Delta Raises the Bar(code) in Finding Lost Luggage
Business + Economy

Delta Raises the Bar(code) in Finding Lost Luggage


Delta plans to track your checked luggage using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags by the end of this year, the first U.S. carrier to do so. The news comes after airlines worldwide lost or damaged the fewest number of bags on record in 2015.

The Atlanta-based airline is investing $50 million to replace barcode hand scanning with RFID—essentially intelligent bar codes that talk to an electronic network[CS1] --to track the 120 million bags it handles each year. Passengers will be able to keep tabs on their bags, too, via Delta’s mobile app, starting in the fourth quarter.

The goal is to quickly pinpoint any single bag and reroute it if its owner misses a connection. Initial tests using RFID show that bags are tracked at a 99.9-percent success rate, the airline said.

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The move is part of a larger industry effort to track luggage better. The International Air Transport Association passed a resolution that airlines must be able to track bags at every point of its journey by June 2018.

The rate of mishandled bags was 6.5 per thousand passengers last year, down 10.5 percent from 2014 and the lowest rate on record, according to an annual report from SITA, the air transport tech company. Still, lost or damaged bags cost airlines $2.3 billion last year.

The number of mishandled incidents by Delta in February—the latest data available—was 1.95 per thousand passengers. That was the best among the major U.S. carriers and fourth among all airlines after Virgin America, JetBlue Airways and Alaska Airlines, according to the U.S. Transportation Dept.