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Alaska Airlines First To Issue Electronic Bag Tags So Passengers Can Skip Check-In Lines

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Passengers traveling on Alaska Airlines will soon have the option to skip lengthy check-in lines. This week, the company announced the launch of its electronic bag tag program, which will be the first of its kind in the United States. People traveling with the new bag tags will have the ability to tag their own luggage through the airline’s mobile app, allowing them to breeze through the check-in process once at the airport.

a line of adult passengers stand at the airport with coats and luggage in hand

This comes as welcome news to travelers who are fed up with long lines and wait times at airports. This past summer saw airports plagued with problems as air travel made a remarkable post-pandemic recovery. Stories of never-ending security lines, crowded airport terminals, and lost luggage frequently made headlines.

Now, it seems the industry is trying hard to resolve common problems with innovative solutions to shorten the time and frustration that passengers are encountering at the airport. Alaska Airlines officials estimate that the electronic bag tags could reduce the time flyers spend in the airport lobby by 40%.

Alaska Airlines' new electronic bag tag is 3 x 5 inches and is a hard blue plastic that surrounds a screen displaying a barcode
Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines

How Do The Electronic Bag Tags Work?

Passengers will be able to easily tag their bags electronically by using Alaska Airlines’ mobile app. The app, which is also used to check in to flights before arriving at the airport, will allow passengers to tag their luggage within seconds by holding their phone up to the bag tag device.

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an adult man wearing a mask shows his digital flight info to an airline employee

First, users need to complete a brief one-time setup to enable the app to recognize the tag. Instructions vary by phone type but are spelled out clearly on the airline’s website. The tag is then attached to the bag using the integrated zip tie. Next, when passengers are ready to check in for their flight, they simply open the app and follow the prompts to activate the tag.

After it is activated, users need to place their phone directly on top of the tag and wait for the blue light at the top of the device to indicate it has been properly tagged. The device’s screen will display the digital tag. Finally, passengers can then head to the airport and proceed directly to the bag drop area, where they will only need to show their ID to the agent, drop off their bag, and then head to security.  

a person places a paper luggage tag around the handle of a silver suitcase that is resting on a conveyor belt

Who Can Use The New Bag Tags?

Initially, just 2,500 Alaska Mileage Plan members will receive an electronic bag tag – to be eligible, you must have traveled with Alaska Airlines during the last 12 months, checked in at least one bag, and registered to use the device. The airline will collect feedback from this first group of users and then do a wider launch of the program in early 2023.

An Alaska Airlines plane flys through a blue sky with a few clouds around

Once the program launch is complete, all guests traveling with Alaska Airlines, even if the flight is operated by the company’s partners Horizon Air and Sky West Airlines, will be able to use the tags. In order for the tags to work, your phone will need to meet minimum requirements, and you must use the mobile app to check in.

Portland, OR, USA - Feb 13, 2020: Passengers waiting in line to check their luggages at the Alaska Airlines check-in counter in Portland International Airport at night.

Is There A Cost?

Passengers will need to pay up if they’d like to fly with the new tags. While Alaska has yet to announce its exact price, BAGTAG, the Dutch company that manufactures and provides the software for the bag tags, currently charges $84 for the devices. Keep in mind that passengers traveling with more than one bag will need multiple bag tags.

a group of People wait for their luggage around baggage claim

Will The Bag Tags Hold Up?

According to tests by the airline, electronic bag tags have an impressive lifespan and are incredibly durable. Employees have reportedly tested its durability by running it over with a truck, and it remained intact. Additionally, the device does not require any charging or batteries in order to work.

a number of suitcases are neatly stacked on top of eachother

What Else Do I Need To Know?

Alaska’s website currently states that to be eligible to use the electronic bag tags, passengers must be the only traveler on the reservation, only plan to check one bag, and qualify for an automatically waived baggage fee, although it is unclear if these conditions will be the case once the program is launched to a wider audience in 2023.

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