Microchips in air baggage will help find lost luggage

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The world's major airlines are being forced to introduce a state-of-the-art system for baggage handling in response to mounting complaints about lost luggage.

The world's major airlines are being forced to introduce a state-of-the-art system for baggage handling in response to mounting complaints about lost luggage.

Within the next few years radio frequency chips will be attached to bags instead of stickers with barcodes.

The stickers can be damaged or torn off and equipment fails to send the suitcase to the appropriate aircraft. Technicians working for the International Transport Association believe the chip, which can be inserted inside luggage, is virtually impossible to misread.

When bags do go missing special equipment would be used to recognise the radio waves emitted by the chip to locate it at the airport.

Rod Eddington, chief executive of British Airways, said the problem of misdirected baggage was at its worst when passengers were transferring from one flight to another.

He said the equipment was already being tested at Tokyo's Narita airport and in Paris. Speaking in Shanghai after BA's inaugural flight to the Chinese city, Mr Eddington said it was vital the association developed a single system for all airlines. "We don't want four different types. We don't want the Betamax-VHS problem all over again.''

Figures from the Association of European Airways showed Air France is losing 15 bags per 1,000 passengers, BA and Lufthansa 18 and KLM 22. Mr Eddington said the new tag would not only help passengers, it would enhance security.

The BA chief executive said the association was working on a number of projects to enhance the "communality" of airlines, including improvements to e-ticketing so that passengers were able to switch from one flight to another operated by a different airline without the need for two sets of documentation.

Mr Eddington indicated that BA would retain higher-cost seats on short-haul flights, despite bmi's decision to introduce a single price for all tickets on specific services. He said the upmarket accommodation on board such flights helped to filter such passengers on to BA's long-haul services.

Mr Eddington said that, over the past three to four years, BA's short-haul business had been cut from 50 per cent of the airline's capacity to nearer 20 per cent. Inter-city services were now breaking even and there was no question of making BA exclusively a long-haul company.

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