If you’ve ever suffered the indignity of wearing gift-shop clothes on vacation, you feel us when we say that dealing with lost luggage is a huge bummer.
For this reason, news of an addition to Delta Airlines’ mobile app has us dancing a happy dance.
Starting this week, the airline added a map feature to its Fly Delta mobile app that gives fliers geographic coordinates on the whereabouts of their checked bags. The app updates the information in real time so travelers can “watch” as their bags are delivered (or, in some cases, not delivered) to their intended destinations.
According to an article in the Washington Post, the app even will inform passengers when their bags make it onto the plane before take-off and where to retrieve them at baggage claim upon arrival.
Put differently, the app provides almost complete transparency into the checked bag-handling process. As such, it stands to revolutionize the experience of dealing with lost or misdirected luggage—for everyone involved.
This new feature revolves around a type of technology called radio frequency identification, or RFID. These tags, also used to control inventory at big-box stores such as Walmart, allow luggage to be scanned automatically at several different points during the handling process: when the pieces are collected at the check-in counter, when they’re loaded onto baggage carousels at their destinations, and many points in between.
An article in USA Today noted that Delta will add push alerts later this year, meaning the app will message travelers every time their bag passes one of the aforementioned checkpoints.
With such technology, if your bag is misplaced at some point along the way, the app can tell you that, too. The Washington Post story noted that if customers tracking their bags find that the bags have been mishandled, they can initiate the customer service process immediately. To quote the piece: “The app won’t make resolving the problem easier, per se, but it will let you get started sooner.”
Delta certainly might be on to something here.
Overall, Department of Transportation statistics indicate that the industry average of lost, damaged, delayed, or pilfered baggage is 3.15 reports per 1,000 passengers. What’s more, the International Air Transport Association released a report earlier this month that said the global airline industry could reduce mishandled baggage 25 percent by 2022 and save $3 billion if RFID technology was universal.
Delta has spent $50 million on RFID scanning technology in 25 U.S. airports where it operates and plans to expand to the others in the coming months. A spokeswoman said the company anticipates a 10 percent improvement in its “mishandled baggage” rate as a result of the technology.
Whatever happens, color us intrigued. Once we’ve watched all the in-flight movies and read all the articles in the in-flight mags, it’s nice to know we can just sit back and track our bags.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.