You're going on vacation. You arrive at Schiphol, check in your baggage, go through security, grab a bite while waiting to board the plane, and after landing, you retrieve your luggage from the carousel, truly kicking off your vacation! But what journey does your baggage undertake in the meantime?
When you check in your suitcase, a label is attached to it. This label bears a barcode and all the essential information such as your flight number, destination, and flight date. But this label also contains a chip, enabling the bag's entire route to be monitored. Subsequently, the suitcases are placed on a conveyor belt and sent to the baggage handling system.
The baggage handling system is a complex network of conveyor belts, sorters, and scanners. The system recognizes the barcode on the bag and ensures it's directed to the correct conveyor belt. Once on the conveyor belt, the bag goes through a scan. This is similar to having your carry-on luggage scanned to check for any prohibited items. If everything checks out, your bag is transported to the aircraft using specialized loading carts.
Sometimes, your bag might first end up in a buffer. This is a storage area for bags that may have been checked in too early to proceed directly to the plane. It's also possible for your bag to end up there due to flight delays, for instance. This way, the system automatically has enough space for bags that need to make it to the plane as quickly as possible.
Despite Schiphol being a modern airport with extensive automation, a portion of baggage processing is still carried out by people. Occasionally, your bag might go astray or get caught on a wheel. This is where baggage handlers come in—they ensure that the bag still reaches its intended destination. Moreover, steering baggage carts and loading/unloading baggage onto the plane is a human-operated task.
When you arrive at your destination, your bag's journey begins anew. The bags are taken off the plane and placed on baggage carts. These carts then head to the baggage cellar, where they are directed to one of the 16 baggage carousels. This ensures that your bag arrives on the conveyor belt where you're waiting for it. Now, your vacation can truly commence!
Are you inspired by the role of a baggage handler after reading this blog? Check out this job opening for a baggage handler!