Airports are a mess now. As travelers eagerly return to the skies after two years of staying closer to home during the pandemic, they are facing flight delays, cancellations and long queues at airports around the world, largely due to staff shortages.
Now, one American airline hopes technology will help alleviate some of the havoc. Alaska Airlines will begin allowing customers to place electronic tags on their luggage in hopes of speeding up the airport check-in process and freeing up employees’ time for other tasks, according to a statement.
With the new tags, travelers won’t have to wait in line to print luggage tags at the airport. Instead, they will be able to attach the tag to their luggage at home and then activate it up to 24 hours before departure using the airline’s mobile app.
The process involves touching the phone to the tag, which uses an antenna to read the transmission. Once activated, the tag uses e-paper technology to display the guest’s flight information and a barcode on its small screen. The owner of the bag will then be able to drop it off at a designated airport drop-off location.
The devices do not contain batteries and take a small amount of power from the phone used to power them, it reports TechCrunchFrederic Lardinois.
Alaska Airlines expects the electronic tags to reduce the time travelers spend dropping off their checked bags by 40 percent, according to the statement. They should also help shorten lines at airline kiosks at the airport.
“Fifty percent of our guests check in a bag, and that means they need a bag tag because the bag tag is necessary to get it through the entire system,” says Charu Jain, senior vice president of Alaska Airlines commerce and innovation. TechCrunch.
The airline plans to roll out the technology in phases, starting with travelers flying through California’s San Jose International Airport in late 2022. Alaska Airlines will initially offer free tags to about 2,500 frequent flyers, then the company will make the tags available for purchase to all members of its loyalty program in early 2023. The airline did not share the estimated price of the tags; however, they are listed as starting at around $72 on the Bagtag website.
Company officials say they believe Alaska Airlines is the first U.S. airline to use electronic bag tags, which Netherlands-based company Bagtag developed in 2014.
Several international airlines already use the technology, including Lufthansa, Air Dolomiti, Austrian, China Southern and Swiss. According to Bagtag, several other airlines are also preparing to implement the devices.
As they prepare to launch the technology, Alaska Airlines employees put the tags — made of highly durable plastic — to the test by running them on baggage carts, food trucks and aircraft bridge wheels. TechCrunch. They held up well to wear and tear, and airline officials say they can last a lifetime.
Alaska Airlines’ announcement comes amid widespread issues at airports around the globe. London’s Heathrow Airport has imposed a passenger restriction due to staff shortages. In the US, meanwhile, airlines canceled 88,161 flights between January and May due to bad weather, labor challenges and other issues.
Travelers who choose to drive instead of fly are facing higher gas prices at the pump, and Amtrak train riders are also facing delays and disruptions.
“This is an incredibly difficult travel season,” says Marc Casto, president of Americas leisure brands for travel agency Flight Center Travel Group. Washington PostHannah Sampson and James Bikales. “It’s a confluence of multiple forces all hitting at once, which has resulted in a poor experience for everyone involved.”