, also known as baggage tags
, baggage checks
or luggage tickets
, have traditionally been used by bus, train and airline
An airline provides air transport services for traveling passengers and freight. Airlines lease or own their aircraft with which to supply these services and may form partnerships or alliances with other airlines for mutual benefit...
companies to route passenger luggage
Baggage is any number of bags, cases and containers which hold a traveller's articles during transit.Luggage is more or less the same concept as "baggage", but is normally used in relation to the personal luggage of a specific person or persons Baggage is any number of bags, cases and containers...
that is checked on to the final destination. The passenger stub is typically handed to the passenger or attached to the ticket envelope: a) to aid the passenger in identifying their bag among similar bags at the destination baggage carousel
A baggage carousel is a device, generally at an airport, that delivers checked luggage to the passengers at the baggage claim area at their final destination. Not all airports use these devices...
; b) as proof—still requested at a few airports—that the passenger is not removing someone else's bag from the baggage reclaim hall; c) as a means for the passenger and carrier to identify and trace a specific bag that has gone astray and was not delivered at the destination.
The carriers' liability
Legal liability is the legal bound obligation to pay debts.* In law a person is said to be legally liable when they are financially and legally responsible for something. Legal liability concerns both civil law and criminal law. See Strict liability. Under English law, with the passing of the Theft...
is restricted to published tariffs and international agreements.
The first "separable coupon ticket" was patented by John Michael Lyons of Moncton, New Brunswick
New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the only province in the federation that is constitutionally bilingual . The provincial capital is Fredericton and Saint John is the most populous city. Greater Moncton is the largest Census Metropolitan Area...
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 inserted into a brass sleeve and then attached to the baggage by a strap.
At some point, reinforced paper tags were introduced. They are designed to not detach as easily as older tags during transport.
The Warsaw Convention
The Warsaw Convention is an international convention which regulates liability for international carriage of persons, luggage or goods performed by aircraft for reward....
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.
Previous bag tags
Prior to the 1990s, airline bag tags consisted of a paper tag attached with a string.
The tag contained basic information:
- Airline/carrier name
- flight number
- 6 digit code; at one point it was 5 and later 10
- name of airport of arrival
These tags became obsolete as they offered little security and were easy to replicate.
Current bag tags
Current bag tags include a bar code. These bag tags are printed using thermal or barcode printer
A barcode printer is a computer peripheral for printing barcode labels or tags that can be attached to physical objects. Barcode printers are commonly used to label cartons before shipment, or to label retail items with UPCs or EANs....
s that print on an adhesive paper stock. This printed strip is then attached to the luggage at check in. 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
Denver International Airport , often referred to as DIA, is an airport in Denver, Colorado. By land size, at , it is the largest international airport in the United States, and the third largest international airport in the world after King Fahd International Airport and Montréal-Mirabel...
when a fully automated cart-based system significantly delayed the airport's opening. United Airlines
United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees (which includes the entire holding company United Continental...
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
Customs is an authority or agency in a country responsible for collecting and safeguarding customs duties and for controlling the flow of goods including animals, transports, personal effects and hazardous items in and out of a country...
Bar codes can not be automatically scanned without direct sight and undamaged print. 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
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
, McCarran International Airport
McCarran International Airport is the principal commercial airport serving Las Vegas and Clark County, Nevada, United States. The airport is located five miles south of the central business district of Las Vegas, in the unincorporated area of Paradise in Clark County. It covers an area of and...
has installed an RFID system throughout the airport. Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong International Airport is the main airport in Hong Kong. It is colloquially known as Chek Lap Kok Airport , being built on the island of Chek Lap Kok by land reclamation, and also to distinguish it from its predecessor, the closed Kai Tak Airport.The airport opened for commercial...
has also installed an RFID system. The International Air Transport Association
The International Air Transport Association is an international industry trade group of airlines headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where the International Civil Aviation Organization is also headquartered. The executive offices are at the Geneva Airport in SwitzerlandIATA's mission is to...
(IATA) is trying to standardize RFID bag tags. There is a somewhat higher probability of reading RFID tags automatically. Physically, however, RFID tags are not more robust than barcode tags.
The term license plate
is the official term used by the IATA, the airlines, and the airports for the 10-digit
A digit is a symbol used in combinations to represent numbers in positional numeral systems. The name "digit" comes from the fact that the 10 digits of the hands correspond to the 10 symbols of the common base 10 number system, i.e...
numeric code on a bag tag issued by a carrier or handling agent at check-in. The license plate is printed on the carrier tag in bar code form and in human-readable
A human-readable medium or human-readable format is a representation of data or information that can be naturally read by humans.In computing, human-readable data is often encoded as ASCII or Unicode text, rather than presented in a binary representation...
form, as defined in Resolution 740 in the IATA Passenger Services Conference Resolutions Manual (published annually by IATA). Each digit in a license plate has a specific meaning. Contrary to popular belief, the flight number
A flight number, when combined with the name of the airline and the date, identifies a particular flight. This callsign should not be confused with the tail number of the aircraft, although both can be used as a call-sign as used in general aviation...
is not encoded in the license plate on the carrier tag. The license 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 license plate may contain a 2-character IATA carrier code instead of an IATA 3-digit carrier code. For example, BA728359 instead of 0125728359, but the bar code will always be the full 10 digits (0125728359 in the example - 125 and BA being, respectively, the IATA 3-digit code and IATA 2-character code for British Airways
British Airways is the flag carrier airline of the United Kingdom, based in Waterside, near its main hub at London Heathrow Airport. British Airways is the largest airline in the UK based on fleet size, international flights and international destinations...
). The first digit of a 10-digit license plate is not part of the carrier code. It can be in the range 0 to 9: 0 for interline or online tags, 1 for fallback tags (pre-printed or demand-printed tags only for use by the local baggage handling system if it cannot receive BSMs from a carrier's departure control system due to a fault in the latter or in communication between it and the baggage handling system, as defined in IATA Recommended Practice 1740b) and 2 for Rush tags. The purpose of numbers in the range 3 to 9 as the first digit of the 10-digit license plate is undefined by IATA but can be used by each carrier for its specific needs (commonly used as a million indicator for the normal 6-digit tag number).
Besides the license plate number, the tag also has:
- Name of airport of arrival
- Departure time
- IATA airport code of airport of arrival
- Airline code and flight number
- Name of passenger identified with the baggage (last name, first name)