The idea of electronic bag tags have been around for a while, although curiously they haven’t yet become mainstream. You would of thought that there would be so many start ups or even big industry players trying to revolutionise and update the tradtional paper bag tag but that just hasn’t been the case.
British Airways actually toyed with the idea of electronic bag tags back in 2013 although a short lived customer trial didn’t seem to amount to much. Now, however, British Airways is back with an updated version of the digital bag tag that has been dubbed simply TAG.
Good for around 3,000 flights or about five years of use, the TAG differs from a couple of similar products on the market in that it can be easily swapped from one suitcase to another. A digital bag tag product offered by Lufthansa has to be screw mounted to a suitcase, while a product being developed by German luggage manufacturer Rimowa is integrated into the suitcase itself.
Using e-ink technology, the British Airways product (as well as competitors) links to a smartphone app and updates with the latest flight details. Unfortunately, TAG is only good for British Airways flights and it can’t yet be used for every destination the airline flies to (the full list of countries that accept TAG are listed here).
The bag tag can, however, be shared with other people in the same household as long they use the British Airways app to manage their flight. The tag doesn’t need recharging although that does mean it had to be thrown out once the tag eventually runs out of battery.
The biggest drawback, though, is likely to be the price – the TAG will debut in July and for the first few months will cost £63. From October onwards, the TAG will set you back £80.
Lufthansa’s version costs a similar price – €89 – and the Rimowa cases do not come cheap at all.
That cost might even put off the most frequent of frequent travellers when you consider that a paper tag is free. For its part, British Airways says the TAG could significantly speed up someone’s journey through the airport.
What’s interesting is that all these solutions rely on the traditional barcode system that has been around for years. That’s good because it will be compatible with the airport baggage handling systems around the world but you have to ask yourself whether these products are future ready.
RFID, for example, would be a far better way to track bags. According to IATA, such technology is 99.89% accurate – it would be nice to see airlines like BA investing in this tech.
In fact, IATA even wants to see RFID become the industry standard so why isn’t this being pursued right now?
There’s also the issue of luggage tracking – again, IATA wants every airline to provide real-time information on the status and whereabouts of a passengers bags. Some airlines have already achieved this, although it looks like this is still a work in progress for the majority of carriers, including BA.
There are still so many hurdles to overcome if electronic bag tags are going to become standard.