Alaska Airlines has become the first U.S. airline to launch a reusable electronic bag tag that uses a futuristic and batteryless e-ink display. Although this isn’t the first time the Seattle-based carrier has toyed with this airline innovation – and the first time around, it failed to take off.
This time around, Alaska is signing up 2,500 frequent flyers to put the electronic bag tag through its paces towards the end of the year and Mileage Plan members will be allowed to purchase the devices in early 2023.
The electronic bag tag has been designed and manufactured by a Dutch company appropriately called Bagtag. Its Flex bag tag costs around $66 which could prove prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of travelers who are used to simply printing a paper tag at the airport.
But Alaska Airlines hopes that travelers, and especially its most frequent flyers, will enjoy the benefit of loading the bag tag up to 24 hours before their flight without having to stop at the airport – although, of course, at some point, travelers will have to stop to drop off their bag at an airport counter or self bag-drop.
“This technology allows our guests to tag their own bags in just seconds and makes the entire check-in process almost all off-airport,” commented Charu Jain, senior vice president of merchandising and innovation at Alaska.
According to Bagtag, the device never needs to be recharged and could last a “lifetime” of travel. So far, the company has signed up Lufthansa Group airlines, KLM and China Southern as partner carriers that support the tech.
Alaska last trialled an electronic bag tag back in 2016 with around 500 frequent flyers, although that experiment was quietly shelved before it was rolled out to more travelers.
British Airways has also attempted to introduce electronic bag tags on a couple of occasions but the innovation has failed to find wide appeal amongst the Heathrow-based airline’s customers.
The airline first launched its first electronic bag tag in 2013 and a second attempt came in late 2019. That experiment was quickly halted when the pandemic started.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.