Baggage Tag and Its Purpose

Whenever you check in a bag, you get a baggage tag. The baggage tag (also known as luggage tag or bag tag) with some barcodes and some more, some less encrypted information. Why do you need them? What information do you find on them? Have they always existed? This article will expand your knowledge about this important tool in the aviation industry.

Historical development

The first baggage with separable coupons (one for the passenger, one on the bag) was patented in 1882.
Wait a moment…in 1882, planes haven’t been invented yet.
This is true. The first baggage tags were used within other industries (such as buses, trains or ships), to help the passengers identify their own luggage. Since then, the layout and the technical details behind it have developed, but the idea remained the same.

What is the purpose of baggage tags?

At the beginning, the purpose was to identify your own luggage. With the separate coupon it was easy to proof which luggage belonged to whom and fights at the destination could be avoided.

In 1929, the Warsaw Convention established criteria for issuing a baggage tag. This helped to standardize the baggage tags for all ratifying countries. In addition, the carrier’s liability in case of loss or damage was specified.

In the fast-growing world of aviation and travel, the baggage tag now serves as a very important logistics mean. All the information that can be found on a baggage tag ensures that each luggage arrives at the intended destination. The main reason for mishandled baggage will not be found within technical infrastructure but with ourselves. The main reason is human error, be it because a passenger takes the wrong bag or a handling person physically puts the bag into the wrong container or aircraft.

What information can be found?

The baggage tag contains lots of different information. Some of them are hidden within a barcode; others can be read normally. Amongst other information, you will find the passenger’s name, the final destination, the transit destinations (all in IATA three letter codes), and the weight of the checked bag.

Why do they put a small sticker on my bag too?

You might have noticed that a small sticker is also put separately on your bag. In addition, some small stickers remain on the bag tag itself. The first sticker is to identify the bag, if (very rarely) the bag tag would be torn apart from the bag. The remaining stickers on the bag tag are for the redundant (manual) system, in case the system has a failure and all data has to be gathered manually.

Are there other labels?

Yes, there are. Bags often receive additional labels which indicate transfer time, specific content, or how to handle a bag. In addition, there are other baggage tags, such as rush labels or gate bags.

The next time you check in a bag, pay attention to this small strip that helps you enjoy your trip with no worries.

Cover photo: Airport baggage tag – SECURITY LABEL GmbH (


Bag tag – Wikipedia