Following January’s first meeting of the year for the FTE Baggage Innovation Working Group (BIWG), which now has over 100 members from airlines, airports and industry partners – with Greater Orlando Aviation Authority and the new Western Sydney Airport among the most recent to join – we identify the top baggage trends to watch in 2024. In this interview, Darin Juby, Head of Baggage Transformation, Future Travel Experience, highlights several key areas that will help transform the baggage experience in 2024 and beyond.
“The top trends in 2024 are rebuilding the trust in checking bags through enhanced tracking and information sharing, accommodating growth using new innovative processes, and reducing the strain on baggage handlers with new loading aids and robotics,” Juby shares. “Our key areas of focus in the BIWG always align with what future passengers, airports and airlines need. I would also add sustainability to that, as passenger growth forecasts are positive – therefore, airports and airlines will need to move bags sustainably both from an environmental and financial perspective.”
The Green Baggage Alliance, formed by a partnership between NACO (Netherlands Airport Consultants) and BagsID Network, was launched in December 2021 at FTE Global, with the goal of helping the industry reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The sustainability piece will, once again, be big this year, with a strong focus on raising awareness around, and reducing, the environmental impact of baggage throughout its journey. “Green Baggage will be discussed as a topic in our monthly meetings in 2024, as well as always woven into our discussions as there are many gains to be made in this area,” Juby notes.
Major baggage imaging POC, plus bag tracking trend maturing in 2024
Bag tracking has increased exponentially in the past few years and this trend will continue. “Airlines and airports are working collaboratively to share baggage information, and some are also allowing passengers to track their bags with this information in real time,” Juby explains. “I see this trend maturing, which will ultimately reduce the number of mishandled bags. Individual tracking devices that passengers place in their suitcases will continue and I believe their ability to share that location with airlines/airports will become more prominent and enhance the passenger’s individual needs. The next step in the evolution of bag tagging, in the form of Electronic Bag Tags, will expand this year and the future of using images will advance with upcoming Proof of Concepts underway.”
Indeed, a key part of the BIWG’s activities is its game-changing Proof of Concepts (POCs). This year sees the continuation of the major baggage imaging POC involving three Canadian airports – Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver – to see how a tagless bag could be tracked with only image recognition. The POC is using technology from BIWG Strategic Partner BagsID to image the bag and then recognise it on arrival at the other airports. Participating BIWG members also include Brock Solutions, Materna, and Air Canada. The results are expected to be ready in Q2 2024.
Commenting on further POC plans, Juby says: “In addition, we will hear of some real-world results of a new way of loading bags with load cells, which will likely play a key role in the future baggage system using robotics and loading aids.”
“Automation and robotics are crucial”
Robotics and automation are a key focus area of the BIWG in 2024 – for example, exploring autonomous methods of loading bags. Automation can help counter rising labour costs and provide a constant baggage flow, reducing peak demands. “Some countries have already placed targets and dates to significantly limit the amount of bags a baggage handler can lift per day, therefore automation and robotics are crucial,” Juby explains. “Labour is still struggling post-pandemic; therefore, automation will be necessary to accommodate growth in the coming years. Autonomous vehicle operation is literally right around the corner with numerous suppliers developing products that will operate semi or fully autonomous in the next few years, perhaps sooner than mass adoption on public roads.”
In November 2023, it was announced that Schiphol – a BIWG Airport Lab Network Partner – has acquired a 10% stake in Cobot Lift (a BIWG member) and purchased 19 new baggage robots designed to take over the heavy physical work from baggage handling staff, following a successful trial last summer. The airport expects the robot to be able to lift at least 80-90% of all baggage items without problems when used on a large scale.
BIWG: “engage in meaningful conversations and topics that are truly innovative and shaping the future of baggage”
The first BIWG virtual members meeting of 2024 took place in January. The working group heard from new member Orlando International Airport about its new baggage system, future plans and unique position in serving passengers destined for the many theme parks and vacation destinations that it serves. There was also a fascinating discussion about RFID technology and the changes and opportunities since it was first introduced to see how it can enhance bag processing in the future.
As this schedule of activities shows, the BIWG has a comprehensive, expanded agenda of virtual and face-to-face meetings in 2024. There are six in-person meetings planned this year, with Tampa International Airport hosting the next meeting on 28/29 February 2024. “I am very excited to have even more in-person meetings in 2024, as the in-person meetings are my favourite and provide amazing opportunities for networking and catching up with friends and colleagues,” says Juby.
Indeed, Juby adds that the FTE BIWG is a welcoming, informal group for all those who are passionate about baggage, providing invaluable networking opportunities for knowledge-sharing and business development. This is facilitated not only through the schedule of virtual and live meetings, but also the informal social gatherings that regularly take place during FTE events. “People should join this group as it is very unique in the members, who consistently engage in meaningful conversations and topics that are truly innovative and shaping the future of baggage. In 2024 I hope to advance significantly in our target areas of focus, in particular baggage technology is changing quickly and I know there will be some ground-breaking ideas and products announced in 2024 – can’t wait!”
BIWG Strategic Partners
The BIWG now has seven Strategic Partners from various aspects of the baggage industry, who are very active in our POCs and bring insights from all areas of the world. These are companies that are not only leading edge in the world of baggage but want to stand out as leaders in the field, and their support is central to the efforts of the BIWG.
Airline membership is free
If you’re interested in joining the FTE BIWG in 2024 and playing an active role in our unique platform for developing new techniques and business models to deliver tangible change in the baggage sector, please contact us here and we will be happy to share more information.