Browsing Tag: Baggage

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.

The test bag, at Alaska Airlines baggage check counter at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, ready to start its journey to Phoenix

The test bag, at Alaska Airlines baggage check counter at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, ready to start its journey to Phoenix

One of my least favorite parts of flying is waiting for my bag in baggage claim. First you wait to see which carousel your bags will come out on. Then you wait for them to change the carousel number. Then you get excited when the lights flash and the conveyor belt starts moving, but normally you are waiting a bit more until bags come out. Sometimes you are lucky and your bags come off the conveyor belt early, but other times, it can take upwards of an hour to get all your luggage (if they show up at all).

Alaska Airlines currently has a promotion that is changing the game. If you do not get your checked bags with-in 25 minutes of your flight reaching the gate, you will get a $25 discount code for a future flight on Alaska Airlines or Horizon Airlines or you can choose to get 2,500 Mileage Plan bonus miles.

I wanted to check-in on how the promo was going and talked to Greg Latimer, who is the  Managing Director of Brand and Product Marketing for Alaska Airlines. He explained that the airline checks about 20,000 bags per day and since the start of this promo on July 7th only a few hundred certificates have been claimed. He admitted that not that long ago, Alaska Airlines wouldn’t have been able to complete the task of getting all checked bags to customers in 25 minutes, but they have been working hard and are  proud of their accomplishment.

It took less than 15:18 for the bag to be ready for pick-up, but it took me that long to get the baggage claim.

It took less than 15:18 for the bag to be ready for pick-up in Phoenix, but it took me that long to get the baggage claim.

The promotion and stats looked great on paper, but I wanted to put this to the test. It was good timing. I was heading from Seattle, WA to Phoenix, AZ this weekend and flying on Alaska. It was only for a few days and normally would have just carried on my bag, but it was worth the $15  to check a bag and find out if Alaska could deliver on this guarantee.  I had no problems checking my bag at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. I decided to go with an orange bag (actually a friend’s bag who was traveling with me, but mine was a boring black one) to track its journey.

The flight went great (except there was no Skymall magazine in the seatback…so I couldn’t see the new gadgets) and landed almost on time. Once we pulled up to the gate at Phoenix International Airport, I started the timer. I was flying back in row 26, so it took me a while to get off the plane, but the terminal is small and I went quickly to make sure I got there before the 25 minute mark. By the time I got to baggage claim, there was the orange bag, already out, making the rounds. It was only 15:18 when I saw the bag. I am not going to lie, I was very impressed. So few times have I flown and had my bag waiting for me on the carousel.

This policy just makes sense. With airlines charging to check bags (Alaska Airlines charges $15 for 1st bag and $25 for second), it seems silly passengers should have to wait so long to get their bags. Instead passengers will bring carry-ons causing issues with space and slowing down the security process (took me 35minutes to get through security and I had no carry-ons, but 99% of everyone else did).  Ladimer told me they aren’t sure what Alaska is going to do after this promotion expires on December 31st. I know it might not be sustainable to offer $25 of 2,500 miles for the long term, but I really hope they can keep up the guarantee in some fashion. I am optimistic that other airlines might follow suit and make a better effort in the speed at which they have bags ready for pick-up. I personally know I am much more likely to pay for a checked bag if I know my bag will be there quick.

UPDATE 01/01/10: Alaska tells me they have extended this deal until at least July 31, 2010.

Winglet to winglet on Southwest Airlines

Winglet to winglet on Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines will now charge $25 for an unaccompanied minor and $25 for overweight or a third piece of luggage. They will also allow pets to fly and will charge a “pet fare” of $75. Up until last fall Southwest did not post a loss in 17 years, but it has had to post losses for the past three quarters, mostly due to their locked in fuel prices.

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly stated, “We truly believe in setting the right customer expectation and not charging for those amenities that a customer would ‘expect’ to get for free.” He also points out that all other major airlines in the US already charge these fees.

Although it might be disappointing that Southwest is adding some minor fees, I think it can be understandable in the given airline industry climate.

Source: Baltimore Sun Image: Rob Speed
Delta carryon only check in counters at MSP

Delta carryon only check in counters at MSP

The US Department of transportation is reporting that airlines raked in more than $1billion in just baggage fees last year. And why not, people don’t seem to be too angry or upset about this. However, two airlines are looking to up the fees even higher.

United Airlines and US Airways will $5 more for checking a bag (a total of $20 for the first bag and $30 for the second). But you can knock off $5 per bag if you check them in online.

It is great that airlines are making more money, but these fees make it more and more difficult to find a few space to place baggage in an overhead-bin due to so many people carrying more on. And for $50 to check two bags one-way…on some flights it might be cheaper just to buy a second seat for your bags!

Source: ABC Image: MSPdude