Alaska Airlines tests reusable electronic luggage tags

Alaska Airlines, the carrier that has tested solar-powered passenger ramps and fingerprint identification devices for passengers, is continuing to experiment.

The Seattle-based airline has begun testing an electronic, reusable luggage tag that is linked to a passenger’s Alaska Airlines mobile app.

Here’s how it works: Once you buy a ticket on Alaska and check in using the mobile app, the app asks whether you want to activate your electronic bag tag. When you turn on your electronic tag, the Bluetooth technology in your phone synchs with the tag and displays your flight’s destination on the tag’s tiny screen.

The goal of the tag and previous Alaska experiments is to make air travel more expedient, said Loesje Degroen, Alaska’s customer research and development manager.

Alaska began testing the electronic tag with 60 employees last summer and is now trying the technology with about 50 passengers. Later this year, Degroen said, the carrier plans to expand the test to about 500 passengers.

Some of Alaska’s experiments don’t pan out. Alaska still lets passengers use their fingerprints to access the airline’s five airport lounges, and the solar panels are still powering ramps at airports in San Jose, Palm Springs, Seattle and Portland, Ore.

But a test last summer to let passengers board using only their fingerprints for identification at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport ended without being expanded. Alaska officials would not call the test a failure, saying only that they will think of other ways to use biometrics.

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