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Do you know what happens to your bag between check-in and the plane?

Article published
6.7.2022 at 08:48
Matkatavarat hihnalla
At Helsinki Airport, a piece of luggage may travel up to two kilometres on its way from check-in to the airplane’s cargo hold. What happens to baggage in between, and who takes care of it?

Baggage handling at Helsinki Airport is a critically important operation that requires close collaboration between airlines, Finavia’s baggage handling and ground handling companies. Everyone must work together seamlessly, under a tight schedule: At best, luggage has to make it from one flight onto another – possibly via security check – in just 35 minutes.

With the help of automated processes, thousands of bags can be transported from check-in to the cargo hold per hour. Still, many critical phases are still carried out manually.

At check-in, luggage is tagged

Baggage handling begins at check-in. More and more often, bags are dropped off at a self-service counter, where the passenger prints out the baggage tags. The barcode in the tag is crucial for baggage handling.

Thanks to the barcode, the bag will find its way to the right aircraft, and the control system can track its journey in real time.

After the tag has been fastened onto the luggage, the luggage is taken to the correct airline’s bag drop, where the passenger scans the barcodes in his or her boarding pass and the baggage claim tag. The machine weighs and measures the bag.

The barcode tells where the luggage is headed

A piece of luggage travels through the baggage handling system in what is called a tote, a dedicated conveyor cart. The tote can reach a speed of up to seven metres per second in a long tunnel. The system steers the tote and luggage in the right destination based on information included in the barcode in the baggage claim tag.

All baggage is inspected and screened according to EU norms. After security screening, baggage that has been checked in and dropped off early proceeds to the early baggage storage, an automated “luggage hotel”, from which the bag is released according to the flight’s departure time.

From sorting to ramp to cargo hold

Sortation is the last leg of a bag’s journey through the luggage factory. Two sorter machines sort the baggage into flight-specific ramps. There are currently a hundred ramps in the baggage handling system. After sliding down the ramp, a piece of luggage is in the care of a ground handling company, whose luggage handlers then load the bags into carts or containers, depending on what type of plane awaits them.

What to do, if your baggage doesn't arrive?

If your baggage does not arrive to its destination, please contact your airline. Airlines are responsible for the delivery of baggage. At Helsinki Airport, there is an Arrivals Service, located in the baggage claim hall, where you can ask for more information.

This article was originally published on 11 December, 2018.