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  • Makoto Shibuya

Baggage In, Baggage Out

We can all relate to the challenges of (de)boarding an aircraft. Every airline approaches the problem slightly differently, but no one has cracked the code. It is no easy task getting passengers on and off an airplane in an organized and efficient manner—a fact corroborated by the varying studies and simulations airlines have tried over the years. To this day, the process has not improved considerably.


The same inputs often yield similar outcomes. Perhaps the problem has less to do with the process and more with the inputs. Solutions to complex problems often require system-level thinking, and new opportunities emerge by changing inputs to the equation.

Stowing our luggage is a significant bottleneck when boarding. Stowing luggage above our heads is slow, awkward, and cumbersome. If you have ever traveled light, you understand how limiting carry-on baggage makes for a more pleasant and efficient boarding process.

What if passengers were required to check their luggage?


Before we threaten to never fly again, let us first identify why we carry-on luggage in the first place.


  1. Baggage fees

  2. Peace of mind

  3. Convenience


While these were once legitimate reasons to carry-on a bag, they are all addressable with new processes and technology.


Baggage Fees


While baggage fees are a potential revenue stream for the airlines, this is an operational decision. Restructuring or removing fees will encourage different behavior—a streamlined boarding process will yield gate fee savings that will compensate for lost revenue.


Peace of Mind


Peace of mind comes with knowing your bag is beside you. Nothing is more frustrating than arriving at your destination only to realize your bag did not make it. However, logistics and infrastructure are improving to eliminate this risk. Smart baggage and tags also allow you to track your luggage, so you are reassured that they are secure and nearby.

Improved Logistics via Robotics, GPS, and Automation



Traditionally, checking bags meant arriving early on the front end and waiting by the baggage carrousel upon arrival. However, better alternatives are becoming available. Improved logistics, robotics, infrastructure, and technology enable handling your luggage where and when you want. You can have your luggage picked up and delivered to your destination, pre-loaded into your rideshare, or have them secured and waiting at a convenient pickup location.

Home Pickup

Preloaded Rideshare

Bag Drop at Public Transport

Bag Drop on Rail

Bag Drop at Parking Lot

New and improved airport bag drop processes remain an option for those checking their luggage at the airport. Personalization, efficiency, biometrics, self-service, automation, and common-use programs are some of the many ongoing developments in this area that can alleviate the burden of traveling with your luggage.

Improved Airport Processes

Boarding is just one of many processes that are improved by alleviating the need to accommodate luggage. Security, shopping, dining, restrooms, deboarding, and walking to your gate are all more manageable with less luggage.


Security checkpoints flow more efficiently without the need to scan as many carry-on bags. Reducing the number of inputs onboard reduces complexity and improves the security of passengers.

Seamless Security Process

A Renewed Travel Experience


Our baggage is weighing us down, and we have not realized it because there has never been a better alternative. Rethinking our inputs is an achievable system-level change that reinvents the overall travel experience.

While it will require change on behalf of airports, airlines, and passengers, a better travel experience is conceivable due to innovative technologies, improved automated infrastructure, and developments in travel behavior. The pandemic has proven that we can adapt to new travel procedures.

Passengers and luggage have very different characteristics and needs. The need to accommodate luggage leads to a travel experience designed for the lowest common denominator—a suitcase. Separating passengers from their luggage enables experiences catered to passengers while optimizing luggage efficiencies. The same inputs often yield similar outcomes, and rethinking our baggage could catalyze systemic improvements. Once we let go of our bags, our imagination is our only constraint.



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