Alaska Airlines Has Introduced A Surprising New Feature

But for now, only a relative few can enjoy the new perk.

Seemingly every company has a mobile app these days. Sometimes, there’s a good reason for that. And sometimes, it seems like a company has a mobile app because it’s heard that every company needs a mobile app, even if there’s no real reason why beyond a desire to not be seen as behind the times.

Studies have shown that consumers only tend to use about five apps a day, and Reddit users love to complain about the uselessness of various fast food apps that let you order a head, but often get an order wrong.

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But just because there’s a lot of perfunctory and unnecessary apps out there, don’t let yourself get cynical about the whole field, as every once in a while a company will introduce a new smartphone feature that really does change the game. 

Alaska Airlines Has An Intriguing New Feature

Alaska Airlines  (ALK) – Get Free Report has introduced a new electronic bag tag that works with your smartphone to speed along your flight.

The tag is updated with a passenger’s flight information through the Alaska Airlines mobile app during check-in, so travelers can head straight to the bag drop area once they arrive at the airport, and not have to worry about grabbing the bag during connecting flights. 

Once you’ve checked in, your destination and other information will stay on the tag until it’s updated for the next flight.

The 3- by 5-inch device is made by the Dutch company BAGTAG, and is powered by Near-Field Communication (NFC) from a smartphone. 

Alaska Airlines estimates the tag will cut down on the time guests spend in airport lobbies “by about 40%.” The feature was first announced late last year but is now starting to hit the market, reports GeekWire, which adds that “Alaska still has some minor technological quirks to work out prior to the broader rollout,” and also notes that while the device is very convenient, it might not be worth it to infrequent fliers, or people who don’t tend to stick to one airline.

The tags include a RFID transmitter that, Geekwire notes, “could ultimately make it easier for the airline to track and route bags, but that will require infrastructure upgrades at many U.S. airports.”


But What’s The Catch?

So far, the tag is a tough commodity to get ahold of, as Alaska has only provided it to about 2,500 elite Mileage Plan members. 

The company says it will make the tag available for purchase by all mileage plan members some time early year, and you can join a notification list for more information if you like.

A price point has not been announced, but in Europe and Asia, where the device is also available, it’s usually a one-time fee in the $60-to-$70 range.

There’s also, per the company, a number of caveats for the tag, at least at the current moment. They include the following:

Your cell phone is capable of Near Field Communication (NFC) and Bluetooth 4.0, like an iPhone 6 or later or a Samsung A51 or later.You are checking in via the Alaska mobile app.You are the only traveler on the reservation and will check a single bag on your trip.You are traveling solely within the United States on Alaska Airlines and Alaska flights operated by Horizon or SkyWest.You qualify for an automatic waived baggage fee. For example; Alaska credit cardholder, Mileage Plan elite status, Club 49, or First Class travel.

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