New technology going nowhere

It seems rather strange that the two airlines in the IAG group have announced trials of do-it-yourself luggage tagging systems without any apparent cross-referencing.

Iberia have come up with a system that allows you to print an ordinary A4 sheet of paper at home, fold it into four and then insert into a specially-made tag which the airline will supply. This system is certainly simple and will start testing very shortly. It is really very “old technology” and we can’t see this lasting,

BA’s system is altogether more sophisticated but will not come into operation for some time. It will involve downloading barcodes from a smartphone on to a special, electronic metal strip which will be attached to the case. At the end of each series of flights, the strip is wiped clean ready for further use. It is possible to imagine the metal strip being inserted on to Executive Club luggage tags or even built into cases so that all airlines can use it. 

There are just two problems with both systems which is why we will not be rushing to test either.

First, such plans only work if all airlines adopt similar methods. IATA is a much-derided organisation but it is only down to them that electronic-ticketing, baggage barcodes and many other industry standards have been adopted throughout the airline industry. You simply cannot expect passengers to learn all the different ways airlines want you to print your own baggage tag. Only one method will win and be adopted by all, or nearly all, airlines. Until such a method becomes the clear winner, there really is not much point in indulging the airlines with their tests.

Secondly, we cannot see that either system saves much time for the passenger. Printing your own boarding card or using a smartphone to board will save time if you have handbaggage only but if you have to check a case in, you will still have to get it weighed and get a baggage receipt, even if it is from a self-service machine. The few seconds that it takes to print the actual tag are hardly  important – especially since it takes time to print your own tag (the Iberia system) or download the barcode (the BA system).

Of course, both tests look good and show the airlines attempting to be at the front of the technological queue but they are unlikely to make the journey any quicker for customers.

We would still love to know if there were any conversations between BA and Iberia before they decided to test their rival systems though!

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