Suitcases packed – bathing suit, sunglasses and sun cream. I’ve checked the weather and it’s sunny and warm. Everything is ready for our first family holiday. We’re at the airport and ready to drop in our suitcases when my little one asks: “where are our bags going?” and I replied that they are on their way to our plane via a special carousel.
I shouldn’t have used that word, as the next thing he asked was why couldn’t he go on the carousel too, but it did get me thinking… what really happens to our luggage when we check it in? I asked my friends at GSE Solutions, a supplier of airport ground support equipment, and that’s what I’m going to share with you today.
It all starts when you hand over your suitcase to the check-in desk staff, who place it on the conveyor belt and register it into the system, attaching a barcode tag to it, which indicates both the destination and route of the bag. From then on, your suitcase it’s on its own journey through the baggage handling system.
Business Insider shared a video from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, of the behind-the-scenes journey that a checked bag goes through. It’s weirdly hypnotic and fascinating! Each suitcase is routed through various conveyors and go on what it looks like to be a rollercoaster ride. According to Travel Supermarket, “at Heathrow, there are 30 miles of conveyor belts”, that’s the same distance from London to Slough!
Before reaching the baggage handling staff, your suitcase will pass through x-ray machines, to ensure that you don’t have anything illegal inside. Then the barcode tag is scanned by a luggage handler at the collection chute. Afterwards, your suitcase is placed on an airport baggage cart and taken to a belt loader, which will load your luggage to the airplane you’ll be flying on.
Fun fact: around 53 million pieces of baggage are processed every year in Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport. Not only do they have 30 miles of conveyors, but also have 2.8 miles of tunnels and their luggage handling team is able to process over 400 bags per hour!
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, your luggage will again be put on another baggage handling system, which will then deliver it at a large conveyor belt. And that’s it – you finally have your luggage and are ready to go on your own adventure. I showed the video to my little one and I’m sure you’d believe how fascinated he was! Did you know of this whole journey that your luggage goes on while you’re strolling around the airport?
This article was written by Hannah. She is a recent first-time mum who loves all things home and travel related. Hannah studied journalism and is now working as a part-time freelance blogger for Ad Lab.