We have seen many industries revolutionized by the advancement of technology, specifically through the use of RFID and bar-code scanners. This trend has been evident in almost any area that involves a supply chain or has a tracking/traceability component. We have witnessed transformations in Healthcare, Diet apps, agriculture and much more through the use of RFID. Another industry we have seen benefiting from the use of bar-codes and RFID is the airline industry.
One of the worst experiences for both airlines and passengers is the baggage claim journey. This tedious process can include waiting forever for your baggage to arrive or having an airline lose your luggage and not meet you at your final destination. Lost baggage can be incredibly frustrating for everyone involved, including the airline employees themselves. One of the trends that Airline customers will be able to witness in 2020 is a significant change that will be implemented more consistently across the industry — a change that will reduce the hassle of managing luggage and reduce the risk of lost luggage. Passengers can expect to experience more self-service scenarios, while airlines increase transparency and real-time tracking to enhance the experience of a traveler’s journey.
The reason behind this change is on June 1st, 2018 the IATA Resolution 753 mandated bag checking at four data points throughout the bag’s journey. This makes identifying and tracking bags, and any mishandling, to be more clearly recognized in order to reduce mistakes. This mandated process also creates a faster process in returning passengers’ luggage if the bag did miss the intended flight.
Although the use of radio frequency identification has already been implemented in different areas of the air transportation industry, there is a renewed purpose for RFID for this baggage tracking purpose. It can become the key factor in reducing baggage mismanagement and errors by tracking bags along these four check points.
One of the reasons that RFID was not implemented sooner to battle the issues of lost and recovery of luggage was due to airlines not having money to invest in such solutions, according to Andrew Price, Global Baggage Operations. More recently, a reduction in the average price of RFID systems has made it more possible to implement such a solution for airlines.
In a recent article released by IATA, Andrew Price spoke about the shift in cost to implement upcoming solutions, stating “It is also true that the cost of tags is nowhere near the $1.50 that was previously the case. And there is much greater collaboration within the industry now, which is necessary for projects of this size and scope.”
Searching for a solution is also fueled by airlines focusing on quality becoming a differentiating factor for passengers, which demands good baggage handling services. The reader range and reliability of RFID have also significantly improved over the past few years, making it the most viable solution to deploy for Airlines successfully. In fact, barcode scanning has provided some Airlines with a 97% success rate, according to Delta Airlines Baggage Implementation Manager, Brandon Woodruff. Unfortunately, that 3% gap in the success rate still accounts for approximately four million lost or delayed bags a year. Given the significant rate of issues surrounding lost bags, Delta had turned to technology to be able to narrow this gap, explaining that the solution was narrowed down to two choices, either Bluetooth or RFID. One of the reasons that Woodruff had for choosing RFID over Bluetooth, was due to both the performance and the price, making it the best solution for the airline.
Progress is being made to make a seamless integration while implementing RFID. However, there are some challenges in the beginning stages, while they are trying to create an enhanced experience for all involved.
Given the high confidence in having the RFID as a solution for baggage handling, IATA member Airlines are on the verge of mandating an RFID inlay for all bag tags manufactured after 2020. This introduction of the infrastructure to the airport could even lead to reusable RFID tags future-forward. The solution they are proposing is simple: Airlines would attach RFID to a bag, eliminating any further need to tag the bag for future trips, as the identifier is unique and can link to the journey.
Another significant aspect of utilizing RFID is its ability to work alongside current technologies and systems, in which baggage sorting systems will be able to read both RFID and barcodes. It is up to the airline as to how quickly, or slowly, they would like to implement the use of RFID. However, trends are indicating the sooner it is implemented, the faster a return on investment they will receive.