Bag tag

Bag tag

Bag tags, also known as baggage tags, baggage checks or luggage tickets, have traditionally been used by bus, train and airline companies to route passenger luggage that is checked on to the final destination. The passenger stub is typically handed to the passenger or attached to the ticket envelope to aid the passenger in identifying their bag among many similar bags at the destination baggage carousel.

The carriers' liability is restricted to published tariffs and international agreements.



The first "separable coupon ticket" was patented by John Michael Lyons of Moncton, New Brunswick on June 5, 1882. The ticket showed the issuing station, the destination and a consecutive number for reference. The lower half of the ticket was given to the passenger, while the upper half, with a hole at the top, was inseted into a brass sleeve and then attached to the baggage by a strap. [Mario Theriault, "Great Maritime Inventions 1833-1950", Goose Lane Editions, 2001, p. 63]

At some point, reinforced paper tags were introduced. They are designed to not detach as easily as older tags during transport.

Warsaw Convention

The Warsaw Convention of 1929, specifically article 4, established the criteria for issuing a "baggage check" or "luggage ticket". This agreement also established limit of liability on checked baggage.

Current bag tags

Current bag tags include a bar code. This allows for automated sorting of the bags to reduce the number of misrouted, misplaced or delayed bags. The limitations of this technology was apparent at Denver International Airport when a fully automated cart-based system significantly delayed the airport's opening. United Airlines announced in August 2005 that the cart-based system at Denver was to be scrapped. While the inability to reliably read all bar-coded tags in the Denver installation was a part of the problem, it was one of several technical reasons for the delayed opening. Nevertheless, automated sorting of baggage using laser scanner arrays, known as automatic tag readers, to read bar-coded bag tags is standard at major airports.

For flights within the European Union, bag tags are issued with green edges. Passengers are eligible to take these bags through a separate "Blue Channel" at Customs.

Bar codes can not be automatically scanned without direct sight and undamaged print. RFID tags are somewhat more tolerant to reading, but mechanically not more robust than barcode tags. Forced by reading problems with poorly-printed, obscured, crumpled, scored or otherwise damaged bar codes, some airlines have started using radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips embedded in the tags. In the US, McCarran International Airport has installed an RFID system throughout the airport. Hong Kong International Airport has also installed an RFID system. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is trying to standardize RFID bag tags.

Airlines and airports resist to use RFID tagging primarily due to the costs for|date=August 2008 However, most of the airlines just count cost, but do not base their arguments on cost benefit ratio|date=August 2008 As all handling cost is generally charged to the passenger, objection with reference to cost is just an argument to postpone decision making.or|date=August 2008 Furthermore, the general killer argument is that ROI is not achieved before world wide tagging of baagage with RFID.or|date=August 2008


The term "licence plate" is the official term used by the IATA, the airlines, and the airports for the 10-digit numeric code on a bag tag issued by a carrier or handling agent at check-in. The licence plate is printed on the carrier tag in bar code form and in human-readable form, as defined in Resolution 740 in the IATA Passenger Services Conference Resolutions Manual (published annually by IATA). Each digit in a licence plate has a specific meaning. Contrary to popular belief, the flight number is not encoded in the licence plate on the carrier tag. The licence plate is an index number linking a bag to a Baggage Source Message (BSM) sent by a carrier's departure control system to an airport's baggage handling system. It is the message that contains the flight details and passenger information, thus enabling an automated baggage handling system to sort a bag automatically once it has scanned the bar code on the carrier tag. Thus these two things are essential for automated sorting of baggage. Note that the human-readable licence plate may contain a 2-character IATA carrier code instead of an IATA 3-digit carrier code. For example, SQ728359 instead of 0618728359, but the bar code will always be the full 10 digits (0618728359 in the example - 618 and SQ being, respectively, the IATA 3-digit code and IATA 2-character code for Singapore Airlines). The first digit of a 10-digit licence plate is not part of the carrier code. It can be in the range of 0 to 9, each value having a specific meaning in the industry.


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