IATA follows Delta’s lead with RFID bag tag mandate

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Delta’s RFID bag tag real-time tracking system is being lauded by industry experts as one of the catalysts for the International Air Transport Association recently committing to developing a global plan to standardize and mandate RFID inlays in all baggage tags.

At its annual meeting, IATA said the process of developing a global RFID solution is expected to take about a year, during which time it will also align with partners — especially airports — in order to achieve the industry vision to begin rolling out RFID bag tracking from 2020 for all airlines.

RFID Journal wrote: Delta Air Lines reservations deserves a lot of credit for being the first airline to show that RFID could be a cost-effective solution to the problem (see Delta Gives Green Light to RFID Baggage Tracking). If you have the Delta mobile app and you check your bags, you will receive a notification when the bags are on your plane, which is wonderful-and Delta can quickly track down your luggage anywhere in its system should any bags be put on the wrong flight.

Meanwhile, RFID Solutions company Impinj said in a recent blog post that, “Airlines and airports are no stranger to RAIN RFID … But much of the recent momentum in the industry stems from Delta’s award-winning RAIN RFID baggage tracking program, which has helped directly connect consumers with the technology by allowing them to track the movement of their luggage from their phone.

Delta introduced RFID bag tags in 2016 after which IATA shared results of a study finding that a global RFID solution could reduce the number of mishandled bags by up to 25 percent by 2022. Since the launch of RFID bag tags and real-time tracking, Delta has seen a steady improvement in baggage reliability, ranking first amongst competitors seven of the past 12 months, compared to no first-place finishes in 2016.

When IATA announced its RFID mandate at its annual meeting, it provided the following details about RFID bag tags:

  • RFID or radio frequency identification is a form of wireless communication that can be used to track objects equipped with an RFID-embedded chip.
  • Today, the vast majority of bags are checked and tracked using barcode technology, however, it is not possible to achieve the industry’s target of 100% bag tracking using existing barcode technology.
  • An RFID-chip (or inlay) produces a continuous very low energy signal that allows bags to be tracked virtually at any point in the journey, using an RFID reader. The RFID signal does not interfere with any aircraft systems.
  • RFID already is used extensively in aviation, for example in the tracking of high-value aircraft parts and components and also for things such as ramp equipment and ULDs. Some airlines and airports individually have also introduced RFID bag tracking.
  • RFID was selected over other potential bag tracking solutions owing to the combination of reliability, maturity, widespread availability and cost. RFID achieves a read rate of 99-100%, making it the leading technology for ensuring accurate bag tracking.
  • The cost of an individual RFID-inlayed bag tag is estimated at US 3-5 cents apiece, while the cost of readers ranges from US $1,500-5,000. This investment will be more than offset by the benefits, including the ability to track the bag through all airport processes, resulting in fewer lost bags, reduced theft and fraud and a better experience for air travelers.

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