The system - based on the UltraTrak software developed by UK-based FASL/Ultra - lets airlines track and authorise loading of all passenger and aircrew baggage on scheduled flights departing Australia or between Australian airports.
Each Australian airport will roll out the system between August and the end of this year. Unisys is providing the network infrastructure and security architecture under a managed services arrangement from its data centre in Sydney.
Using barcode scanners, each passenger bag is scanned, reconciled with the passenger record and authorised to load on an aircraft. A record of the cargo hold location of each bag is retained to account for all loaded bags, identifying any missing or unloaded bags.
Andrew Whittaker, GM transportation for Unisys Asia-Pacific, said currently all bag identification is done manually and the new system will improve security and increase the efficiency of bag management and problem resolution. "When you board an aircraft, you'd like to think that for every bag in the hold, there's a passenger in the [aircraft] seat," he said.
"When you check in your bag, the bag tag has a [barcode] link with the boarding pass issued," he said. The system can also identify when a particular bag has been placed inside a container, making it easier if airport staff are required to remove a bag from a loader, he said.
Thirty-two international airlines, representing more than 95 percent of international passenger traffic in Australia have signed up for the service.
The system will also assist airlines to comply with the Aviation Security Act's "Triple A" (account and authorise) regulations relating to baggage handling which was mandated by the Federal Department of Transport and Regional Services to improve security at Australian airports. It will also bring the same level of security to Australian airports that is required by the United States government in US airports, Whittaker said.
The system is currently installed at 30 major airports worldwide, Unisys said.