Delta introduces RFID baggage tracking

RFID will give passengers better real-time baggage tracking

Delta, which handles 120 million bags annually, will soon use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to track bags on all of its mainline and Delta Connection flights.

An RFID chip is embedded in the baggage tag and that chip emits a radio signal. Scanners read the data stored on the RFID chip. The data includes the passenger and flight details.

The data is then used to route the baggage to the correct aircraft.

Initial deployments by Delta of RFID show that bags are tracked at a 99.9 percent success rate.

Delta has deployed 4,600 scanners, installed 3,800 RFID bag tag printers and integrated 600 pier and claim readers to enable hands-free scanning of baggage throughout the handling process.

At 84 of Delta’s largest stations, 1,500 belt loaders will read each bag’s tag just before it enters the aircraft hold. The belt loader sensor will flash green when the bag is being loaded on the correct aircraft or red when the bag requires additional handling.

Delta introduces RFID baggage tracking
The belt loader sensor will flash green when the bag is being loaded on the correct aircraft or red when the bag requires additional handling

Bill Lentsch, Delta’s Senior Vice President – Airport Customer Service and Cargo Operations:

“With a $50 million investment in RFID at 344 stations around the globe, we aim to reliably deliver every bag on every flight. This innovative application of technology gives us greater data and more precise information throughout the bag’s journey.”

RFID and the industry

In 2005, RFID for Baggage was one of the five IATA Simplifying the Business projects, along with CUSS, e-ticketing, BCBP and e-Freight.

At that time, IATA estimated that RFID would yield USD 760 million in annual industry savings and produced an excellent business case – RFID BUSINESS CASE FOR BAGGAGE TAGGING.

A number of airlines, including Delta did trials in 2006.

Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in 2008:

RFID was part of the Simplifying the Business programme. Airlines handle 2.25 billion bags a year – a number that is growing quickly as security hassles force more bags into the hold. We are 98% accurate, but 2% of bags are mishandled and 48 million customers disappointed each year. The service recovery cost is US$3.8 billion. We thought RFID was THE solution. Research showed it would only solve 20% of the problem. The potential savings did not justify an industry mandate. But don’t write off RFID completely.

Several airports have implemented processes with RFID –  McCarran Airport in Las Vegas has been using RFID since 2006. Hong Kong is also a major RFID user.

But at an industry level it never got going. Finally in 2016, a major US airline has committed to the technology.

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