Do Elite Status Luggage Tags Serve Any Practical Purpose?
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TPG reader Jeffrey sent me a message on Facebook to ask about luggage tags:
“What’s the deal with the luggage tags that are provided when you earn elite status? Is there any advantage to having this tag on your bag? Should I be advertising my Executive Platinum status to the world?”
Airline elite status can be highly lucrative, especially at the upper tiers. From upgrades and waived fees to generally superior service, I’ve certainly gotten a lot of value from my AAdvantage Executive Platinum benefits. However, I think it’s useful to keep in mind that airlines get way more out of offering frequent flyer and elite status programs than passengers get out of participating in them.
Many airlines issue membership cards and luggage tags when you earn elite status, but these bag tags (also mockingly known as brag tags) don’t have much use, at least not for customers. Baggage handlers don’t pay attention to them — airlines have their own separate, more visible tags to indicate priority handling. Airline personnel can easily see your status level when looking at your reservation, so making it visible on your luggage won’t grease the skids when you need assistance.
Many elite tags aren’t personalized with your name or frequent flyer number, so they don’t even serve the purpose of normal bag tags. Gate agents might give you a pass on a slightly oversized bag if they see can plainly see your elite status level, and there may be other similar circumstances where you benefit from broadcasting your status to someone who doesn’t have a computer in front of them.
The only other use I can see is that they might help you distinguish one generic-looking bag from the others. Of course, just about any colorful luggage tag would achieve the same result. I wouldn’t be concerned about the tag making you (or your luggage) a target for thieves — they’re more likely to look at the bag itself, or to try and find a window of opportunity regardless of appearance.
The main function of a bag tag is to promote the airline and its frequent flyer program. It’s kind of like a hood ornament for your luggage — some people might think it’s cool while others think it’s tacky, but all of them will see the airline’s name and logo, and that’s worth a lot in free advertising.
Personally, I don’t use elite bag tags, but I’d be curious to hear from readers who do use one whether it has made any noticeable difference during your travels. If you’ve enjoyed better service (or not) by indicating your elite status on your luggage, please share your experiences in the comments below!
For more on keeping luggage safe and what to do in the even it does get lost, check out these posts:
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