Travel | July 26, 2022 10:09 am

Electronic Bag Tags Are Coming to US Airlines. Will They Help?

"This technology...makes the entire check-in process almost all off-airport"

Passenger scanning an electric bag tag at a kiosk at Alaska Airlines check-in
These days, airlines need all the help they can get.
Alaska Airlines

It’s been a banner year for mishandled baggage, enough to make you never want to check a bag again. In fact, some airlines are even advising against it or, alternatively, straight up refusing to do it. But in the midst of all the brouhaha, Alaska Airlines has emerged with a solution to a problem rather than, well, just a problem.

Last week, Alaska announced that it would become the first U.S. airline to launch an electronic bag tag program, which will begin its rollout later this year. In lieu of printed bag tags, passengers will be able to activate their respective electronic tags up to 24 hours ahead of departure via the airline’s mobile app. Using Bluetooth technology, all relevant information will be downloaded onto the tag, which features an e-paper screen — not unlike that of a Kindle device, as Bailey Berg suggests at Afar — that will then display the passenger’s details. And while it may not do much to remedy the mishandled baggage situation directly, it will help to streamline operations.

A photo of the front and back of the electronic bag tags coming to Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines will soon roll out these electronic bag tags.
Alaska Airlines

“This technology allows our guests to tag their own bags in just seconds and makes the entire check-in process almost all off-airport,” said Charu Jain, senior vice president of merchandising and innovation at Alaska. “Not only will our electronic bag tags allow our guests to quickly drop-off their luggage after they arrive at the airport, the devices will also give our employees the opportunity to spend more one-on-one time with guests who ask for assistance and reduce lines at our lobbies.”

Per the release, the rollout of the program will happen in several phases. The initial phase will include 2,500 Alaska Airlines frequent fliers, who will begin using the electronic bag tags in late 2022. Members of the airline’s Mileage Plan loyalty program will be able to purchase the e-tags early next year. 

This is not the first time Alaska Airlines has been ahead of the baggage curve. Back in March, the airline piloted a self-bag drop system at San Jose International Airport, which purports to save passengers somewhere in the vicinity of four minutes upon arrival.

These developments may seem small, but the fact is that four minutes here and another four minutes there can add up quick — particularly if you’re tight on time as it is. Further, it makes our current bag checking processes all feel a bit archaic. It’s unclear at this time if any other U.S.-based airlines will follow suit, but I’m crossing my fingers (cough, cough, United).