Road Warrior

American Expands DIY Checked Baggage Tagging, Plans More Locations

Self-Service Checked Bag Machines at Washington Reagan National Airport
Source: American Airlines

American Airlines has continued its expansion of self-service checked bag tagging, adding the do-it-yourself process at Washington Reagan National Airport on Thursday.

American initially tested the service last year in Austin, where passengers were able to speed up check-in times by as much as 55 percent by using the machines, according to a company spokesman.

And the service was rolled out to Orlando International Airport in November. (Read more: American Launches DIY Bag-Tagging in Orlando as Self-Service Expands)

Passengers will still be able to have their bags checked and tagged by an agent if they don't choose the self-serve option.

Under the self-service option, passengers use kiosks to print checked baggage tags during the check-in process. Here's how it works:

  • When checking in at a kiosk, customers input their number of checked bags, pay any necessary charges, print the bag tag(s) and place the tag(s) on their luggage.
  • Customers then take their tagged bags to a designated agent to scan their boarding pass, verify IDs and take the bags for inspection and boarding.
  • Fliers are then free to head to their departure gate.

Two of American's largest hubs—Chicago O'Hare International Airport and Dallas-Fort Worth—will debut the machines later this spring. Additional locations will come online throughout 2013, including Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York's JFK Airport, San Francisco and St. Louis.

Other Airlines With 'Do It Yourself' Machines

In May 2012, Alaska Airlines launched self-bag tagging for travelers flying out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport following a successful test of the service in 2011 at another airport. (Read more: Alaska Air Debuts 'Do It Yourself' Bag Tagging)

And Delta Air Lines last June began testing DIY boarding turnstiles in Atlanta and Las Vegas. (Read more: Delta Tests 'Do It Yourself' Turnstile Boarding)

Staffing Reductions?

One potential downside for self-service expansion is fewer airline employees on-hand to help travelers needing assistance.

"If this can speed up check-in and help keep costs down, it will benefit travelers," said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst for Hudson Crossing. "However, it won't be good news for those airline employees who see their jobs affected by these types of initiatives."

"I expect we will see more airlines follow American's lead, where they can," Harteveldt said.