Alaska Airlines hopes to offer all its passengers the opportunity to skip the line at the baggage check counter. The airline is now the first in the United States to launch an electronic bag tag program. Alaska will be utilizing software and hardware from a Dutch company called BAGTAG. Several major international airlines, such as Lufthansa, KLM and China Southern, currently use BAGTAG’s electronic bag tag technology. But will it become widely adopted here in the U.S.?
According to an Alaska Airlines press release, the carrier is sending out 2,500 BAGTAG devices to its Mileage Plan members this week to trial the system. Preference was shown to elite-status members who applied for the program, traveled with the airline in the past 12 months and checked at least one bag. The three-by-five-inch devices are attached to luggage with an integrated zip tie. Electronic bag tags are updated with flight information during check-in through the Alaska Airlines smartphone app. This means there is no need to wait at a check counter or stop at a computer kiosk at the airport. Just drop off your bag at the designated location with an activated and updated bag tag.
“The last thing our guests want to do is stand in line,” said Charu Jain, senior vice-president of merchandising and innovation for Alaska. “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.”
Alaska estimates that the electronic bag tag system will cut the time that passengers spend in airport lobbies by 40 percent. The airline also claims that the BAGTAG devices don’t need to be charged or fitted with a replacement battery. Allegedly, Alaska employees tested the device’s durability by running it over with a truck.
Alaska Airlines’ electronic bag tag devices will be available for purchase in 2023 and will work on all Alaska Airlines marketed flights operated by Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air and SkyWest Airlines. The retail price has yet to be revealed but is estimated to be around $70 based on the cost of the standard BAGTAG device. While the convenience offered is very appealing, I’m a bit skeptical, especially if Alaska would be the only carrier I could use the electronic bag tag with. If all the major U.S. airlines used the system, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy one as a fairly frequent flyer.