Delta Air Lines announced on April 29 that it will be introducing a new baggage-tracking method, utilizing Radio Frequency Identification to track luggage. This will be the first time that a U.S. air carrier has launched a real-time tracking initiative with the technology.
"With a $50 million investment in RFID at 344 stations around the globe, we aim to reliably deliver every bag on every flight," said Bill Lentsch, Delta's senior vice president of Airport Customer Service and Cargo Operations. "This innovative application of technology gives us greater data and more precise information throughout the bag's journey."
Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, consists of two components — the tag or label and a reader. A two-way radio transmitter-receiver emits a signal to the tag using an antenna. Then, the tag responds with information stored in its memory bank.
Delta teams have deployed 4,600 scanners and installed 3,800 RFID bag tag printers. There are 600 pier and claim readers now integrated into the system to allow for hands-free baggage scanning. RFID will soon be used to track luggage on all Delta mainline and Delta connection flights.
As luggage enters the belly of a plane, a belt loader sensor will signal to verify that it has been loaded onto the correct aircraft.
"In the same way that customers want information at their fingertips about flight changes, we know our customers want clear visibility to their checked bags," said Tim Mapes, Delta's chief marketing officer. "Delta's industry-first baggage tracking app was a good first step. RFID will allow us to set a new standard for more transparent, interactive tracking on the Fly Delta mobile app."
Thus far, the RFID system has shown a 99.9 percent success rate in terms of proper routing and loading. When the RFID technology signals that a bag has been incorrectly located, baggage handlers can immediately remedy the problem by retagging it for another flight.
"RFID will give Delta people a great tool to further widen the gap between us and our competitors," Lentsch continued.
Over the past 10 years, better baggage handling has decreased Delta's mishandled luggage rate by more than 68 percent.