RFID to end lost baggage

British Airways hopes to reduce its lost luggage bill by using radio tagging.

British Airways hopes that radio tagging will save it up to US$735 million by reducing the chance of passengers' belongings being mislaid.

BA CEO Rod Eddington gave his support to the introduction of RFID at the expense of traditional sticker bar codes at a meeting of international air trade association IATA. It's hoped the tech changeover will mean its passengers' bags don't go astray en route.

BA loses around 18 bags per 1,000 it handles and pays customers an average of 55 pounds (US$101) per lost piece of luggage, largely as a result of the sticker bar codes being damaged or misread. The airline believes it could save 400 million pounds (US$735 million) by introducing the radio frequency technology, as the new tech could reduce its read error rate to nearly zero.

The chips will also be inserted into, rather than attached to, bags, meaning the tiny chips are less likely than barcode labels to be separated from the luggage. And, unlike bar codes, the tags can be read without a direct line of sight.

Eddington also advocated a one-system approach for the world's airlines to avoid interoperability problems.

While some airlines have already trialled RFID, BA has previously been reluctant to consider full-scale implementation. However, the airline suffered a high-profile baggage disaster last year when 11,000 bags were lost following strikes.

Airline body SITA estimates that the use of RFID could save airlines US$1 billion on their lost luggage bill.-- Jo Best, Silicon.com