Despite recent technological advances, airlines continue to dole out a combined $2 million per year tracking down mishandled luggage and compensating passengers for their losses. However, in hopes of reducing this cost and eliminating passenger frustration, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) just voted last week to roll out a plan to employ RFID technology to track luggage.

The vote came at the organization’s general board meeting, where they agreed to develop a standard within one year for using RFID to implement real-time tracking of bags. They hope to roll out the technology globally by 2020.

The airline industry has greatly improved luggage tracking over the past decade, citing a 70% reduction in lost and mishandled bags over that time. However, there are still improvements to be made, with statistics showing 21 million mishandled bags in 2016 and over $2 million spent to locate them and make reparations to customers. Airlines have relied heavily on barcode technology to track bags in recent years, but tracking capability is limited, with the process requiring scans at checkpoints to provide location data. RFID technology would be able to fill in those gaps and provide real-time location data throughout the bag’s journey thanks to its continuous low energy signal.

Delta has really been the main pioneer of RFID luggage tracking, introducing the capabilities in 2016 after the IATA shared a study showing that RFID could reduce mishandled bags by up to 25%. Since that time, Delta has seen a steady improvement in baggage reliability. Passengers can even get updates throughout their journey via Delta’s app.

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The Airline Industry Adopts RFID