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I’m not normally one to check bags. I much prefer a carry on to save time at check-in, eliminate the risk of the airline losing it and avoid extra fees. However, sometimes it’s just not possible to fit everything into your carry on.

With this in mind, United and Hawaiian Airlines both recently announced new self-service baggage check options, including kiosks to print your own tags and tags that can be pre-printed at home before you arrive to the airport. They both claim that this will cut down on the time it takes to check your bags at the airport.

Image Courtesy of ShutterStock
United is testing out self-service bag checking at O’Hare (Image courtesy of ShutterStock)

United Airlines 

The Chicago Tribune reported that United is rolling out self-service bag checking at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD). Passengers will now have the option to print their checked luggage tags at the kiosk, where they also pay for and then tag their own bags.

They then bring them to the agent who verifies name and ID before placing them on the conveyor belt. The agent also weighs the bag to make sure it’s not overweight (if so, the same overweight baggage fees apply). American Airlines already offers a similar option at ORD, which they claim greatly increases the amount of passengers they are able to check-in per hour.

Print at home bag tags for Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines is testing out a new feature called TAG@HOME, in which customers can print out their bag tags through an online check-in process before arriving to the airport. This is currently being offered at Seattle (SEA) and Oakland (OAK), but could roll out to all cities depending on how it’s received.

After customers print their bag tags at home, they still need to stop by the ticket counter to pick up a reusable TAG@HOME sleeve to insert the printed tag. Similarly to United Airlines, customers will also need to show their ID and boarding pass to the agent who will take the checked bag from there.

In both cases, passengers still have the option to have their tags printed the old fashioned way–by a gate agent. And their are no security concerns since the bags still pass through a gate agent with ID verification.

I actually have tagged my own bags before when I flew Spanair
I actually have tagged my own bags before when I flew Spanair

Self-checking bags isn’t new to me, I did it in 2011 on Spanair, which I thought was pretty nifty, so I’m not quite sure why it’s taken US airlines so long to add this feature.

How to Avoid Checked Baggage Fees

While these new self-service methods may save you time at check-in, they won’t help you avoid checked baggage fees. The only way to do that is to earn elite status on most airlines or enroll in a credit card that waives those fees. Here are a few  cards to consider:

Delta– the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, and Delta Reserve Card allow cardmembers to check their first bag for free on all Delta and Delta Connection flights and the benefit applies to up to 9 people traveling in the cardmember’s reservation. 

United- Having the United MileagePlus Explorer Card means your first checked bag is free for you and a companion when you fly United, and if you opt for the United MileagePlus Club Card, you get two free checked bags each time.

American- the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard provides a free checked bag on American Airlines for the cardholder and up to four travel companions. Some airlines, however, allow checked bags without status or a special credit card. 

Southwest allows all passengers to check two free bags, and JetBlue gives each passenger their first checked bag free.

What are your thoughts on United’s and Hawaiian’s new baggage initiatives? Do you think they are time-savers or just another way for airlines to cut back?

United MileagePlus® Explorer Card

The standard sign-up offer for these co-branded cards is 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months, so the current bonus is a significant step up. TPG values United miles at 1.5 cents apiece, so this 50,000-mile sign-up bonus gets you $750 in value.

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  • Special offer: 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
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  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
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