Some airlines are joining the modern smartphone age with reusable electronic smartphone luggage tags for faster and hopefully more accurate luggage check-in, routing and baggage claim. This should not only save trees and ink once used for the paper tags, but also improve the entire luggage scenario.
British Airways is the latest airline to come on board. It has announced that it is testing electronic luggage tags which their airline customers will be able to update themselves via smartphone apps and reuse again and again.
Two little e-ink screens on the electronic tags will show the luggage destination and a barcode with further flight details. Passengers simply wave the smartphone over the tag to automatically input the destination via NFC. At the check-in desk, the airline clerk scans the tag.
Bluetooth or some other communication method may be used instead of NFC to be compatible with a larger range of smart devices. The rational for using e-ink and barcode is that it will integrate with the infrastructure that is already in place at terminals worldwide.
Passengers will keep the same tag for the next time they travel when they will update it with the new trip. The tags can be personalized and in different colors for quick identification of one’s luggage at baggage claim carousels. They are built to be durable and designed to last.
The process is similar to that of Qantas airlines bag tag which cost $49.95 or 7,000 Frequent Flyer points and have been in existence for several years. Companies like Airbus have been testing baggage trackers with built-in global positioning systems (GPS) and mobile connectivity. British Airways instead focused on reducing time spent in dropping off bags to an estimated 35 seconds using the new tags. GPS and mobile devices must be switched off in transit so BA did not see a benefit for tags using them.
The patent-pending tags were developed by British Airways in partnership with Densitron Displays and the assistance of Designworks Windsor. Tags have been handed out to BA employees for a three-month trial starting at Heathrow Airport in London in July 2013. Final design will occur after that with expected public launch in 2014 and eventual worldwide use.
The new electronic tag is part of British Airways goal of dramatically improving customer service by making the flying experience faster, simpler and smoother. Trials have occurred on self-service bag drops, automated boarding gates, porter services, auto check-in and meet and greet hosts. The plans are to invest over £5bn ($7.7 bn) during the next five years in new aircraft, smarter cabins, elegant lounges and new technologies.