Thursday, October 05, 2006

RFID – A Better Way of Tracking Baggage

RFID Law Journal
Newsletter No. 24
October 5, 2006

On the heels of the major airline security disruption which arose during August, 2006, it probably comes as no surprise that the DOT’s monthly airline industry baggage report indicates that the mishandled baggage rates of major carriers rose approximately 25% from July, 2006 (6.5 per 1,000 passengers) to August, 2006 (8.08 per 1,000 passengers).[1] A few airlines reported increases of 35% or more. This significant increase in the mishandled baggage rate correlates directly to the sizeable increase in the number of checked bags, which, in turn, is tied to new transportation security measures. International travelers recall these security measures were effectuated literally “on the fly” in the midst of the latest terrorist threat uncovered by British authorities.

Fast-evolving security rules require 21st century solutions. As the airlines and the transportation infrastructure become equipped with more effective technology tools, it’s likely that many discontinuities will be managed more effectively in the future.

This most recent terrorist threat is just another twist in the unique and difficult operational environment for today’s air carriers. There is some hope that by deploying automated solutions, airlines will eventually manage these discontinuities more efficiently. Among other things, the International Air Transport Association (“IATA”) is currently rolling out an initiative to use RFID tagging systems to improve the tracking of passenger luggage. If successful,[2] this “Simplifying the Business” initiative could save the airline industry hundreds of millions of dollars annually.[3] Additionally, these RFID-enabled baggage systems will likely increase system speeds, lower maintenance costs, facilitate faster baggage identification, and reduce clerical costs. IATA members expect that their investments in automated baggage systems will not only improve their bottom lines but also improve their approval ratings with customers.

Customer satisfaction is perhaps the ultimate metric. In our post-9/11 world, American travelers face a number of inconveniences for the sake of improved security. If, by way of deployment of automated baggage solutions, airlines deliver to us a more convenient, efficient and trustworthy means of traversing our nation’s airports, then they’ll be giving the American public something to smile about.

© 2006 – RFID Law Journal, LLC. All rights reserved.

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[1] Based upon complaints about lost, damaged, delayed and stone baggage filed with the nation’s top 20 airlines. For more source information, you can read the DOT’s report online through the following link:
[2] Initial RFID pilots at McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas) and the Hong Kong International Airport are widely-cited as successful tests. A number of other international airports are scheduled for RFID deployments in the coming year.
[3] According to IATA reports, annual baggage loss is a $800 million annual expense incurred by the industry.


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