A bag tag is any sort of identification affixed to luggage. There are two main types of bag tags. The first is affixed by owners individually, as a means of distinguishing their pieces and providing return information in case of loss. More temporary tags, usually issued by commercial airlines, shipping companies, or train operators, contain information about where a bag is heading. The latter type of tags are used almost exclusively for checked luggage — that is, luggage that owners leave in the custody of a travel operator at the start of a journey, then pick up at the destination upon arrival.
Personal baggage tags run the gamut from the purely informational to the truly creative. The most basic bag tag is usually little more than a durable paper or laminated card that contains the owner’s name, address, and telephone contact information. More sophisticated tags can include ornate covers, decorative fonts, and graphics or icons. Groups traveling together often require members to use uniform luggage tags such that all group members’ baggage can be easily identified in a crowd. Tags are usually attached to bag handles with cording of some variety.
A bag tag can be homemade or purchased from a number of different travel stores, luggage retailers, and novelty shops. They must usually be durable enough to withstand moderate travel. The tag is simply a precaution in case of loss for many people. For others, though, it is a personal statement, and is a way to keep an eye on a bag and easily distinguish it from others that may look similar.
More official luggage tickets serve an entirely different purpose. Commercial travel operators often issue tags at baggage checks as a way of ensuring that all surrendered luggage is properly routed. This kind of bag tag is often much more utilitarian, and generally must be removed by the owner once the bag arrives at its final destination.
Commercial bag tag procedures usually depend on computer technology. A baggage operator must tell a computer where a suitcase is supposed to go, and the computer will then spit out a personalized bag tag. This tag is usually peppered with acronyms, symbols, and bar codes. The passenger’s name and flight number are usually printed, but the focus is on the destination and any connections in between. Official tags are either securely fastened to the bag’s handles, or else affixed to one of the sides with adhesive.
Once a bag with an official routing tag enters the checked baggage system, it can be scanned and tracked throughout its journey. This allows travel personnel to help passengers recover lost luggage and can also enable the re-routing of bags diverted midstream. Routing labels do not prominently identify luggage in terms of owner, however. As such, a more personal luggage identifier is usually recommended, as well.