your airline.

Watch IATA-ACI RFID Baggage Tracking Webinar for Airports and Airlines webinar

We are inviting interested airports, airlines, and partners to try innovative RFID/Barcode baggage tracking and management solution which improves the productivity and the reliability of baggage handling, as well as the customers' experience.

More information about the RFID baggage tracking solution can be found here.

Baggage mandatory tracking points.