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Qantas’ new wireless Q Bag Tags are swish and smart – smartchipped, in fact – but frequent flyers still have a few unanswered questions about the Marc Newson-designed dongles.So Australian Business Traveller sat down with Qantas to get the answers… well, most of them.AusBT: Platinum, Gold and Silver members each get two bag tags. But how much will they pat to buy an extra tag, or for anyone of lower Frequent Flyer status to buy a tag? (It’s been rumoured they will sell for $50)Qantas: We’re not in a position to reveal the price and retail strategy for the bags tags yet but it will be soon, it’s not too far away.AusBT: Will Frequent Flyers receive new bag tags each year, along with their new Q Card?Qantas: If you go up a tier – if you go from Silver to Gold, or Gold to Platinum – you’ll get two new bag tags with your new Q Card. If you drop down a tier you’ll receive a new card but no new tags, and if you stay at the same level you also won’t get new tags.AusBT: What happens if the tag is severely damaged (see our story below), especially to the point of being rendered inoperable, during luggage handling?Qantas: The Q Bag Tags are extremely durable, they’ve been stringently tested. But if a tag is severely damaged in the airport environment we will replace it free of charge, for the life of the tag. Even if it still works, the customer could come back to us and ask for replacement.AusBT: Could the tag be tucked inside a bag’s external pocket, so that the RFID signal would still reach the scanners but the tag itself would be protected?Qantas: It’s always better that the tag is external, and that’s what Qantas recommends.
Qantas says it will replace Q Bag Tags that are severely damaged by airport and aircraft luggage handling – beginning with the tags of South Australian frequent flyer Leigh Wallace, whose brand new electronic tag received some airport punishment on its first trip.
After a many-hop flight from Adelaide to Rio de Janeiro, Wallace found his gold Q Bag Tag – which uses an RFID (radio frequency identification) chip to allow wireless check-in and tracking – arrived in a worse state than the average economy passenger.
“The damage is typical of friction or abrasion” Wallace told Australian Business Traveller. “The tag was probably caught between the bag and a fixed rail alongside a conveyor belt within the baggage handling system.”
“From my experience, if the tags were only to be used for domestic travel by a frequent traveller (for example, one or two flights per week) then my expectation would be that the tag should be able to last at least two years without significant wear or damage” said Wallace, who flies an average of 200,000 international miles per year.
“What I found disconcerting is the level of damage that occurred to the tag on its first trip. However, to be fair there was no additional damage to the tag on the return journey so it may well be unusual circumstances in this instance.”
A global quality manager with Carl Zeiss Vision, Wallace knows a thing or two about quality assurance, engineering and manufacturing with metals and plastics.
His professional opinion? “In general the tag appears reasonably robust, however I would question the hardness and abrasion resistance of the plastic bezel that surrounds the tag.”
“It appears to me that the plastic used has been selected more for its tactile feel and appearance instead of a harder, more abrasion resistant plastic which would have been more functional, but not as sexy.”
“My initial concern was whether the centre of the tag would be able to be pushed out of the bezel, leaving the bag as unidentifiable within the Qantas baggage handling system. On closer inspection it looks like the bezel is fairly well bonded to the tag during the moulding process, so it shouldn't be too much of an issue.”
Australian Business Traveller showed a photo of Wallace’s damaged bag tag to a Qantas spokeswoman connected with the Next-Generation Checkin system. She expressed honest astonishment at the state of the tag, given that Qantas considered them “extremely durable, they’ve been stringently tested”.
The spokeswoman offered to speak with Wallace, issue him with a new tag and have the damaged one closely examined by Qantas.
She also told Australian Business Traveller that it would be Qantas policy to replace all “seriously damaged” bag tags at no cost to the customer.
“If a tag is severely damaged in the airport environment we will replace it free of charge” she said, adding that this would apply “for the life of the tag” rather than a typical ‘first year warranty’ deal.
This would include instances where the tag was still working despite the damage, but the customer felt the tag was in danger of failure on a subsequent flight.
"In a situation like that, even if it still works, the customer could come back to us and ask for replacement” she said.