Airlines Set to Test Do-It-Yourself Bag Tagging

Several major airlines are working with the Transportation Security Administration to institute a new measure that will allow travelers to tag their own checked baggage. According to a report by USA Today, this is the first time travelers will be able to print and affix destination tags to their bags in the United States-a practice that is common at international airports.

If all goes well, American Airlines and Air Canada plan to initiate a self-tagging trial run at Logan International Airport in Boston before the start of the busy holiday season this year. Delta Air Lines told USA Today the airline is working to get a similar program off the ground at another airport.

Travelers will print their tags at self-service kiosks near the check-in counters. No agent supervision will be necessary for this part of the process, but passengers will still have to show ID to another agent who will then scan the bar code on the tag and place it on a conveyor belt.

The Transportation Security Administration will still screen bags for explosives before being loaded onto aircraft. Since this has always happened behind the scenes, the airlines believe the new self-tagging process will not impose additional security risks.

If the trial runs are successful, this may mean an overhaul in the check-in process at airports across the country. The Air Transport Association (IATA), a global airline trade group, reported there are 32 airports that allow self-tagging internationally. At airports in Amsterdam and Stockholm, travelers simply print their tags and drop their luggage without ever interacting with an agent, said IATA spokesman Steve Lott to USA Today. US Airways allows travelers to tag their own bags for U.S.-bound flights from Montreal-Trudeau Airport in Canada.

"We want to eliminate any hassles related to waiting in line," Lott said. "It removes some cost and hassle for airlines, too."

However, automation also means an elimination of jobs. Self-service at airports has already led to a reduction in the airline workforce. Since August 2005, the number of employees working in the U.S. airline industry has dropped 8.4 percent to 564,000. Kiosks programmed to allow customers to print boarding passes and upgrade seats are surely a factor in the decline.

Photo by sugree on flickr.

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