Air Canada debuts baggage tracking. But will it make a difference?

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Air Canada is introducing baggage and mobility device tracking on its mobile app, but one expert says the airline is “catching up.”

The airline announced the new feature Friday and said it will provide customers with up-to-date information on where their luggage is.

“At Air Canada, we know that apart from a safe, comfortable journey, the prompt delivery of baggage and mobility aids is a top priority for our customers,” Tom Stevens, vice-president of customer experience and operations strategy at Air Canada, said in a statement.

“We already achieve a very high-reliability rate, but to further elevate our service we are introducing a new tracking feature in the Air Canada mobile app to give customers real-time information, greater certainty about the movement of their belongings during their trip, and heightened convenience.”

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The app will let users know that their baggage has reached “key points,” a release from the airline said. The tracking works using the same tag scanning information Air Canada employees have used to track baggage previously, the company said, only now it will be shared with flyers.

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The feature will only be available for domestic flights in Canada for now, but Air Canada says it will be expanded to U.S. flights next year, and then to “select international destinations.”

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The app will also advise customers if their baggage is delayed and enable them to file a delayed baggage report from their phone and arrange delivery, the airline said.

However, McGill University aviation management lecturer John Gradek told Global News the feature is the airline “catching up” to other airlines and Apple’s AirTag — and it may not actually help that much if your luggage is lost.

United Airlines and Delta already offer the feature, and thousands have adopted Apple’s product to keep track of their luggage, Gradek pointed out. He said customers knowing where their luggage is ahead of the airline “shames” them, and that might have been a factor in pushing them to release this feature.

The feature comes as customer frustration with airlines has increased, with a particularly bad spate of lost luggage occurring over the summer. The loss of mobility devices is also an especially troubling inconvenience for some who rely on the equipment.

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“It’ll reduce your blood pressure,” Gradek said of the tracking feature. “But will the airline do anything as a result of you as a passenger knowing that the bag is on the wrong airplane and got left behind? The answer is no.”

That’s because airlines still use “antiquated” systems that won’t be able to get your lost luggage to you faster — even if you know where it is, Gradek said.

He figures that Air Canada did a cost-benefit analysis, found that a tracking system was a good selling feature worth the investment, and decided to go with it to avoid losing business to other airlines that do have the feature.

“Air Canada probably felt they were losing market share,” Gradek said. “This is really a competitive response to baggage tracking systems that have been put in place by competitors to Air Canada.”

He says he expects other Canadian airlines, such as WestJet and Flair, to follow suit.

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