When bags go missing, it costs airlines money — to the tune of $3 billion annually, in fact. What's worse, it exasperates passengers, who are a lot less inclined to take a polite "sorry" now that almost every airline is charging a fee for luggage.
Well, it looks like airlines operating out of certain airports — such as Amsterdam and Las Vegas — will be able to take advantage of more advanced sorting techniques involving modern scanners and RFID luggage tags. Probably the most important is a development of a back-end that can sift through that information, as well, to help predict when a bag may go astray and get on top of it.
For the most part, we currently use barcodes on luggage tags to keep bags tracked, but the computer systems at most airports just aren't advanced enough to handle the data, and bags get lost. On the other hand, RFID tags are more expensive than the barcode ones, so airlines are only looking to adopt the new system if it indeed saves them money through cutting down on wayward luggage.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Airports generally pay for the installation, which can cost millions of dollars, and then recover the investment in fees to airlines over many years. Airlines generally pay for RFID tags, which today cost around 15 cents apiece, versus a few cents for the traditional bar-code version.Via WSJ
Hong Kong International Airport and McCarran International in Las Vegas were the first to introduce RFID, but aviation industry overall is moving slowly because cash-strapped players can't yet justify the multimillion-dollar expense of modernizing systems.
Samuel Ingalls, who handles baggage technology at McCarran, says installing and maintaining the airport's RFID system was less expensive than a common optical system and costs "a fraction" as much to maintain, though he couldn't give a specific price because RFID was installed starting in 2005 as part of a bigger development project.
Mr. Ingalls says, "the benefits really start to expand exponentially as the world moves" to RFID and all bags get electronic tags.