February 3, 2023

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Passengers traveling on Alaska Airlines will soon have the opportunity to skip long check-in lines. This week, the company announced the launch of its electronic luggage tag program, which will be the first of its kind in the United States. People traveling with the new baggage tags will have the option to tag their own baggage through the airline’s mobile app, making the airport check-in process a snap.

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

This is welcome news for travelers who are tired of long lines and waits at airports. Airports were beset by problems last summer as air traffic made a remarkable recovery from the pandemic. Stories of endless security lines, crowded airport terminals and lost luggage often made headlines.

Now it seems like the industry is working hard to solve common problems with innovative solutions to reduce the time and frustration passengers experience at the airport. Alaska Airlines officials estimate that the electronic baggage tags could reduce the time passengers spend in the airport lobby by 40%.

Alaska Airlines' new electronic luggage tag is 3
Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines

How do electronic baggage tags work?

Passengers can easily tag their baggage electronically using the Alaska Airlines mobile app. The app, which is also used to check in for flights before arriving at the airport, allows passengers to tag their luggage in seconds by holding their phone to the bag tag.

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

First, users need to do a quick one-time setup to allow the app to recognize the tag. Instructions vary by phone type, but are clearly stated on the airline’s website. The tag is then attached to the bag with the integrated cable 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.

Once activated, users must place their phone directly on the label and wait for the blue light at the top of the device to indicate it has been properly labeled. The digital tag is displayed on the device screen. Finally, passengers can then go to the airport and go straight to the baggage claim area, where they just need to show the agent their ID, drop off their baggage and then go through security.

A person wraps a paper luggage tag around the handle of a silver suitcase lying on a conveyor belt

Who can use the new luggage tags?

Initially, only 2,500 Alaska Mileage Plan members will receive an electronic bag tag—to be eligible, you must have traveled on Alaska Airlines in the past 12 months, have at least one checked bag, and be registered to use the device. The airline will collect feedback from this initial user group and then roll out the program more broadly in early 2023.

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

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

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

Is there a cost

Passengers will have to pay if they want to fly with the new tags. While Alaska has yet to announce the exact price, BAGTAG, the Dutch company that makes and provides the software for the baggage tags, is currently charging $84 for the devices. Remember that passengers traveling with more than one piece of luggage will need multiple luggage tags.

A group of people are waiting for their luggage near the baggage claim area

Will the luggage tags hold up?

According to airline tests, electronic baggage tags have an impressive lifespan and are incredibly durable. Employees reportedly tested its durability by hitting it with a truck, and it remained intact. In addition, the device does not require charging or batteries to function.

several suitcases are neatly stacked on top of each other

What else should I know?

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

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