GEORGIA, United States, Monday August 29, 2016 – Lost luggage has long been the bane of air travel, causing untold inconvenience to passengers and costing airlines big bucks every year in compensation.
Now, Atlanta-based Delta Airlines has announced it will use smart chips attached to passengers’ luggage to minimise the problem.
Delta says it will use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips placed on travellers’ bags to track their location.
The RFID technology, which uses radio waves to identify and track objects, has been around for decades and was developed during the Second World War for military purposes.
It is already used to track parcels, to keep track of towels and linens in the hotel industry, in libraries and even in nursing homes for vulnerable patients who may be at risk of getting lost.
In April Delta announced a US$50 million investment to overhaul its old barcode bag tracking system to include RFID printers and sensors at its counters at 344 airports, as well as a tracking app that will provide alerts so customers can stay updated on the whereabouts of their bags.
Baggage handlers will now access all the information they need about a bag from a tiny chip placed inside a paper luggage tag instead of having to scan each individual barcode by hand.
When bags are loaded, a light will flash green if everything is on track or red to alert a handler to a potential problem.
Other airlines and airports have experimented with RFID, but none at this scale.
Alaska Airlines, Lufthansa, and Qantas have toyed with it, and Hong Kong airport launched a smart baggage system in 2009, followed by Las Vegas McCarran airport in 2012.
Brett Snyder, who runs the blog Cranky Flier, told NBC News the technology could help put a stop to lost luggage.
“The airlines have been doing better in general when it comes to mishandled bags, but this is going to help significantly,” Snyder said.