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Our starting point was to focus on where the air transport community needs to collect baggage data and the next steps are to improve how that data is collected, then to analyze and proactively use that data to improve baggage operations.

Resolution 753, which came into effect last June, requires International Air Transport Association (IATA) member airlines to track baggage from start to finish across the journey. Earlier this month, IATA’s Annual General Meeting unanimously agreed to support the global deployment of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to track bags and called for the implementation of modern messaging standards for more accurate real-time tracking.

We believe that the combination of RFID and modern messaging standards should reduce the mishandling rate by 25%.

Delivering improvements at key tracking points

Seventy eight percent of our 290-plus members have confirmed they are implementing Resolution 753 and most will do so over the next three years. The critical bag journey tracking stages – check-in, loading, transfer and arrivals – are designed to work together. However, tracking at loading has been particularly important in the USA because, unlike in Europe and Asia, this was not in place before. It is enabling US carriers to proactively intervene if they spot a loading error.

Tracking is an opportunity for loading to be more adaptable. Today, if a bag is loaded onto the wrong aircraft, you have to delay the flight to remove it. IATA sees a need to allow bags to travel separately from passengers, while also maintaining baggage security.

London Heathrow and Madrid-Barajas airports have achieved this by re-validating screening images of bags belonging to “no-show” passengers. We think this should be introduced on a global basis when Standard 3 security screening is pervasive. Then airlines will have much more flexibility in the way they rectify handling errors.

Overall, we are seeing most implementations at arrivals because bags have not been tracked at this journey stage before. It is making a big impact in terms of being able to ensure there is no fraud and the bag journey is complete.

Arrivals tracking will deliver benefits for everyone. According to IATA’s Global Passenger Survey, 84% of passengers want bag tracking data – more than half think it is a must as they are used to having tracking on everything else. Another 28% want tracking because it will give them access to other services like home pick-up and hotel delivery.

Airlines will benefit because they can offer more personal services to their passengers. In turn, airports, particularly the smaller ones, will benefit from being able to accurately monitor capacity peaks and better manage resources.

Targets for bag tracking using RFID

The next big thing for us is to get airports to start implementing RFID for bag tracking. Even before the new AGM resolution was passed, we set a target for 10 airports with more than 25 million passengers and four with more than 10 million passengers to introduce RFID. We now have a pipeline of airports who are committed to RFID and our goal is to have 80% of passenger journeys RFID-enabled in the next four years, which will require 78 airports to commit.

In future, we will have more data about the bag journey

At the same time, we will drive adoption of modern XML messaging standards, which will provide greater accuracy and cost savings. We want more airports working with airlines to move to an XML way of doing things. Our target is one or two airports this year and 10 airports in 2020.

Today bag messages are not retained, but XML will also allow these messages to be captured for analysis. Some airlines are already using artificial intelligence (AI) to predict which bags won’t make it to the flight and longer term, more AI and machine learning will be introduced. Ultimately, we want to be able do much more with baggage data to improve operations for airlines and airports and introduce better services for passengers.

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