New tracking technology could help end the headache of lost luggage

Published: Nov. 14, 2016 at 8:29 PM CST
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Elena Conley did not receive her luggage for hours after she arrived in Washington. “It’s annoying, it’s definitely frustrating especially since I’m actually headed somewhere else tomorrow, so I really needed my bag,” Conley said.

In 2015, more than 23 million bags were mishandled worldwide.

But Delta is now using a new, $50 million system to give flyers real-time tracking of bags, with cell phone alerts and even a map to show a bag’s current location.

New luggage tags have a small radio frequency identification, or RFID, chip which is scanned as a bag moves through the system and onto a plane

If this light turns red, it means that bag does not belong on this flight.

Delta senior vice president Bill Lentsch said he thinks the new system puts the airline will on its way to the end of losing luggage.

“We believe this is already having a five to ten percent reduction on the number of mishandled bags that we have in our system and, again, I’ll stress that’s on top of an already industry-leading performance,” Lentsch said.

American Airlines already notifies flyers when their bags are loaded or unloaded from a plane, and Alaska Airlines is testing electronic bag tags. They update through the airline’s mobile app and last for two years.

The industry believes the new bag tracking technology could save the airlines $3 billion over the next seven years.

“Every time an airline loses a suitcase and can’t get it delivered to you at the baggage claim, it costs them about $100 to bring it your home or office or hotel,” said industry analyst Henry Harteveldt.