U.S. Airlines, Airports Exploring Use of Self-Bag Drop

February 21, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Life is becoming more like The Jetsons all the time, especially around the airport. In a recent article, Travel Weekly told us about self-bag drop at some airports using machines by German vendor Materna.

While tighter security regulations have prevented unassisted self-bag drop machines in airports, U.S. airlines and airports are finally exploring the possibility of a rollout.

The self-bag drop at Incheon Airport in South Korea

The self-bag drop at Incheon Airport in South Korea

According to Stu Williams, Senior Vice President for Special Projects at the Denver Airport, nearly 200 Materna machines are being installed as part of a broader overhaul of the airport’s central Jeppesen Terminal. This means that by 2020 every bag drop location at the airport will enable flyers to self-check their baggage.

According to a study by SITA, another vendor of self-bag drop machines, 45% of airlines offer unassisted bag drop around the world. Passenger identity is typically agent-verified prior to accessing the bag drop machines for security purposes.

The machines can be time-savers, too. Once at the machines, passengers drop and weigh their bags, scan their bag tags and boarding passes, then they leave their bags to be routed to their flight, all without further agent contact. Some machines can accept payment for oversized baggage, and others offer biometric identity capabilities. Then the machine rolls to the baggage handlers who route it to the correct plane.

In addition to saving time, the machines provide substantial cost savings as agents can monitor up to 14 machines. But in the U.S., the TSA requires an agent manually verify passenger identification. The TSA has also pledged to speed up biometric development and released a road map for biometric expansion.

Several airlines like American, Alaska, Delta, and United, and airports in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Miami have begun using self-bag check as well. Meanwhile, at New York’s JFK Airport, JetBlue will begin testing biometric self-bag drop this month.

Will you use self-bag drop or are you a carry-on purist? Do you trust the technology to get your bag to your destination on time or do you want to hand it to a human being? Share your thoughts (or experiences) with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: hyolee2 (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)

Chip Technology Keeps Checked Luggage in Check

January 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

We’ve reported here before about the increased use of RFID chips in checked luggage and luggage tags to tilt the odds that your bag will arrive with you at your final destination in your favor. There have been new innovations in the effort to reduce lost bags, this time from Delta. Once you see what they’ve been doing, you may never look at those little paper baggage tags the same again.

This year, Delta has implemented RFID technology into its complimentary baggage tags, eliminating the possibility of a bag being unscanned due to a smudged, wrinkled, torn, or obscured tag. Now, in every airport where Delta operates, its bags only need to be be in proximity to the radio scanners to be accounted for. As with the older tags, fliers can track their checked bags using Delta’s mobile app.

Delta Airlines demonstrates its RFID system on a piece of checked luggageImplementing these kinds of changes can be costly and disruptive because they require infrastructure adjustments. While some airports, such as Las Vegas’ McCarren International Airport, have been using RFID for over a decade, any new tracking system is typically the responsibility of the individual airline.

Delta spent $50 million on the system, which included scanners, printers, and said tags. Widespread use of these types of tags has been slow to come online in the airline industry, according to the International Air Travel Association. But the deadline for all 265 member airlines to be able to fully track and trace all bags is 2018. And the system is expected to work, not only on an airline’s own flights, but also connecting flights with another carrier.
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What To Do when Your Luggage is Lost

November 30, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s the last thing you want to have happen when you’re traveling: your bag doesn’t show up at the baggage carousel. It has an immediate impact on your psyche, not to mention your itinerary.

But if the airline loses or mishandles your bag, there are a few steps you can and should take before you ever leave the airport, and a couple steps to take before you ever even get there.

If your luggage is lost at the baggage claim, head immediately to the lost luggage office. But be nice to the staff!

The Palermo (Italy) Airport baggage claim.

We want to say this upfront: above all, don’t vent your frustration on the person at the lost luggage counter

Next, before you ever get to the airport, pack your essentials in your carry-on: your medication, laptop, papers for your presentation, and anything else you can’t afford to be without. I once read a story that involved a woman whose lost bag included her laptop with a sales presentation she was to give the next day. She got her bag back in time, but we couldn’t help wonder, why would you ever relinquish control of the most important part of your trip?
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Delta Invests $50 Million in RFID Baggage Tracking Technology

June 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s not hard to imagine, and it’s every weary traveler’s worst case scenario. Perhaps this has happened to you. You arrive home from your trip only to find your luggage didn’t make the trip with you. You rummage around and find those little baggage claim stickers from the depths of your carry-on to show an airline customer service representative, but other than that you have no way of knowing where your bags are. It’s an awful beginning or end to any trip.

Delta Baggage Tracking on mobile app

Delta Baggage Tracking on mobile app

Currently, there are many bag tracking devices and accompanying apps on the market, but those put the onus on the traveler to make the airline aware that, for example, they’re on a flight to Omaha while their luggage is on its way to London.

Delta is turning this model around, as they have recently announced a $50 million update to their baggage tracking technology system. New RFID scanners, RFID bag tag printer, and RFID pier and claim readers have been installed in 344 stations worldwide. Delta’s investment is the largest outlay by a single airline to date, and has resulted in baggage tracking that is 99.9 percent accurate.

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How to Get Your Luggage Safely To Its Final Destination

July 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Of all the potential headaches involved with air travel these days — random flight cancellations, endless tarmac delays, crowded flights, a rude (or super extra friendly!) seatmate, among many others — the biggest one of all may not happen until you reach your destination: lost or damaged luggage.

Even if you’ve been delayed by hours and hours, all that stress can melt away with a hot shower and change of clothes back at the hotel. But if you suddenly find yourself without all the comforts of home you have packed, that stress only intensifies — not to mention the stress of losing valuable belongings.

Baggage Claim Carousel Photo i005 by Grant Wickes

Baggage Claim Carousel Photo i005 by Grant Wickes (Photo credit: Grant Wickes)

ABC’s 20/20 recently published a story — “8 Tips To Get Your Luggage Safely To Its Destination” — and we’re always happy to see major news outlets working to make travel safer, simpler and less stressful for everyday travelers.

20/20’s advice is fairly good, but there are often other factors to consider.

Tips That Make Sense

Packing in a sturdy bag is a great tip. So is purchasing traveler’s insurance: In addition to that $3,400 cap on airlines’ liability, even the sturdiest luggage is limited by its manufacturer’s warranty, which almost never covers loss or damage caused by carriers. (One exception: the Travelpro Platinum luggage series that covers airline baggage handler damage.)

The best tip we read, of course: Carry your luggage on whenever possible. If you’re on a commuter jet, it’s likely your carry-on luggage will need to be gate checked, but it’s in your hands for as long as it can be, including all the way up to the gate.

20/20 Tips To Skip

But the recommendation to bypass the curbside baggage check line? Yes, the outdoor bag check adds complexity and a chance for loss or damage, but sometimes you have no choice! If the check-in desk line is incredibly long and you’re risking missing your flight, for instance, the convenience can pay off in getting your luggage on the flight, period.

What’s your top tip? What do you think, experienced travelers? What tips can you offer to others for ensuring their luggage makes it to their destinations safely and in one piece?

Five Baggage Handling Solutions That Can Enhance the Passenger Experience

May 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

We’re seeing a lot of technological changes that can improve travelers’ experience as they fly around the world. Here are five baggage handling solutions that we think, if they were adopted around the world, would make flying much more enjoyable (or at least less stressful).

1. Home-Printed Bag Tags

Example of IATA airport code printed on a bagg...

Example of IATA airport code printed on a baggage tag, showing DCA (Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bag tags printed from home allow passengers to skip check-in and have the bags ready to go when arriving at the airport. You will have more control over your travel experience and could lower your drop off time to as little as 30 seconds. One drawback is some passengers don’t have the printing capabilities, so not everyone can take advantage of it. In addition, if your home printer is low on ink, the tag will not be able to be read by the baggage scanning device. Even with these potential drawbacks, the number of passengers who will not need to print tags at the airport will dramatically speed up check-in times.

2. Permanent Bag Tags

To those annoying bag tag stickers that can fall off, we say enough! The Vanguard ID company has created the ViewTag, designed to replace the throw-a-way paper tags used today. This permanent tag can be updated with a synchronization of a smartphone or tablet. Think about the positive environmental impact of using a permanent tag. Think about the waste of the huge number of throw-a-way bag tags that are created throughout the world’s airports.

After meeting Rick Warther from Vanguard in our office, we know how hard it is to design a permanent tag. There are still some things to consider when thinking about wear and tear and the clarity of the tags for scanning over time.

3. Bag Drops

A few airports are allowing offsite or remote bag drops for travelers, leaving them at a location like your hotel. It’s one less thing to worry about at the airport, but not many have adopted it. We nearly tried it out at a hotel in Las Vegas, but they needed the bags there too early so it didn’t meet our timeline. Aside from some minor issues, we think bag drops are a great idea, and expect to see more convenient systems in the future.

4. Bag Delivery

A delivery service called Airportr will allow passengers traveling to and from an airport in London to have their bags delivered, making the process less stressful. The VIP Luggage Delivery in the U.S. offers the same service now. Our only concern is the issue of security and the ability for a complete stranger to take a cartload of bags without being stopped.

5. Lost Luggage Improvements

Using the WorldTracer App on iPads, airline agents can scan your boarding pass and pull up your information quicker than trying to call the “hotline” for your airline, or visiting the lost luggage desk. You can even trace your own bag with other devices like the Trakdot device.

What are some baggage handling solutions you would like to see? What would make your own travel experience more enjoyable when it comes to dealing with your luggage? Leave a comment and let us hear from you.

Confessions of an Airline Baggage “Thrower”

February 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Airline baggage handlers get a bad rap sometimes. We never hear about the bags that make it safely to their destinations, unscathed, dry, and smelling like roses. We hear about the irreparably damaged guitars, the priceless belongings lost, and the rest of the horror stories in the life of travelers’ luggage.

But it’s a tough job, and somebody’s got to do it. Which is why we were happy to see an article from Fox News about what goes on behind those flapping plastic curtains at the airport. They interviewed a baggage handler for some real talk about what his everyday life looks like, and there were some surprising revelations.

The on-the-job environment is crazy: fast paced, loud, occasionally wet, snowy, freezing-cold or swelteringly hot, and often quite dangerous. Two words: jet engines. There are plenty of downsides to working as a baggage handler, but the biggest upside is, of course, the travel perks. Buddy passes and free standby flights are almost always part of the gig.

Now, on to your bags.

First of all: The logistics of flying are tough — there are so many moving parts in the process that it’s hard for everything to go smoothly — and as the handler says, airlines are only making money when they’re actually in the air.

If your connecting flight comes in late, for example, handlers have to rush to get your bag to the next leg. There isn’t much time to be delicate with bags and do their jobs with finesse.

Another eye-opener: It’s often not baggage handlers’ fault that bags are damaged. Loose pieces of material can get caught in conveyor belts and in turn damage straps, handles, zippers and more. And if you’ve bought a cheap bag with a handle that’s glued or sewn on — or if you’ve overloaded your checked bag — it can come right off.

Your bag may be lost or not make it to your destination for a lot of reasons, again — not always the handlers’ fault. If someone has marked the wrong airport code on your bag or it literally falls off the cart during an especially busy time, you may not see it for a while. And while handlers try to scan every bag that goes onto a plane, the scanners don’t always work the way they should.

We at Travelpro were happy to see that baggage handlers endorse four-wheel “spinner” bags — like our Crew 9 or Maxlite 2 Spinner bags — because they don’t have to throw them. They just glide right on.

What other airline employees’ jobs are you curious about? Would you love to be a fly on the wall somewhere in an airport? Tell us who and where in the comments.

What’s The Difference Between “Luggage” and “Baggage”?

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

During a recent edition of National Public Radio’s “A Way With Words“(the equivalent of “Car Talk” for word nerds), the hosts pondered the following caller question:

“What’s the difference between luggage and baggage?”

After kicking the question around for a while, the hosts concluded that the word “luggage” specifies the container, while “baggage” is more likely to refer to that which is lugged inside the container.

Grant Barrett // Everybody Should Talk Like This

Image by TEDxAmericasFinestCity via Flickr

A fascinating question, and not just for word nerds.

Webster’s dictionary defines both terms identically: “Cases used to carry belongings when traveling”, though they include a second definition for baggage: “The portable equipment and supplies of an army.”

Merriam’s dictionary makes a slight distinction similar to one made by hosts, Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette. It defines “luggage” as “containers for carrying personal belongings”, and “baggage” as “the traveling bags and personal belongings of a traveler.” Interestingly, Merriam’s has a second, somewhat judgmental definition for baggage: “things that get in the way.” (Merriam’s must not like traveling that much.)

Based on our many years of serving people who’ve become extremely attached to our rollaboards, backpacks and totes, we don’t discount the personal element when defining our products.

In our experience, the term “baggage” is a generic, neutral term used to describe the boxes, trunks, suitcases, etc., people use to transport the articles they take on trips (it’s the terminology airlines use). In addition, “baggage” has a negative connotation in the commonly used phrase “emotional baggage.”

The term “luggage” also generates emotion, but with no such negativity. It’s the preferred term of satisfied users who deeply appreciate not only the bag itself, but how its highly engineered features improve their overall travel experience.

Our loyal customers take great pride in owning Travelpro luggage, and become emotionally invested in each piece. They associate the luggage with the business successes they’ve achieved and the family moments they treasure from past travels.

How do we know this? From the challenges we face when we upgrade one of our collections, and must explain to devoted users that an earlier model is no longer available. Invariably, the newer version offers many improvements but, in the customer’s eyes, it lacks the cherished memories.

“Luggage” or “baggage?”

It’s not just semantics. It’s a reflection of what Travelpro’s commitment, dedication and product quality mean to travelers worldwide.

How Your Luggage Is Handled

January 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

If you think air travel is tough, be thankful you’re not a checked bag. Granted, you have to navigate congested terminals and crowded airplanes. But, you don’t have to do so via conveyor systems, sorting stations, and rotating carousels.

Luggage being loaded onto an airplaneDespite the fact that airline personnel do their best to make sure your bags arrive on time and intact, checked luggage endures a lot in transit. At the check-in counter, it’s tagged and placed on a conveyor belt. Needless to say, bags with loose straps, open flaps or other stray material run the risk of being caught in the belt and damaged.

Depending on the size of the airport, your luggage may be transported on conveyor systems over long distances. And, at each junction, they are scanned and re-routed by automated “pushers” to the appropriate conveyor within the network.

In smaller airports without extensive automated systems, time pressures can contribute to. . . more “vigorous” handling of your luggage. Baggage handlers are held accountable when loading delays cause late departures. In their haste to make sure that all luggage makes the flight, these handlers don’t always treat each bag with the tender loving care you do.

So, what’s a frequent traveler to do? Invest in durable, dependable Travelpro® luggage, of course.

All Travelpro products are manufactured with strong, lightweight honeycomb frames and durable fabrics that are coated for water resistance. Reinforced extension and carry handles along with sealed bearing wheels enhance durability. Plus, features like corner protectors, kick plates and back skid guards all add years to your bag’s service life.

A great way to avoid having checked bags damaged is to not check them in the first place. Travelpro offers many types and styles of lightweight carry-on models that meet airline size restrictions. This eliminates not only threat of luggage-eating carousels, but the cost of checking bags at departure and the headache of retrieving them upon arrival.

Throughout the development process, Travelpro’s design team focuses on both product durability and weight reduction. We recognize that any manufacturer can offer a bag that doesn’t weigh much. The challenge is to provide a lightweight bag that stands up to overworked baggage handlers and crowded conveyer systems worldwide.

Have we succeeded? Could we offer a lifetime warranty against material and workmanship defects on our products if they weren’t extremely durable?

Photo: Ellenm1 (Flickr)