Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Lost Luggage: A Solution Has Arrived

Do you ever stand at the luggage reclaim conveyor belt and pray that your bag has not been lost in that void somewhere between check in desk and your airplane? Well if so you are not alone and light is at the end of the tunnel. Could microchips in the luggage labels be the answer?

As a backpacker you rely on the items you carry in your bag as they are the bare necessities you need to keep yourself dressed, clean and generally presentable for the period of time you are away. Being so dependent on these things highlights the tragedy it would be if your backpack was to go missing at an airport during one of the many flights you may take on your journey. Unfortunately lost luggage is far from uncommon as the Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimated that between May and July 2007 over a million items of luggage were either lost or damaged in the USA alone, which would make anybody a little unsettled throughout the flight.

However, a solution is being tested in airports across the US, Kuala Lumpur, Japan and Beijing. Instead of using bar code systems which rely on directly aligned lasers reading bar codes and filtering the bags towards aircrafts, minute RFID chips are placed in the luggage tags. These RFID tags can be picked up and read by an antenna from several feet away, and unlike bar codes, the readings are not obscured by dust or other luggage. This has lead to a much more reliable system of routing bags to the correct destination. In fact, with the tags being read when routed to the aircraft, when being put on the aircraft and when being unloaded at the destination, lost luggage can be tracked precisely and flawlessly.

Although trials have proved successful for this new method, the price of implementing these RFID tags is greater than the bar code alternative. As RFIDs have many more uses than luggage labelling, mass production will see prices fall per unit in years to come. The implementation of a system such as this would also mean a total upgrade of the systems currently in place at many airports around the world. Despite this being worth the investment, it would still an enormous project.

Until then you can purchase your own luggage tracking units from independent manufacturers if you do worry excessively about your baggage, or take your chances and hope that your luggage does not enter that forgotten baggage grave yard lying beyond the desks at check in.



At 28 December 2008 at 18:50 , Blogger Saadia said...

If only we had known earlier, Alex. We flew by Alitalia-KLM from Lahore to Amsterdam. They lost our luggage on both our outward and inbound journeys! Imagine that!

This solution needs to be economized and implemented. What happens if we get our own devices, as you have suggested? How will that help if their systems don't read it?

At 28 December 2008 at 21:34 , Blogger Alex @ The Travel Blurb said...

Well it would be GPS. This link gives details of how one of the products works and you can buy it at

Still quite expensive but it depends if you value what is in your case. I have never lost luggage with an airline so I guess I am one of the lucky ones.

At 29 December 2008 at 05:00 , Blogger Saadia said...

Oh nice. Thank you. And stay away from KLM or Alitalia, and you'll remain forever lucky! ;-) Once they lost our luggage, we discovered how notorious they were for that.

At 1 January 2009 at 10:03 , Blogger Saadia said...

Sorry, your bag is in Afghanistan

At 27 April 2009 at 01:47 , Anonymous Tenerife holiday Home Insider said...

Hmm, not sure what to do vote for. Stickers or chips? Nope, fat markers... Why? The traveler will have to finance any flight novelty.
That's me too and I am getting old..
Means my finances will shrink, unless hitting the Spanish Gordo. And I do not gamble. What do?
The best might be to wear my sun in laws' baggies, his socks, my daughter's underwear and run around barefoot with 2 impossible dogs, so people will look at them and not at me - until my lost baggage is recovered... It normally is. My travel baggage, packs and sacks are always speckled with personal data written on them with fat waterproof markers.


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