RFID May Improve Luggage Handling

A high-tech baggage-tagging system already in use in Las Vegas and Hong Kong is showing promise for reducing lost airline baggage, and this summer, an industry airline group will decide whether to force airlines to deploy the technology worldwide.

Las Vegas handles more than 70,000 outbound bags per day, so 7,000 bags or more had to be manually sorted when bar-coded tags were used. RFID has reduced that to only about 700 bags a day.

Las Vegas is paying 21 cents a tag, and IATA's RFID project manager, Andrew Price, says one manufacturer has recently lowered the price for bulk RFID tags to 15 cents each, as technology advances make manufacturing cheaper. If the price gets down to 10 cents apiece, IATA projects that airlines worldwide would save $760 million annually by reducing lost luggage.

To get the full benefit of the technology, airlines would have to deploy RFID antennas at different parts of their operation, such as on belts that move bags up into the belly of airplanes. The system could alert baggage handlers to a bag about to be loaded onto the wrong flight.

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