AutoID & Data Capture Blog

A Logical RFID Application That Still Carries Some Heavy "Baggage"

by Michael Liard | 03/31/2013

Baggage handling is one of those “no-brainer” applications for passive UHF RFID technology. The use
case just makes sense.  Yet, after more than decade, this application market still struggles with historical issues. Although the benefits of the technology are clear, there have only been a small number of deployments worldwide. As adoption is most challenged by cost concerns, implementation challenge considerations and long-standing disagreements over who should pay for the system (airlines or airports).

Airline passengers are some of the most dissatisfied consumers in the world, especially in the United States.  And, the situation is only becoming worse as airlines cut staff, eliminate routes, add fees, and raise ticket prices to compensate for excessive fuel costs and other economic pressures.  The result has been massively lower customer satisfaction ratings. 

One major sore spot for air travellers continues to be lost baggage. And, now the baggage problem
is being compounded as extra fees are being charged for additional checked
bags.  If the airline misplaces or loses a bag that received a surcharge, imagine how upset a passenger would become after paying for checking in that bag. The airline may lose more than the bag – it will likely lose that customer.

  • Lost baggage and handling issues are the focus - The impetus for many projects
    is the need reduce the time to transfer luggage. According to sources at the
    Lisbon Airport, the passive UHF RFID-based baggage handling system (BHS) has
    reduced the time to handle a baggage transfer by 66%. Other advantages include
    increased customer satisfaction and reduced labor (time to search for bags).
  • McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas, US) expanded its program in 2012 - The
    new Terminal 3 has 130 self-check-in kiosks at which passengers can print their
    own passive UHF RFID-enabled baggage tags. This is innovative as printing has
    primarily been done behind the counter. More airports are expected to come
    online within 2-3 years; however, baggage handling system ownership (airports
    vs. airlines) and tagging costs remain major adoption barriers.
  • Other considerations:

            -       More airports are expected to come online within 2-3 years; however, baggage handling                     system ownership (airports vs. airlines) and tagging costs remain major adoption                     barriers.

            -       Travelers are paying more than ever for checked baggage; however, lost baggage rates                     remain high and lead to customer frustration.  RFID technology can solve this industry                     challenge and make customers feel they are charged for a premium service as opposed                     to a bag fee.

            -       Delivered inlays and tags must be Gen2 compliant to ensure interoperability and IATA-                    approved.

            -       Only when more airlines and airports adopt passive UHF solutions will the commercial                     airline industry realize the full benefits of RFID.

While adoption has been limited to date, successful installations have occurred throughout the world. Some of the more prominent deployments include Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, Milan’s Malpensa Airport, Hong Kong International Airport, Portugal-Lisbon Airport and Aalborg Airport in Denmark.

While it may take some time, VDC Research does expect more airports and airlines to strongly consider RFID baggage handling systems and begin pilots and deployments. Like with most things RFID, time and actions will tell.  


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