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RFID in Aviation: Radio Frequency Identification for Airport Operations

  • Akansha Sharma
  • Jan 01, 2024
  • RFID
RFID in Aviation

“Airports pay very careful attention to security & streamlined operations. The use of RFID in aviation operations is very prominent."

Aviation is perhaps one of the biggest and most widespread industries in the world. Which makes sense, since their job is to transport people across the world. From commercial travel to cargo transport, the aviation industry has covered it all. This is why it’s no surprise that AIDC technologies like RFID plays an important part in these operations. There is a vast abundance of the use of RFID in aviation, from tracking to security.

So, let’s get right to it.

What is RFID and its Function?

Radio Frequency identification, better known as RFID, is a type of asset tracking & identification technology that relies on radio communication. These systems are affordable, durable, and provide real-time tracking capabilities.

These systems work by communicating information between FID tags and readers using radio signals. The antennas on the reader broadcast signals, generating an interrogation zone around it. Any tag that enters this zone, can use inductive coupling or radiative coupling to send information to the reader.

Applications of RFID in Aviation Operations

RFID technology has a firm grip in a variety of industries, from manufacturing to even transportation, or more precisely, aviation. In the aviation industry, we see the use of this technology amongst vast applications. 

So, let’s check them all out.

(A). Baggage Identification & Tracking

The foremost and most seen application for this technology is handling baggage. If you’ve ever flown on an airline, you may remember handing your luggage at the check-in counter. Here the counter clerk will attach a big label to your baggage's handle. This label consists of an RF inlay inside it, programmed with your travel details like your PNR number, Flight Number, etc.

During baggage handling operation, i.e., everything that happens to the baggage once you put it on the check-in conveyor, till the time you retrieve it at the end of your travel; is done with the help of RF technology. These labels allow employees to track their baggage and place it on the correct flight and retrieval belt. In addition, in the event of an error and baggage loss, this technology allows the airline to retrieve the baggage as soon as possible.

(B). Catering Services

While booking a flight, you may have seen the option the name, “Add Meal”. This allows passengers to add custom meal options to their itinerary. However, on an airline with hundreds of flights per day, and hundreds of passengers per flight, it becomes very difficult to keep track of what meal belongs to whom. This is made extremely simple using RF technology, these tags allow airlines to quickly sort out the correct catering orders to the designated traveler.

(C). Cargo Transit

Aside from commercial travel, cargo transportation is another big section of the aviation industry. A standard Airbus A321 cargo carrier can transport up to 27 tonnes of cargo materials. That is a lot of packages, so make sure there are no problems like loss or misplacement. By tagging these shipments, airlines can streamline these operations & make them more secure and accurate.

(D). Ground Service Equipment

Aircraft require a lot of maintenance services, a lot. This is because of three reasons – airplanes have a lot of components, they operate in varying pressure zones, and they need to be extremely safe. Every boarding gate requires a full set of necessary ground service equipment to keep up with the regular maintenance needs. Airlines use RF tags, to keep track of these equipment for easy retrieval and inventory.

In addition, aircraft components also have tags on them, this is done to ensure that all the components are logged to be installed and functional before every flight.

(E). Boarding Pass

After checking in, the airline will give you a boarding pass. This pass has a 2D barcode and Rf inlay inside it, to help passengers get access to traveler areas like the lounge, waiting areas, security gates, and boarding gates.

(F). Airport Entrance Pass

During a visit to the airport, one might feel like a rat trapped in a maze, often feeling jealous of the employees who can move freely. But let me burst that bubble, the aviation authority trusts the employees no more than it trusts you. Yes, even pilots. In order to enter the airport, every employee, from the sweeper crew to the security head, needs to have an Airport Entrance Pass (AEP). These passes contain an RFID inlay inside them, programmed with their identification information and security clearance grade.

These passes only provide the holder access to the areas of the airport, that are related to their job roles. For example, a commercial pilot will only have access to the travel areas like the lounge, security, and boarding gates; they cannot enter other areas like the baggage handling areas or the cargo hold. This same principle applies to every employee that visits the airport.

What are the Benefits of RFID to Airlines?

Now that you know the applications of this technology in the aviation industry, you may be asking yourself, is it the only system available? Why are these systems so popular? Well, just hold on, 'cause that’s precisely what I'm about to tell you.

The benefits of using RF technology over other alternatives in the aviation sector.

(A). Automating Operations

The biggest advantage of any radio frequency identification system is its automation capabilities. Unlike other AIDC methods, Rf technology doesn’t require an active handler to operate. For example, the access control systems work automatically. This allows the operations to become, faster, more accurate, and without errors.

(B). Tracking & Easy Retrieval

In an environment where you have to deal with a large volume of assets/items, like an airport; it’s essential to keep track of everything to ensure smooth operations. RFID provides users with accurate and real-time tracking capabilities, allowing them to retrieve items asap.

(C). Security Measures

With the help of real-time tracking, live monitoring, and improved visibility; airport authorities can significantly improve the security of both the premises and traveler items within the organization.

(D). Diversifying Access Control

By incorporating this technology into the access control system, airports can automate and improve their security protocols. Create custom authorization suites and access grades based on need and organizational hierarchy.


RFID stands for radio frequency identification; it’s a class of AIDC solutions. Used in many industries, like aviation, these systems have massive applications and numerous benefits. They allow organizations like airports to operate smoothly and safely.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are the benefits of RFID to airlines?

There are many benefits of using RFID technology in airline operations, like automation, accurate data collection, item identification, relocating missing items, and itemizing components & equipment.

Q2. Does RFID need to be scanned?

No, unlike barcodes, RF technology operates using radio signals. That means, that as long as a tag is within the interrogation range of a reader, the RFID system will work perfectly.

Q3. Do baggage tags have RFID?

Yes, baggage tags usually have a large barcode on the surface, and a slim RFID inlay, safely inserted inside the layers of the label. These inlays are programmed with the traveler's information.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for general information purposes only and true to best of our understanding. Users are requested to use any information as per their own understanding and knowledge. Before using any of the information, please refer to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

  • Created on Aug 11, 2023

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