British Airways is trying to overcome the problems of lost bags by using radio frequency identity (RFID) baggage labels. Several US airlines may commit themselves to trials with the new system, says the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The "smart" labels have embedded semiconductors (silicon chips) that emit identity and flight number signals. BA is to present the results to IATA this year to allow its ground handling working party to evaluate the work and decide industry standards for frequency and coding protocols.

The aim is to check if the system can affordably speed baggage transfer time, reduce bag loss, and enable quick identification of bags if they have to be deplaned when passengers fail to report to the departure gate in time.

IATA says Lufthansa and SAS undertook similar tests "several years ago", but rejected the technology as too costly. Smart labels were about $10 each then, says IATA. Texas Instruments (TI)/ Ultra Electronics, manufacturer of one of the semiconductors under test, says that today's labels will cost "about $0.50" each once they are in large scale production.

BA has carried out similar tests with passenger cards or tickets, for which IATA says international standards have now been agreed. These allow passengers late at the departure gate to be tracked within the airport. The airline has decided not to proceed with the passenger tracking system, saying conventional methods are sufficient.

Source: Flight International