Lost bag? Air­line now alerts fliers

Amer­i­can’s bar code scan­ning sys­tem lets peo­ple know if suit­cases don’t ar­rive.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Hugo Martin hugo.martin@la­times.com Twit­ter: @hugo­martin

Air­line pas­sen­gers of­ten must wait at the bag­gage carousel un­til ev­ery suit­case has been picked up be­fore re­al­iz­ing that their bags didn’t land with them.

Now, Fort Worth-based Amer­i­can Air­lines is giv­ing trav­el­ers a dig­i­tal alert if their bags don’t ar­rive at the same des­ti­na­tion at the same time. The alert comes through the con­tact in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the f liers dur­ing the book­ing or checkin process.

Loy­alty re­ward mem­bers at Amer­i­can Air­lines can also get no­tices through the air­line app.

The alert tells trav­el­ers if their lug­gage has ar­rived early or will ar­rive later. If the lug­gage is ar­riv­ing late, the alert in­forms the trav­eler to head to the Bag­gage Ser­vice Of­fice to ar­range a pickup later or no­ti­fies the pas­sen­ger to fill out a mo­bile bag­gage or­der to have the air­line de­liver the bag to the trav­eler’s home, of­fice or lodg­ing.

Amer­i­can Air­lines’ sys­tem re­lies on bar codes that are printed on each bag la­bel. To keep track of the bags, the bar codes are scanned at sev­eral points in the load­ing and trans­porta­tion process.

Lost lug­gage rates have been on the de­cline in the U.S. over the last few years be­cause of heavy in­vest­ments by car­ri­ers in new tech­nol­ogy.

Delta Air Lines, for ex­am­ple, has in­stalled a lug­gage-track­ing sys­tem at the ma­jor do­mes­tic air­ports served by the At­lanta-based car­rier. It re­lies on ra­dio fre­quency iden­ti­fi­ca­tion de­vices on lug­gage tags.

A study of­fered by an air­line tech­nol­ogy com­pany and an in­dus­try trade group said the use of RFIDs could en­able air­lines to suc­cess­fully track bags 99% of the time, sav­ing the in­dus­try $3 bil­lion over the next seven years.

Fares on L.A. route can vary widely

On a flight be­tween Los An­ge­les and San Fran­cisco — one of the na­tion’s most pop­u­lar air routes — a pas­sen­ger can pay up to six times more for an econ­omy seat than an­other pas­sen­ger on the same flight.

That is one of the con­clu­sions of a study by the travel plan­ning app Hop­per. The re­searchers com­pared the prices of six ma­jor car­ri­ers and found that United Air­lines has the great­est vari­abil­ity in prices on that route. Delta Air Lines has the least.

That means if you fly United on that route, you have the great­est chance of get­ting a real bar­gain — and a high like­li­hood of over­pay­ing for an econ­omy seat. On Delta, the prices vary less, mean­ing what you pay will be closer to what your fel­low pas­sen­gers pay.

Econ­omy seats on United ranged in price from about $100 round-trip to $550, de­pend­ing on how far in ad­vance you booked the flight, ac­cord­ing to Hop­per, which an­a­lyzed mil­lions of fares for the study. On Delta, the seats ranged from $150 to $400 round-trip on the same route.

Alaska Air­lines sells seats with a big­ger price range — from $100 to $600 — than United, but Alaska of­fers fewer seats that vary in price.

Alex Chang, a data sci­en­tist for Hop­per, said sev­eral fac­tors in­flu­ence the price of an air­line ticket, in­clud­ing how far in ad­vance the seat is booked, how much in­ven­tory is avail­able and what ri­val car­ri­ers are charg­ing for the same route.

Celebri­ties join talk on traf­fic con­trol

Op­po­nents and sup­port­ers of a pro­posal to turn over the na­tion’s air traf­fic con­trol sys­tem to a pri­vate, non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion now have celebrity spokes­men to make their case.

The plan has been around for years, but it gained new mo­men­tum when it was in­cluded in a fund­ing bill by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Un­der the con­cept, the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion would turn con­trol of the sys­tem over to a panel that would in­clude rep­re­sen­ta­tives from air­lines, pilot and flight at­ten­dants unions and lo­cal lead­ers. Fees from air­lines and pas­sen­gers would fund staffing, main­te­nance and up­grades.

Canada, Bri­tain, France, Ger­many, Aus­tralia and New Zealand have turned over day-to-day man­age­ment of their sys­tems to pri­vate busi­nesses or in­de­pen­dent agen­cies with at least par­tial gov­ern­ment own­er­ship.

The most rec­og­nized op­po­nent of the idea is Ch­es­ley “Sully” Sul­len­berger, the US Air­ways pilot who landed a pas­sen­ger jet on the Hud­son River in 2009.

Sul­len­berger recorded an anti-pri­va­ti­za­tion ad, say­ing the pro­posal puts profits ahead of safety. “We can’t trust the peo­ple who made your seats smaller to run ATC,” he says in the ad. ATC is short for “air traf­fic con­trol.”

The celebrity cham­pion of the pri­va­ti­za­tion idea is mil­lion­aire Steve Forbes, the pub­lish­ing ex­ec­u­tive and for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, who said pri­va­tiz­ing the air traf­fic con­trol sys­tem would speed up the mod­ern­iza­tion of a “dys­func­tional” sys­tem.

He wrote an ar­ti­cle for Fox News last week, say­ing the move would “res­cue re­form ef­forts from sti­fling FAA bu­reau­cracy, fed­eral pro­cure­ment and per­son­nel rules and par­ti­san pol­i­tics.”

Allen J. Sch­aben Los An­ge­les Times

AMER­I­CAN AIR­LINES is giv­ing trav­el­ers a dig­i­tal alert if their bags don’t ar­rive at the same des­ti­na­tion at the same time. The alert comes through the con­tact in­for­ma­tion f liers pro­vide dur­ing book­ing or check-in.

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