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It used to be quite a tradition to keep stickers from destinations you'd been on your luggage after your travels, rather than ripping them off, building up souvenirs over time. This seems to me like a fun idea. However, I haven't seen it as much recently.

I think there are four main types of baggage sticker:

  • "Fun" stickers with no meaning to airport personnel. These seem harmless and I assume you could add them/leave them in place.
  • Miscellaneous security stickers specific to various airports/airlines. Again, many people seem to be able to leave them in place.
  • Regular large bag tags, usually looped round the handle. I normally remove these after each trip, and I assume not doing so could confuse things.
  • Mini barcode stickers (I'm not sure what the official name is), to act as a "backup" for the regular bag tags, stuck directly to the luggage. Again, I normally remove these.

(and of course your baggage receipt, which is normally attached to your boarding pass or given to you separately)

I noticed the other day someone with mini barcode stickers all over the outside of their bag. However, I understand that many airports these days have automated scanners that read these. If I was to start the same habit, would my bag end up in the wrong place one day? What about the other types, especially the regular bag tags?

20

This bag is literally covered in the barcodes and has never not made it through. I am curious about a) the algorithm that ignores the old tags and b) the readers that can scan so many barcodes at once.

enter image description here

EDIT: The very next day after posting this issue, somewhere between Sweden and Australia, someone at some airport decided to cover most of the stickers with a white label. Must have had some issues reading the barcodes, or thought it was a good idea for some other reason. What a coincidence that it happened the day I posted this comment!

enter image description here

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    They may have lost the main tag and had to rescan the backup sticker to print off a few tag. They may have had to scan all the old tags until they found a recent/the correct one covering the old barcodes they have tried. You may have wasted someones times for 30 minutes 😂 good job the bag got back to you. – Dean Meehan Feb 3 at 21:48
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    Or the baggage sortation system got confused sending it to a reject belt for manual processing. – Franck Dernoncourt Feb 5 at 6:27
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If you are talking about stickers like these then you will not encounter any issues. They are decorative and fun.

photo thanks to Lynn Friedman @ flickr

The small bar code stickers that match the bag tag that's being attached to your suitcase handle at checking should be removed. The purpose for these small bar code stickers is to help identify and route your bag should the large tag be lost or damaged. Leaving a bunch of these bar code stickers on will make it hard to identify your bag and ensure that it arrives with you at the destination with you. Aside I don't see them being aesthetic either.

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    I hear what you're saying about the small stickers, but do you have any evidence for that? As I say, I saw someone's bag littered with them, going through the airport, and presumably he hasn't had any issues yet... – Andrew Ferrier May 23 '13 at 8:01
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    No evidence, just common sense. I'm certain you won't have an issue until the big tag will get missing. – Claus May 23 '13 at 13:24
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    @Claus - Is it possible to buy such a decorated bag or kit/ collection of stickers to do such decoration :) ? – Alex S Jan 29 '16 at 10:14
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I don't normally bother removing these, but a couple of years ago at LHR airport the employee at the check-in desk said that old barcode stickers can confuse the scanning equipment used in baggage handling. She used a black pen to cross through some of these before dispatching my luggage. More recently, like one of the above posters, I had white stickers placed over old barcode stickers on my luggage.

4

When I lived overseas, I used a bag (now fallen apart) that had stickers from the places that I had travelled to, I never really had any problems as the baggage handlers looked only at the official and current airline travel tag.

I think (and please someone correct me if I am wrong), that the barcode on the tag that they use has the date encoded.

One stage I had over 20 such stickers.

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    I'm pretty sure that data is on the main (handle) tag. I'm not sure if it's on the newer (mini) tag. – Andrew Ferrier May 22 '13 at 19:52
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    I am certain it is on both, however, i think the baggage handlers look at the main tag. – user6842 May 22 '13 at 19:54
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    Well, leaving the main tag on the bag isn't really an option anyway - you can't fit many around the handle without it being impossible to tell which is the "current" one, and normally the check-in agent will rip off the old one anyway if you leave it on there. But the mini tags - and indeed other stickers (security check etc) are a different story. – Andrew Ferrier May 22 '13 at 19:56
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    You are quite right, but I never had a problem with my 20 or so stickers (I know of people who had an unitentional collection of main tags - that started getting awkward). – user6842 May 22 '13 at 20:04
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    While I don't have any mini stickers of my own to play with at the moment, I can very easily imagine the barcode containing date information or otherwise flight-unique data; any given baggage handling system could very easily check the data against current flights passing through -- if your barcode refers to Southwest Flight 375 and SWA doesn't have any Flight 375 going through that airport today the reader will likely discard it as invalid data (and then subsequently lock onto the next tag it encounters, ad nauseum until it finds an "interesting" one) – Doktor J Mar 7 '15 at 3:00
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** This may not be a direct answer on "mini bag stickers", but seeing the image from @Claus...

A piece of cautionary advice: If possible, avoid embellishments (either in the form of prior travel stickers, or overly expensive designer baggage) when your bag is travelling separately from you, as is the case with airline check-in baggage. The reason for this is simple - burglary! The fancier your baggage, either from travels to numerous countries, or certain pricey hotel tags, or just simply being expensive, may represent, to someone, a certain degree of wealth, making the baggage prone to theft. This is especially true when travelling to developing countries, where security is less, though I have also heard of this happening in American and European airports.

Bottom Line: Certain distinguishing marks are okay, but if stickers are serving no purpose, spend a few minutes on ripping them out, for more reasons than just confusion.

0

Regarding "Mini barcode stickers (I'm not sure what the official name is), to act as a "backup" for the regular bag tags, stuck directly to the luggage."

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/design/2012/10/airline_baggage_tags_how_their_brilliant_design_gets_bags_from_point_a_to_point_b_.html: "Technically known as bingo tags, removable stubs, or stubbies." Sometimes referred to as bingo stickers as well.

From https://www.ausbt.com.au/this-simple-trick-helps-ensure-your-suitcase-arrives-on-the-belt:

Old bingos left on bags can even confuse sophisticated sortation systems in newer airports, sending it to a reject belt for manual processing.

However, if you have a multi sector journey, removing a bingo sticker may actually lead to your bag being left behind due to a reconciliation failure.

X - Former Baggage Tracing Manager for a large airline.

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