British Airways will soon allow passengers to use RFID luggage tags to track the progress of their checked bags in real time while in transit. Early adopters must first purchase the pricey RFID-equipped tags themselves and are then given access to a bag tracking system that appears to be very much in its infancy.
British Airways has a plan to upgrade its baggage handling systems to better keep track of passengers’ checked bags. The plan apparently involves a select few customers underwriting the costs of the new technology and helping to work out the bugs in the system. The carrier will soon introduce radio-frequency identification (RFID) for checked bags, but there is a catch – passengers will be asked to shell out nearly $80 (introductory offer) per RFID-enabled luggage tag to participate in the program.
According to the airline’s official website, the new real-time tracking is being offered through a partnership with Philadelphia-based ViewTag. Despite the steep price, the RFID and Bluetooth-enabled luggage tags have a few nifty features which should be more than enough to entice well-heeled early adopters.
More than just the ability to track a bag’s journey through a handy mobile app, the tags themselves can be synced to a passenger’s changing itinerary and will automatically update destination information in the same format as today’s traditional sticky airline baggage claim tags. Because ViewTag-equipped bags essentially route themselves, passengers will be able to skip check-in lines in most circumstances. “By allowing passengers to transfer their information digitally before they arrive at the airport, check-in is reduced to a matter of seconds,” ViewTag CEO Richard Warther explained.
British Airways parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG) has signed an exclusive five-year partnership with ViewTag to offer the technology for its customers, but RFID tracking, complete with real-time tracking, is widely expected to become the industry standard over the next decade. In fact, Delta Air Lines already employs similar tech to help keep the progress of live animal shipments instantly available to passengers.
Frequent flyers at FlyerTalk took to the forums to express intrigue at the prospect of a self-updating, instantly trackable luggage tag, but many were taken aback at the steep price tag for a gadget very likely to be lost or damaged almost immediately. Others had reservations about spending a large chunk of cash to help beta test an unproven technology.
“At €145.20, they can stick their RFID where the reader can’t see it!” FlyerTalker T8191 offered. “I don’t know about the HBO community, but I would need to equip 3-4 cases with this handily-detachable breakable [email protected] Because you CAN is no excuse for actually DOING it.”
Is the cost of a nifty self-updating luggage tag a small price to pay to be among the first to have the cool new gadget or is it better to simply wait for the price to go down and the technology to improve? Flyertalkers are busily crowdsourcing a real-time pro and con list here.
[Featured Image: British Airways]