US Airways Makes Further Strides in Baggage Handling with Planeside Scanning

Last year, I wrote about how US Airways had started scanning bags at planeside. When I was in Phoenix with the airline recently, I decided to stop in and get an update on how things were going. They’ve made a lot of progress since then, and there are some exciting new developments.

US Airways has long had bag problems (remember Philly back before the merger?) but they’ve been achieving record low mishandling bag rates in recent months. Most of this can be attributed to an improved system. US Airways now scans bags when the come on and off airplanes at every airport with the exception of a couple European stations due to technical issues. This now also applies to US Airways Express flights.

When the bag is scanned, the information is sent to a central system and there are real-time monitoring systems, built from scratch by US Airways, that make things run smoothly. I saw the system, but they weren’t willing to let me post a screenshot since it’s proprietary.

You can watch this system from a desktop or from the scanner itself. It shows for every flight how many bags have been checked in and how many bags have been loaded onboard. If a big is missing, you can click on it and see where it was last scanned. It has the person’s name, the tag number, etc. If you’re in the hub waiting for it to connect, then you can have it tracked down immediately. Since it’s in real-time, it’s easy to see the problem bags.

When I was sitting there, we looked at a flight heading to Mexico City. It had 173 bags planned, with the split between local and connecting bags shown as well. As bags are checked in, they show up on the screen. As they are loaded on the plane, that gets recorded as well. This is also used for bags that are checked at the gate, so now all bags will be loaded into the system.

As we sat there, I noticed that there was one bag from one person that was loaded and the other was not. I asked aloud about that – was it lost? Within just a minute, that bag had been loaded as well and it clicked off. Very cool.

The system is also tied in to the baggage tracking system NetTracer that’s used when you file a mishandled bag claim so it makes it easier to get information. What’s next? They’ll be automating more of the mishandled bag claim system, but more importantly, they’re talking about notifications.

Eventually, you’ll be able to get a notification when your bag is loaded or possibly if it doesn’t get loaded. This is fantastic for setting expectations. If your bag is loaded, you’ve got peace of mind and you’re happy. If it’s not, you’re unhappy but at least you know. You’ll also no longer need to sit and wait at the carousel, hoping that yours will be the last bag out. Instead, you can file a claim right away and be on your way.

Great stuff from the US Airways people here.

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