Airlines lose track of only 1% of checked
bags, but that amounts to 30 million mishandled bags per year, at a
cost to carriers of $2.5 billion, according to an estimate from
SITA, an information technology company that has a stake in the
issue: It sells technology for tracking baggage.
After bags were
tracked, it took an average of 1.3 days to deliver mishandled bags
to their owners, according to SITA. About 204,000 bags were lost or
The Association of
European Airlines reported its members averaged 14.1 missing bags
per 1,000 passengers in 2005.
In the U.S., the
number of bags mishandled on domestic flights rose from an average
of 4.2 per 1,000 passengers in 2003 to 4.9 in 2004 and 6.0 in
The airlines then
have to spend money tracking down those bags and returning them to
One possible way to
reduce the problem is Radio Frequency Identification tagging and
bag reconciliation systems to track baggage at various points
throughout their journey.
A recent survey by
SITA, Airports Council International and Airline Business magazine
found that RFID tags are being used for baggage handling in just 6%
of airports surveyed.
But the survey also
identified an expectation that RFID tags will be used in 45% of
airports by the end of 2009.
In a recent Web
conference by Air Transport World, IATA RFID Project Manager Andrew
Price said RFID can improve the read rate from 75% with bar codes
to 99% with RFID when applied to bags being transferred to other flights.
(Bar code readers
perform much better with point-to-point flights than connections,
efficiency could save the industry $768 million a year, he
But some airlines
are balking because RFID could cost 7 cents per tag or more, and it
will take a large order to prove whether even that lower price
point is possible.
Price believes the
cost will be worth it, and he said airlines need to consider the
bigger picture. But he cautioned that RFID would not eliminate
mishandled baggage problems.
Ive yet to see RFID
pick up a bag and rush it to the next flight, he said.
It would, however,
help identify which bags need to be rushed, he added.