Browsing Tag: Baggage

A United Boeing 777 - Photo: Al@fh | Flickr CC

A United Boeing 777 – Photo: Al@fh | Flickr CC

It finally happened  – one of my greatest traveling fears – I lost my wallet in a foreign country.

Maybe it was the sleep deprivation after more than 20 hours en route, maybe it was the chaos of wrestling with my squirmy 15-month-old, or maybe I’m just that absentminded, but I somehow managed to leave my wallet on the plane after a 14-hour flight from Washington Dulles to Beijing.

I realized it when we were at the baggage claim – far too late to turn around and go back to the gate.   Before we left the airport, I contacted United’s baggage services, which had someone check around my seat on the plane for the wallet, without success.  I also filed a claim with the airport’s lost and found.  But I left the airport that day thinking it was gone forever. What a pain.

The tags found on bags coming into Seattle on Delta flights

The tags found on bags coming into Seattle on Delta flights

Over the last few days I have heard some rumblings about luggage tags that have been showing up on luggage of passengers who have flown on Delta Air Lines (DL) to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). They will be waiting for their bags at baggage claim, and when they show up, find a Delta / American Express advertising tag on them.

Some frequent fliers, on sites like, have not been so happy about the tags. Others on sites like, title their story Delta Pisses Off Seattle Customers. The complaint was their bags were already taking long enough, why does Delta need to delay them more by putting unwanted advertising on them?

My first thought, honestly, was to be a bit annoyed as well. That would anger me if I had to wait longer for my bag just to find ads on them. I decided to give Delta a call and find out some more information on these tags and what the purpose was (I figured surely it wasn’t to anger passengers).

Aircraft lined at up Schophol Airport (AMS) in Amsterdam

Aircraft lined at up Schophol Airport (AMS) in Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS) is the 5th largest airport in Europe and the 15th largest in the world. Already the airport is busy and they only expect it get busier. The problem is there isn’t a whole lot more room to expand the airport and one of the biggest challenges is handling all the luggage. Since they can’t grow bigger, they have had to grown smarter. The airport has been working with IBM to create a futuristic way to handle bags.

The system is housed at the new South Baggage Hall where they hope to increase bag capacity by 40% before 2018. The new system is important, “to create an efficient, reliable and fast baggage handling process,” said Mark Lakerveld, Senior Manager Baggage at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.

No matter where your bag might be in the 13 miles of conveyor system or 4,000 bag positions, the new system can track exactly where it is at. The new baggage operation has 36 cranes and 60% will be handled by robots (yes, robots). After you check in, your bag will be placed into the bag storage. Then a robot will take your bag when needed and place it on the conveyor belt, reducing overload in the system. The new luggage process is connected to real-time flight information, meaning your bag will only be pulled when your plane is ready for it.

Is this the future of airport baggage systems? Possibly. When asked if we might be seeing this system at other airports, IBM spokesperson stated, “There are a couple of similar efforts that are happening internationally that can’t be named specifically.  This example is indicative of what is beginning to happen and we will see more of in airports across the world — focusing on being smarter about how they utilize the space that they have.”

Although great on paper, let’s how this is not a repeat of Denver International Airport (DEN) attempted at a similar high-tech airport luggage system in the early 1990s. Let’s hope that Schiphol has a little better luck.

Check out this video from IBM on how the system works.