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Delta invests $50 million in RFID to track 120 million bags

Delta Air Lines is sinking $50 million into RFID baggage tracking technology to become the first U.S. carrier to provide customers with real-time tracking for their luggage.

RFID will replace barcode scanning for the 120 million bags Delta handles annually.  With RFID, scanners use radio waves to capture data stored on an RFID chip embedded in the luggage tag. Delta has deployed 4,600 scanners, installed 3,800 RFID bag tag printers and integrated 600 pier and claim readers to enable hands-free scanning of baggage throughout the handling process.

RFID will track 120 million pieces of baggage for Delta

“With a $50 million investment in RFID at 344 stations around the globe, we aim to reliably deliver every bag on every flight,” says Bill Lentsch, Delta’s Senior Vice President – Airport Customer Service and Cargo Operations. “This innovative application of technology gives us greater data and more precise information throughout the bag’s journey.”

Initial deployments of RFID integrated throughout the baggage process show that bags are tracked at a 99.9 percent success rate, ensuring proper routing and loading. Beginning in the fourth quarter of this year, Delta customers will now be able to see their bags on and off the aircraft during their journey via push notifications to the Fly Delta mobile.

For customers, RFID means much more than just consistent baggage handling.

“In the same way that customers want information at their fingertips about flight changes, we know our customers want clear visibility to their checked bags,” said Tim Mapes, Delta’s Chief Marketing Officer. “Delta’s industry-first baggage tracking app was a good first step. RFID will allow us to set a new standard for more transparent, interactive tracking on the Fly Delta mobile app.”

RFID will soon track bags on all Delta mainline and Delta Connection flights. Spread throughout 84 of Delta’s largest stations, 1,500 belt loaders will give baggage the green light – literally – as it enters and exits the belly of a plane. The belt loader sensor will flash green when the bag is being loaded on the correct aircraft or red when the bag requires additional handling.

Today when a customer misses his or her connection, agents on the ground manually scan each bag to find the customer’s luggage and ensure it is retagged for the new flight. With RFID scanners, agents have the ability to take inventory quickly or pinpoint a single bag.

“We’ve put every part of our process for baggage handling under the microscope and evolved it to the point of industry-leading performance,” Lentsch, said. “RFID will give Delta people a great tool to further widen the gap between us and our competitors.”

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