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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. Nope, not me, I haven’t checked a bag this century. BA being BA I would not be surprised if they soon impose new cabin bag restriction in an effort to sell these and raise more cash from checked bags.

    • I got for one welcome significant tightening of cabin baggage rules. It’s ludicrous that on a full flight being able to take you bag is dependent on you boarding priority. Moreover I haven’t flown shorthaul for about years without the message the day before saying I can check my bag for free or had the same offer at the gate, and then giving those that do priority boarding.
      Current baggage allowances are excessive and unsafe.

      • Tend to agree Paul, I always fly business long haul so tend not to see the problem so much. However in Asia I now mostly fly Air Asia and the problem is all too apparent. To avoid it I choose a hot seat at the front of the plane. There is also the safety consideration too, having something fall on you weighing a few kg is bad enough but some of these 55cm bags can be up to 20kg depending the way some people pack. My bag is never that heavy these days, even if I’m away for more than a week I pack for seven days and clothes go to laundry every five days. I prefer this so that I can travel light, even if it means high hotel laundry Bill’s.

      • Andrew says:

        Has anyone ever been caught stowing full size hold luggage instead of a cabin bag when they’ve had the “flight is really full” texts?

        I’ve risked it a few times on the Domestics and nobody has said anything.

    • sunguy says:

      Hmmm….this is half the problems on aircraft these days….”Havent checked a bag this century”.

      Im happy for you – genuinely….but unless you are flying first or business every single time – domestically and otherwise, its a little self-indulgent and selfish- especially if your ticket includes a checked bag.

      I agree, that waiting at the other end for 20mins is a little pain, but the benefits, such as not having to look after a bag all the way to the aircraft and have to take it through security along with the bun fight over the space in the overhead bins – ever noticed these poor souls in economy who board last because they are in “Group 5” and get stopped at the jet bridge or on the steps and told they cannot bring their bag on because there is now genuinely no space ?

      I am completely astounded by the sheer number of – not bags, but suitcases that are now in the overhead bins – some of it, yes, is the silly fault of the airline charging for hold bags – but the rest, especially those with hold bag allowance …..

      (my little pet peeve – unless you havent realised!).

  2. David says:

    Then consider a bag needing to be re-routed at an outstation. Is the existing tag going to be reliably updated for this? Or blank itself?
    – I can see some baggage reflgiht person removing the tag and putting a new paper one on. Will they put it in your bag?

    Plus if the roll out is anything like the early YEARS of mobile boarding passes, staff will be adding paper tags to complement the e tag.

  3. Andrew M says:

    1 April already? Lol.

  4. ChrisC says:

    The old adage comes to mind – just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something.

    And to me it doesn’t look too robust standing proud of the case just waiting to be smashed against some hard metal in the baggage handling system.

    Waste of money if you ask me and I await the first ‘BA broke my TAG how much can I get off them’ thread on flyer talk!

  5. NigelthePensioner says:

    Alex Cruz and his baggage handling comrades will have these smashed to pieces within 2 to 3 flights and unless they are made by Briggs and Riley, airline damage will not be included in the guarantee. I would rather use the very reliable backed up paper system that we use already along with an electronic tracking tag that I currently use, just to follow my luggage’s journey and to know when to join the melee of passengers by the entrance to the belt at just the right time……….how did he know??!!

    • Shoestring says:

      which goes by the name???

      • PKing says:

        I got a ‘GEGO Lugloc GPS Tracker’ from amazon a few months ago and have used it on a few trips.

        It’s not that fast to update with 3G when it arrives at an airport, usually 20-30 minutes, but the bluetooth shows when it gets near the belt.

        After waiting an hour for my luggage to come out at MAN I figured it would be nice to know if it had made it to the right airport in future, so far so good.

        • David says:

          “Tile” does this to an extent, just based on bluetooth.

          • JP-MCO says:

            I quite like that idea. So with Tile are you able to know when your bag is close to emerging on the baggage belt or is the Bluetooth not strong enough to do that?

          • PKing says:

            Bluetooth should be strong enough to tell you the cart has arrived at the other side of the luggage belt, doesn’t tell you how long they will take to unload it 🙂

        • I’ve had a GEGO for about a year now. Key advantage over Tile is it also has 3G which works almost everywhere, so if your bag is truly lost then you can see which airport it’s stuck at. Recommend.

        • I see Vodafone have a similar device, acquired Trackisafe

  6. So they are about 3 times the price of the Qantas bag tags which have been around since 2013, but QF gives them out free to status members (I got two), if BA was really interested 5 years ago they could have just made a deal with QF and changed the branding.

  7. Rip off Britain.
    Overpriced, cant be tracked (AA tracks bags brilliantly on their app) and typical of BA to be late to a party and then turn up under dressed!
    Just avoid

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Qatar tells you your luggage ID and if it’s been loaded to the plane and the belt the other side and has done for atleast 18 months.

      Shocking that BA IT can be that far behind.

  8. Shoestring says:

    I don’t think BA would claim to be branding it ‘TAG’, that’s common usage eg the Tamar Bridge TAG.

    cf Toll bridges are among the earliest applications of radio frequency identification technology. The first electronic toll-collection system was deployed in Bergen, Norway, in 1986. A similar solution was taken live in the United States a year or two later, and these systems expanded across Europe and North America during the 1990s.

    Most toll-collection systems employ active RFID transponders. An active tag is affixed to the windshield of a car or truck. It also has a passive transponder. As a car approaches the toll booth, its passive tag receives energy and awakens the active tag, telling it to start emitting a signal (to increase battery life, the active tag remains asleep most of the time). The active tag sends its unique serial number to a reader mounted above the toll booth. That number is associated with a driver, who is billed the amount of the toll.

    • Shoestring says:

      Wiki Tags
      A radio-frequency identification system uses tags, or labels attached to the objects to be identified. Two-way radio transmitter-receivers called interrogators or readers send a signal to the tag and read its response.[11]

      RFID tags can be either passive, active or battery-assisted passive. An active tag has an on-board battery and periodically transmits its ID signal. A battery-assisted passive (BAP) has a small battery on board and is activated when in the presence of an RFID reader. A passive tag is cheaper and smaller because it has no battery; instead, the tag uses the radio energy transmitted by the reader. However, to operate a passive tag, it must be illuminated with a power level roughly a thousand times stronger than for signal transmission. That makes a difference in interference and in exposure to radiation.

      Tags may either be read-only, having a factory-assigned serial number that is used as a key into a database, or may be read/write, where object-specific data can be written into the tag by the system user. Field programmable tags may be write-once, read-multiple; “blank” tags may be written with an electronic product code by the user.

      RFID tags contain at least three parts: an integrated circuit that stores and processes information and that modulates and demodulates radio-frequency (RF) signals; a means of collecting DC power from the incident reader signal; and an antenna for receiving and transmitting the signal. The tag information is stored in a non-volatile memory. The RFID tag includes either fixed or programmable logic for processing the transmission and sensor data, respectively.

      An RFID reader transmits an encoded radio signal to interrogate the tag. The RFID tag receives the message and then responds with its identification and other information. This may be only a unique tag serial number, or may be product-related information such as a stock number, lot or batch number, production date, or other specific information. Since tags have individual serial numbers, the RFID system design can discriminate among several tags that might be within the range of the RFID reader and read them simultaneously.

  9. I don’t want to stand in the way of progress, but this seems like a solution to a problem that does not exist! If it ain’t broke…

  10. JP-MCO says:

    I pre-ordered one….

    ….only kidding. What a load of nonsense!

  11. My Rimowa case has an effectively redundant eInk screen for this, I wouldn’t pay extra for a tag to replicate that functionality.

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