Skip to content

Alaska Airlines debuts digital bag tags that don't come cheap

Dec. 02, 2022
4 min read
Alaska Airlines debuts digital bag tags that don't come cheap
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor's Note

This post has been updated with new information.

Alaska Airlines has officially become the first U.S. airline to offer digital bag tags for checked luggage.

The Seattle-based carrier announced on Wednesday that it successfully debuted an electronic bag tag device in partnership with Dutch company Bagtag. At launch, these electronic bag tags are being sent to 2,500 Alaska MileagePlan elite members for the first round of testing.

Eligible elites who will receive a bag tag are those who have traveled in the last 12 months, checked at least one bag and were among the first to register to use the device.  The airline expects to roll out these devices more broadly next year. When it does, the devices themselves won't be cheap — they'll run roughly $70 each.

That said, the airline estimates a roughly 40% reduction in the time spent in the check-in lobby when using this new technology, so it could definitely make sense to invest in one depending on your travel patterns.

COURTESY ALASKA AIRLINES

After attaching the device to your bag, you can activate it starting 24 hours before your flight during the check-in process on Alaska’s mobile app. At launch, only single-passenger domestic itineraries that include just a single checked bag are supported.

You also need to qualify for complimentary checked bags in order to use the electonic bag tags. This includes those with Alaska's cobranded credit cards, Mileage Plan and Oneworld elites, Club 49 members and first-class travelers.

Alaska plans to remove all three of the aforementioned restrictions in the coming months as it rolls out the technology more broadly.

In order to use the digital bag tag, your phone must support Bluetooth and near-field communication — most smartphones produced in the last few years do, including the iPhone 6 or later and the Samsung A51 or later.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

After completing mobile check-in, the bag tag device will sync with your phone through an antenna that powers and reads the information transmitted from the Alaska mobile app. The device’s e-paper screen will then display your digital bag tag..

When you arrive at the airport, you'll approach the baggage drop-off counter and bypass any kiosks or desks. You'll need to present your government-issued ID and your bag will then be on its way.

As for the bag tag itself, it doesn't require charging or batteries, and it can withstand being run over a luggage cart — Alaska's team successfully tested its durability by running over it with a truck. The device is attached to your bag using an industrial-strength plastic zip tie, but the airline recommends placing an identification tag inside your suitcase in case the device were to fall off.

COURTESY ALASKA AIRLINES

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter.

"We’ve tested our electronic bag tags on countless flights across the country, including international routes where Alaska Airlines flies, and the devices have performed exactly as they’re meant to,” said Charu Jain, senior vice president of merchandising and innovation at Alaska in a statement.

The rollout of the electronic bag tag program will happen in several phases.

As mentioned, the first phase, which is launching during the first week of December, includes 2,500 Mileage Plan elites who received an electronic bag tag in the mail. In early 2023, Alaska will open up the program to additional frequent flyers, who will have the option to purchase a device for around $70 each.

Later next year, all flyers will be able to purchase one of these devices.

COURTESY ALASKA AIRLINES

Note that the $70 figure will be per device, so if you have multiple bags, you’ll need to purchase multiple tags. Of course, the devices can be reused on multiple trips, but no other U.S. airline has announced support for this new electronic bag tag standard. Plus, the $70 fee does not include any bag fees that Alaska charges, which start at $30 for the first bag and $40 for the second.

That said, you can share an electronic bag tag with a family member or friend, so you could theoretically split the cost among a few people.

While Alaska is the first U.S.-based airline to debut electronic bag tags, this technology is already live or has been piloted with various international carriers, such as the Lufthansa Group, Air France, KLM and China Southern. The luxury luggage brand Rimowa even joined the electronic baggage tag program with pre-installed devices on its popular metal hardshell cases.

Featured image by COURTESY ALASKA AIRLINES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees