Airlines have been shifting to more digital operations for the past decade in an effort to automate the traveling experience and to cut costs due to staff.
The Wall Street Journal reports that airlines in Europe like Air France-KLM will begin offering digital bag tags that will be permanently affixed to belongings later this year. Quantas Airlines of Australia is already using these tags.
These futuristic digital tags will automatically update a traveler’s itinerary if plans change.
The tags will facilitate more convenience for passengers who will no longer have to deal with paper tags and changing them for each flight.
Air-France KLM is also working on a transponder that goes inside suitcases that will allow travelers to track their belongings throughout their journeys. These devices will also alert the owner if the bag has been opened while in transit according to WSJ.
While Air-France KLM worked collaboratively with Delta Airlines on this project, American carriers have lagged behind the rest of the world in development and implementation of such services.
U.S. airlines are currently in the midst of a Department of Justice investigation about price fixing.
Recent mergers between American Airlines and U.S. Airways along with United and Continental were meant to bolster the industry. Four airlines now carry 80% of passengers in the U.S. and yet airlines still struggle.
Part of the reason that other international airlines are taking off while American carriers lag behind is the burdensome regulation in place and union resistance.
USA Today reports that the Transportation Security Administration received 50,000 complaints of stolen or broken items during bag examinations. TSA paid $3 million on 15,000 of those complaints.
While airlines from the rest of the world are allowed to develop digital permanent bag tags and trackers in the United States these tags are illegal because TSA requires a photo ID check before luggage can be accepted by an airline.
American carriers have proposed an electronic bio-metric check of a fingerprint or facial recognition to ensure safety according to the Journal.
Unions have also balked at the move to reduce staff numbers according to the Journal.
For now airlines in the United States will soon allow passengers to print out bag tags along with their boarding pass at home. This practice will allow for fewer airport representatives and hopefully lower fares as a result.
While U.S. airlines make the switch to flyers printing their own bag tags at home carriers in Europe and the rest of the world will move towards the digital age.