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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 February 2008, 13:44 GMT
BAA luggage-tracking trial begins
Radio frequency identification (RFID)
The RFID could reduce the amount of airport lost luggage

A six-month trial that could revolutionise the way luggage is tracked and monitored has begun at London's Heathrow airport.

The scheme - run by BAA - uses radio frequency identification (RFID) to tag baggage.

The 150,000 project involving the Dubai-based airline Emirates is likely to track some 50,000 bags a month.

Stephen Challis of BAA Heathrow said it "could significantly improve efficiency" at Heathrow.

He said BAA was committed to "innovative baggage handling solutions".

"[It] could significantly improve the efficiency of Heathrow's baggage system, delivering an improved service to both passengers and airlines alike."

RFID is already used in a variety of ways such as the Oystercard used by travellers in London and also in pet passports.

Text update

At Heathrow, it will enable airport staff to track bags at every stage of the process, allowing the airline to know exactly where the luggage is, and so reducing lost items.

Oystercard A travel card used in London which allows the user to enter Underground and certain overground stations by swiping a card reader
Pet Travel Scheme A chip inside the animal which can be scanned by a vet
Pharmaceutical industry Companies can make sure the drugs are not counterfeit
Shops Used to track items such as jewellery, CDs and DVDs

Passengers who give their mobile phone number could receive a text letting them know the location of their bag when they land at the airport.

There are five flights a day between Heathrow and Dubai involving 1,500 passengers.

Vic Sheppard, Emirates Vice President for UK and Ireland, said: "This trial enables us to embrace the latest technology for the benefit of our customers."

The travel insurance company InsureandGo estimated an 85% increase in lost baggage claims between January and June 2007.

It said, on average, its customers lost 12 bags per day during the first half of 2007 - the equivalent of one bag every two hours.

The Independent newspaper's travel editor, Simon Calder, told BBC News 24: "By August we should know whether... it [the RFID system] might actually be used to reduce the ludicrous and very expensive amounts of luggage that gets lost."

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