FedEx-style online tracking coming to airline baggage

By danwarne, June 7 2011
FedEx-style online tracking coming to airline baggage

Passengers with one of America's largest airlines, Delta, will now be able to track the progress of their baggage online in real time, just like a FedEx or DHL delivery.

Passengers just need to go to Delta's baggage tracking website, enter their name and baggage tracking number, and they can get a list of the baggage's movements, right down to "baggage is in claim area 5", "baggage is loaded onto aircraft", etc.

Delta says it will be able to notify passengers directly by SMS if their bags did not make it onto their flight, or if it has been delivered to a location other than the standard baggage claim area.

The move is designed to give transparency to the baggage handling process, so passengers aren't completely in the dark when a bag is delayed or goes missing.

It's also an increasingly relevant tool, as most passengers now carry smartphones and can easily log on to a website at the airport. However, passengers can also check on the status of baggage via self-service kiosks at Delta's top 18 US airports.

The website will also be able to tell passengers which baggage carousel their luggage is being loaded onto for pickup.

Although online bag tracking might sound like a "nice to have" rather than an essential service from an airline, it would have been useful for the Qantas passengers whose bags were left behind deliberately in Dallas recently, and were only advised of this unfortunate fact once they arrived in Australia.

Qantas is the most likely Australian airline to introduce a similar system, due to its recent move to electronic wireless bag tags using radio frequency ID chip technology. The technology should (in theory) allow bags to be scanned by tollbooth-style gateways in the baggage handling system rather than a human having to scan each bag's barcode. 

Delta says that while any baggage delay is something it tries to avoid, if a passenger knows that their bag isn't on the flight with them, it will save them time in not having to wait at a baggage carousel watching the endless procession of other people's suitcases going round and round.

The airline now accepts missing luggage reports online through the bag tracking website, too, where previously passengers could only make reports by fax.

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