China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines are planning to introduce battery-free electronic baggage-checking tags, that allow passengers to track the luggage status on their mobile phones, at the Beijing Daxing International Airport from next month, China Daily reported.
Passengers can apply for e-tags on their cellphone apps. The e-tag is similar in size to an iPhone 8, and is like an ID card for the suitcase. When passengers arrive at the airport, they can self-check-in the luggage with the e-tag and self-service machines, and check luggage status by scanning the bar code, the two State-owned carriers said.
Through the apps, the systems will generate bag tag numbers and transmit the data to the e-tag through Bluetooth. After a few seconds, the electronic ink screen of the bag tag will display information such as the bar code and flight numbers, the report said.
Every year, about 250 million paper baggage-checking tags are produced in China, which requires a huge amount of special printers and disposable materials, costing over 100 million yuan (US$14.5 million).
Last year, civil aviation passenger volume reached 610 million in China, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China. Replacing all paper tags with e-tags could help save about 150 metric tons of paper, the report said.
On July 25, China Southern became the first domestic carrier to use e-tags on its flights from Guangzhou, Guangdong province. On July 30, China Eastern started to use e-tags on flights between Shanghai and Beijing.
“We have been devoted to developing and launching more services and facilities that would make travel more convenient,” said Yao Yun, deputy general manager of the global baggage control center at China Eastern Airlines.
“Besides, China Eastern has been in touch with the Daxing airport, and remote luggage drop and affiliated services would be introduced at a later stage, backed by advanced technologies and sound regulatory measures,” he said.
This year, China Eastern is expected to transport 50 million units of luggage. The cost of paper tags and disposable chips for luggage tracking would be around 20 million yuan to 30 million yuan. Replacing paper tags by e-tags would lead to huge cost savings, the company said.
Such reusable e-tags are waterproof, and the images can be saved permanently or changed easily. The e-tags show images by reflecting natural light, and produce electricity through a near-field communication sensor.
When it comes to the overseas markets, Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, British Airways and all major US carriers have started trying out e-tags, but they have not popularized the usage yet.
British Airways cooperated with ViewTag, a digital luggage tag company, and its tag can be used repetitively for more than 3,000 times. From October, the price of such tags will increase to 80 pounds (US$90) from 64 pounds during the promotional period.
According to Business Insider, construction on Beijing’s second international airport has been completed, putting the airport on track to begin operations by its September 30 target.
Analysts say Daxing will put Beijing on the list of major cities with multiple international airports, such as New York, London, Paris and Tokyo. The ultra-spacious terminal, which took five years to build, will be capable of handling 72 million passengers annually by 2025, and 100 million by 2040.