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Qantas has started selling its permanent wireless bag tags to travellers who are not silver/gold/platinum Frequent Flyers for $50 each (or 7,000 Qantas Frequent Flyer points).
The Qantas online travel shop has the tags, which are made of plastic and equipped with a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip inside them.
RFID chips are renowned as a way of tracking items right down to cans of soft drink due to their extremely low price -- around five cents each.
However, Qantas bag tags do use a more sensitive (and therefore expensive) grade of RFID chip in them that would cost more. The "Monza 4" chip inside the tags uses ultra-high frequency radio frequencies, and contains multiple antennae so the tag can be successfully read even if hanging from the bag at various angles.
However, although the price for Monza 4 chips is not published online, it's unlikely they'd cost more than a dollar each, leaving a very large amount of profit for Qantas to reap on each bag tag sold.
Australian Business Traveller recently reported that any Qantas bag tag can be used by any traveller -- not just the one it was issued to. So if you have a family member who is a silver/gold/platinum Qantas Frequent Flyer and they don't need both the free tags that were issued to them, you can use theirs at no cost.
We also covered one passenger's badly damaged Q Bag Tag, which was mauled by a conveyer belt somewhere along the baggage handling line. Qantas says it will replace any damaged Q Bag Tags free of charge -- perhaps another reason why it is charging so much for the initial purchase of them.