Brussels Airport and Brussels Airlines test automated “self baggage drop-off”

March 26, 2013

Brussels Airport, in cooperation with Brussels Airlines, launches a unique pilot project that will allow passengers on intra-European flights to check in their baggage themselves at the airport. The brand-new self-service baggage drop-off units, which will be exhaustively tested in the next few months, allow passengers to weigh and label their baggage in no time. This constitutes a real gain of time since they no longer have to queue at the manned check-in desk.

An increasing number of travellers are using the self-check-in machines in the departures hall or check in online from home, from their office or through their smartphone before leaving for the airport. However, if they are carrying hold baggage, they still need to proceed to a desk at the airport for an accelerated check-in procedure that only processes baggage. The new machine that is currently tested, now also frees passengers from the latter. Henceforth, passengers will be able to check in both themselves and their baggage.

Brussels Airport is one of the first European airports to integrate these automated check-in units for hold baggage into the existing check-in desks. However, to be able to use these units, passengers need to be in possession of a self-printed or mobile boarding pass. The new system is extremely user-friendly. Passengers insert their suitcase or bag into the machine and scan their boarding pass. The machine weighs the bag and checks its dimensions, prints the baggage tag and shows the passenger how to attach the tag to their bag. Next, the checked-in bag follows the usual itinerary through the airport baggage sorting system to the aircraft hold. For the passenger, the whole check-in procedure takes about one minute. If the bag is overweight or does not meet the baggage size limits, the passenger is referred to the manned check-in desk.  For the time being, the same also goes for passengers who wish to check in several pieces of baggage.

During the trial period which lasts until this summer, two self baggage drop-off units will be available in the departures hall near Brussels Airlines check-in row 5.  Passengers who travel with Brussels Airlines will be encouraged by the airport staff to actually use the units. “During the trial stage we will test the user-friendliness of the technology”, explains Brussels Airlines Vice President Ground Operations Peter Cornillie. “If the results are positive, the automated baggage check-in system will become a permanent option for all of our passengers travelling within Europe.”

For Brussels Airport this is an important milestone. Self-service check-in systems for baggage have been a familiar sight at Amercian airports for several years and now European airports are also ready to introduce them.
Ward Decaluwé, Director Operations of The Brussels Airport Company confirms that in time other airlines too will be able to use this technology: “Brussels Airlines is our natural partner for important test projects such as this. The technology and the set-up we chose require a far-reaching integration in the traditional baggage and check-in systems from our point of view as well as the airline’s.”

This test project is part of the efforts made by Brussels Airport and Brussels Airlines to increase the check-in comfort of their passengers.  Passengers who choose to use the system, do not only speed up their own check-in process, they also contribute to reducing the queuing times for other passengers. Brussels Airlines passengers have the choice, at no extra cost, to check themselves in online from their PC or mobile device, at the self check-in machines in the terminal or at the traditional check-in desks. If the test project proofs successful, the self baggage drop-off units are sure to be added to the list. Technological innovations such as these always attract much curious attention from airport staff as well as passengers. 

The units that are installed at Brussels Airport were developed by the Dutch company Type22, a spin-off of the Technische Universiteit Delft (TU Delft). They are marketing the system under the name ‘Scan&Fly’.

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