Camera Lucida

February 20, 2006

Lost baggage blues

Filed under: Society — CL @ 6:21 pm

There was some attention paid this weekend to a news report that some 10,000 pieces of luggage are lost by airlines every day. Presumably this largish figure includes the pieces that are somewhat delayed but soon returned to their owners. Every traveler, though, can regale us with one or more stories of baggage gone far, far astray.

There is a rather simple technique that could be used to assist with this problem. If every traveler were to attach a special identification card with a barcode to his luggage, and if some central authority were to be tasked to maintain a database of which barcodes go with which names and addresses, the airlines would have a quick way to connect the user with his lost bag. Right now, the only searching is human-driven: a traveler reports that his bag is missing and is asked to provide a description, both sides recognizing that his bag probably resembles about four million others circulating on baggage claim carousels. If the airlines used barcodes and the database to allow the lost bag to also search for the traveler, the chances of reuniting the two would increase exponentially.

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