British Airways launches digital bag tags – but do you want one?

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It’s taken six years, but British Airways has finally managed to sort out the digital bag tags it was first trialling back in 2013.

The introduction of this technology appears to have had numerous setbacks – including yet again earlier this year, given that British Airways was advertising the new tags in Business Life magazine last December for a January launch.

British Airways digital bag tag

The technology has been branded ‘TAG by British Airways’.  You can see more on this special page on the BA website here.

You can pre-order a TAG now with an expected delivery date of mid-July.  There is an introductory pricing offer:

£63 until October

£80 thereafter

Both of these are higher than the £60 mentioned in the Business Life ad last December.

What are the benefits?

The main selling point, as British Airways sees it, is that it will save you time when you drop your bag.

Now that British Airways has moved most of its bag drops to self-service counters (for economy passengers at least) you must print your own bag labels.  With the digital bag TAG, however, all you need to do is apply the correct routing to the tag from within the BA mobile app and then send it on its way.

You will, of course, also save on sticky labels although it is probably significantly more energy intensive to manufacture the digital TAG than it is to print on paper …..

Here is a video showing it in action:

Is it worth it?

In short, probably not. £63 – increasing to £80 – seems very expensive for a service that is currently free, and the time you will save by not having to print paper tags is minimal.

If you normally check in two suitcases, of course, then you are looking at £126, riding to £160.  These are not trivial numbers.

Baggage tag printing is not a significant bottle neck in airport departures, unlike the bag drop itself, and unfortunately this new digital TAG does not miraculously drop your bags for you!  I can only see it being a benefit if BA sets up an exclusive Bag Drop desk just for TAG customers.

You also need to remember that Business and First Class passengers – or status passengers using the Business and First Class desks – do not need to pre-print baggage tags.  There is no benefit for these passengers at all.

TAG does NOT have tracking capability.  If it did – allowing you to check via the BA app where your bag was at any particular moment – it would have some added value.  But it doesn’t.

The TAG gets even less compelling when you take a look at the FAQs that British Airways has set up on its TAG page, where you can see that it only works in 63 countries globally.

According to the site, TAG has a usable life of five years before the battery dies which doesn’t seem like a lot, although I accept that the technology will move on quickly anyway.

Additionally, you can’t use the TAG on connecting flights yet (although BA promises this will be part of a “future release”) or other airlines, since it can only be used in conjunction with the British Airways app.

Then, of course, you have to consider how much you trust the technology itself.  How willing are you to trust that the e-ink screen on the TAG doesn’t get smashed in transit, or the battery dies, or the connection to the BA app isn’t lost or tampered with?

TAG by British Airways seems to add needless complexity to a process that is already remarkably reliable.  Thanks to the micro-barcode that is removed from the printed label and stuck directly onto your case, traditional bag tags already have a level of back-up that the digital bag tag will not. Often the simplest solution is also the best solution!

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  1. Georges says:

    Another solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

  2. Bagoly says:

    Does anyone know why Easyjet dragons monitoring self-service bag drop try to make one NOT take the backup strip from the end of the baggage tag and apply it directly to the side of the bag.
    They may not do it when their check-in clerks apply the main tag, but as far as I am concerned it is a useful backup for when the main tag gets ripped off.
    Why should they object if it I use an extra 10 seconds of my time – I have never seen a queue for self-service bag drop.

    • Was just thinking the same, got yelled at by them last month for doing this. When I said I was doing it incase the tag was ripped off, she insisted that never happens 🙄

      • Lady London says:

        At any machine checking (even with dragons) the smaller strip is manually handled after the machine takes the bag.

        At airports where you check your bags in to a person at a desk the person will detach the small strip and place it on the bag as it’s not post-handled.

    • riku2 says:

      i have had this on other airlines/airports too, It’s because there might be some manual handling of the luggage that includes taking off the small bar code strip at the end of the tag and sticking it on page to build up a list of bags which need some dedicated counting/handling. Perhaps going out of date now with small handheld scanners that can scan the main tag.
      I remember years ago at st petersburg, the seat assignment was done similar way with a picture of the plane and labels of each seat number. The check in staff peeled off the label for each seat and stuck it on your boarding pass to avoid assigning the same seat to two passengers.

  3. Maurice says:

    Does this mean we can expect to see BA adding a ‘green charge’ at some point in the future for those that ‘opt’ to still use a printed paper tag?

    • Shoestring says:

      surely it would be a green discount, far more energy used in making that TAG than in 1000 printed green paper barcodes

  4. Journeying John says:

    Plus after the meltdownS and data breacheS both plural in the past 2years who the hell would trust BA and its technology?
    #toflytoscam #BA100 (since 1972)

  5. Was already thinking this sounded pretty rubbish (and about a decade late compared to the very effective Qantas system) only to get to the bit where it doesn’t even with on connecting flights :O BA really do seem to forget they fly anywhere apart from London!

  6. Phil Duncan says:

    Electronic bag tags, BA IT, T5 baggage system, £80.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  7. Alan Mair says:

    And then when you add on VAT to the £63 and shipping. What an expensive ‘status’ symbol without any status. Well written objective article. Forget this gimmick

  8. Ray Singh says:

    Tried ordering one today & check-out process made me change my mind very quickly!

    Tag Price – £63
    Shipping – £8
    Taxes – £13.23
    Total – £84.23

    What a Joke, Definitely not worth it!

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