Following a successful trial this year, Alaska Airlines is fully launching electronic bagtags.
Alaska Airlines is the first U.S. airline to launch an electronic bag tag program. Although electronic bag tags have been around for more than a decade they are little used. Indeed Alaska originally started a trial of electronic bag tags in 2016.
Passengers will be able to buy the Alaska Airlines electronic bag tag starting in 2023. The airline gives no details yet about the price, but about $75 is possible. That’s per tag and passengers need one tag per bag.
With that possible price (and other restrictions mentioned below) it will be really interesting to see how wide the take up is.
What are electronic bag tags?
The electronic bag tags enable passengers to tag their bags through the airline’s mobile app before they reach the airport.
The device is about the size of a smart phone with a durable screen. The screen shows the bag tag details including the bar code. It doesn’t need charging or batteries.
Passengers attach the device to a bag just like a traditional tag. They can remove it and attach it to a different bag for future flights.
The electronic bag tag has two main differences from the other types of bagtag:
- it is reusable (possibly for a lifetime)
- it costs (probably a one off charge)
The big benefit is that passengers can attach the tag at home or anywhere before getting to the airport and so avoid the self tagging at the airport hassle.
Self tagging at an airport can be a slow, tedious and complicated process that actually increases check-in time. Alaska Airlines estimates its electronic bag tag reduces the time passengers spend in airport lobbies by about 40%.
It is a bit restricted (at least for now):
- Only 1 passenger in the booking
- Only 1 checked bag
- Only applies to flights solely within the United States on Alaska Airlines and Alaska flights operated by Horizon or SkyWest
How it works
- Passengers enable the electronic bag tag feature in the Alaska app
- Then check-in on the Alaska app
- They ‘activate’ the tag by touching the phone used for check-in to the electronic bag tag
- The device reads the information transmitted from the phone
- The bag tag screen then shows the passenger flight information
Passengers will be able to activate the devices from anywhere up to 24-hours before their flight.
Alaska has posted a video showing how it works.
Charu Jain, senior vice-president of merchandising and innovation for Alaska:
“The last thing our guests want to do is stand in line. With the addition of the Alaska Airlines electronic bag tag, our guests can complete almost all of their check-in tasks – from the comfort of their home, at work or on the way to catching their flight.”
“We’ve tested our electronic bag tags on countless flights across the country, including international routes where Alaska Airlines flies, and the devices have performed exactly as they’re meant to. We’ll collect feedback from our first wave of users before the devices become available to purchase to all our guests early next year.”
This week, Alaska is sending the electronic bag tag to 2,500 devices to Mileage Plan members.
The device works on all Alaska Airlines marketed flights operated by Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air and SkyWest Airlines.
Alaska is partnering with Dutch company BAGTAG on the electronic bag tag program.
Lufthansa, SWISS, Austrian, Air Dolomiti (all part of Lufthansa Group), China Southern and KLM use BAGTAG.
Jaspar Quak, BAGTAG managing director:
“Alaska Airlines is an excellent example of a carrier on a mission to improve all aspects of their passenger’s experience. This vision is leading their choices for innovation such as electronic bag tags and we are very proud to assist them in this project.”
N.B. Image credit: Alaska Airlines