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Vendor: RFID Can Solve Lost Baggage Problem

This year will reach the two billion airline passenger landmark, an IT services company says, which given current trends will translate into 30 million pieces of mishandled baggage.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — SITA Inc., an IT provider that tracks baggage information for airlines and passengers, said the air transport industry is losing about $2.5 billion annually because of misconnects and mishandled baggage.

SITA (Geneva) also revealed that the number of bags lost or stolen is running at about 204,000 per annum.

The company, which proposes radio frequency identification (RFID) as a possible solution, also reports that the problem of mishandled baggage is worsening on both sides of the Atlantic. This is due to airport congestion, tight turnaround times, increased interlining, security regulations and mounting passenger and baggage volumes, said Francesco Violante, managing director of SITA.

“This year we will reach the two billion passenger landmark, which on current trends, will translate into 30 million pieces of mishandled baggage," he said in a statement.

In 2005, the single largest cause of baggage delay was in transfer baggage mishandling (61 percent). This was followed by failure to load (15 percent); ticketing error/ passenger bag switch/ security/ other (9 percent); loading/offloading error (4 percent); space-weight restriction (5 percent); arrival station mishandling (3 percent), and tagging errors (3 percent), according to the company.

In Europe last year, 21 percent of flights were delayed and irregularities in baggage delivery performance were experienced for up to 14.1 bags per thousand passengers, compared to 13.9 in 2004.

On time arrivals were also down in the U.S. last year, where 22.6 percent of flights were delayed and mishandled baggage reports were 6.04 per thousand passengers, compared to 4.91 two years ago, an increase of 23 percent.

SITA recommends that markets where mishandled baggage is a problem "would be better served by adopting technologies such as radio frequency identification tagging and bag reconciliation systems to track baggage at various points throughout the bag's journey."

A recent survey by SITA — in partnership with the Airports Council International and Airline Business magazine — found that RFID tags are being used for baggage handling in just 6 percent of airports surveyed but also identified an expectation that RFID tags will be used in 45 percent of airports by the end of 2009.

SITA claims it has developed an integrated, end-to-end baggage reconciliation system which combines RFID, wireless local area network (WLAN) and IP-based global links to ensure baggage gets to its destination with the minimum of fuss.

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