The Importance of RFID for Baggage Operations


The thought of misplacing your luggage is a constant nightmare that affects millions of airline passengers every year. The frustration for passengers is understandable, given the hundreds of dollars in expenses and time. According to RFiD Discovery, 22.7 million bags were lost in 2017, costing the industry $2.3 billion. With a solid and robust baggage tracking solution, mishandled luggage can be significantly reduced.

Enter RFID (radio frequency distribution).

RFID is a form of wireless communication that incorporates the use of electromagnetic coupling in the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, helping to solve issues pertaining to luggage at airports.

To better address the situation, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has implemented a baggage tracking program which aims to improve efficiencies in baggage handling operations. The program is primarily based on IATA Resolution 753 on baggage tracking, which enables airlines to address the challenges of baggage mishandling by deploying cross-industry tracking for every baggage journey [1]. More importantly, Resolution 753 makes it obligatory to track baggage when the bag is acquired from the passenger.

How RFID resolves luggage problems

Prior to the 2018 IATA recommendation for the use of RFID, most airlines/airports were using barcoding or other optical character recognition for creating records of individual bags throughout a specific journey. This method required a code printed on one’s baggage tag requiring it to be clearly visible for fixed and handheld readers to accurately scan them. One can see the inefficiencies with this method and the errors it is prone to.

End-to-end tracking
With RFID technology, the primary advantage is that there is no need for line of sight between the sensor and the tag. There is room for more information which can be stored in an RFID tag. Thus, it helps to facilitate the reliable tracking of baggage and helps to fulfill the specifications of the global IATA standard. Until now, initial deployments have reduced mishandled baggage by 25% [2].

Improved service
By enhancing services with RFID technology, participating airports have seen an improvement in service, shorter lines, and simplified security checks. McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, NV was the first in the United States to employ radio frequency identification to improve airport and airline operations. The airport, as a result, has experienced happier passengers, healthier employees, and substantial cost savings.

In 2016, in an effort to improve real-time tracking of luggage throughout the travel experience, Delta Airlines deployed baggage tracking technology. The move marked a historic shift for the leading airline to capture highly accurate and reliable data, driving expert tracking and increased transparency [3]. Delta has been a key driver in the RFID space and has invested $50 million at 344 stations around the globe with the aim of delivering every bag on every flight [Ibid].

Assurance while flying
A growing number of airlines are incorporating RFID-enabled luggage tags which give each item a unique identification code that is automatically scanned while going through checkpoints [5]. As a result, travelers track their luggage on their phone to ensure it’s ready to meet them when they land, making lost luggage a thing of the past.

Reduction in operating costs
A huge advantage is that RFID tags can be scanned by readers installed in doorways, therefore eliminating the need for airport staff to manually scan each piece of baggage. Airlines can then better assign labour to service travelers more efficiently while reducing operational costs.

Permanent bag tags
While not a brand-new concept, permanent bag tags are gaining momentum. These permanent tags are reusable and make use of Near Field Communication (NFC) and/or RFID technology and designed to replace the traditional bag tag [6].

An important point to recognize is that the final piece of controlled documentation which remains within the travel process, is the baggage tag. With the use of permanent bag tags, integrating technology within the bag itself ensures the baggage gets to its destination. The big impact: permanent bag tags are easier to constantly read regardless of their orientation, presentation, wear, and tear.

Furthermore, one can store ample information in the memory banks such as passenger name, frequent flyer number, return address, etc. This information can be password protected and substantially help to reduce lost baggage.

Capitalizing on RFID tags

It is evident that RFID helps to solve baggage problems at airports. The technology allows airport staff to pinpoint a single bag. Because of its reliability, widespread availability, durability, and cost, airports are adopting RFID technology for better tracking and inventory management.

Read rate
A read rate is a term describing the number of tags which can be read within a given period or the number of times a single tag can be read within a given period [7]. Most baggage tends to get lost because of the failure in reading tags and keeping track of where bags are – this results in a poor read rate. According to IATA, RFID read rates achieve an accuracy rate of 99% – 100%, making it the leading technology for ensuring baggage tracking.  Given that RFID solves baggage problems, baggage can be scanned in bulk, hands-free.

In addition, airports are seeing RFID enabling automatic, accurate (close to 100%) real-time tracking at a sufficient read range without requiring line-of-sight. An added benefit is that a reading infrastructure does not require any cleaning or costly maintenance once installed. When compared to barcodes, RFID offers a vastly superior solution, from a very close range up to 10 meters away.

All for one, one for all

Embross is an IATA strategic partner and has the expertise and insight to help airlines and airports comply with this resolution. Powering the world’s busiest airlines and airports, Embross’ self-service technologies and airport management solutions enable IATA members to capture baggage tracking from all mandatory tracking points.

At Embross, we trust IATA Resolution 753 will continue to have a significant impact on the industry-wide adoption of RFID. More information on the IATA RFID standard for interline baggage, the RFID implementation guide and the activities undertaken to support its implementation in the aviation industry can be found here:



By improving efficiency and gaining a competitive edge, major airports and airlines are adopting RFID technology. RFID will continue to play a pivotal role in the aviation world, from improved management of assets to enabling real-time updates.

Looking to the future, the introduction of RFID infrastructure to airports will lead to reusable RFID [8]. The next evolution in baggage handling has begun. Are you ready?


At Embross, we design, install, and deploy a broad spectrum of biometric solutions to help you achieve these significant changes. If you would like to learn more, don’t hesitate to contact a member of our expert team:






[4] Ibid.






Author: Omar Abbasi, Marketing Manager