Self-service bag drops: Enhancing the passenger experience

Lengthy queues in the check-in hall can sour the overall experience of air passengers. One solution to this problem is the self-service bag drop service, which has quickly become a vital component of optimising the passenger experience.

Designed in much the same way as supermarket self-checkouts, airline passengers scan their documents, print their labels, and weigh their baggage and send it on its way– in a fraction of the time it used to take.

Freed up from many of their check-in duties, airlines can focus on improving their passenger interaction, while airports benefit from the increased dwell time passengers spend in their terminal retail outlets.

Read on for an overview of the advantages and disadvantages.

Self-service bag drops: Advantages and disadvantages

The advantages enjoyed by airports are not strictly the same as airlines, although many overlap.

Advantages for airports with self-service bag drops

  • Shorter check-in queues and less congestion as passengers pass through the check-in hall quicker
  • Better space utilisation
  • Better integration with other airport components
  • More dwell time at retail outlets
  • Happier passenger experience

Advantages for airlines using self-service bag drops

  • Quicker check-in
  • Reduced check-in staff needs – just one operator oversees ten self-service bag drops
  • Reduced staff pressure
  • Improved passenger interaction
  • Happier passenger experience

‘Disadvantages’ that are advantages:

Many passengers don’t like change – the main disadvantage incurred by installing bag drops. But more often than not, the disadvantages are trumped by the advantages they generate.

  • Passengers with specific needs or limited IT skills might struggle, but personnel savings will enable trained staff to dedicate more time to their problems, leaving them better equipped to manage better next time – a big plus for society in general.
  • Passengers might grumble they’re on holiday, but travel is just as much about experience as relaxation. Dropping off their bags and sending them off on their journey gives passengers a greater sense of control over a part of the travel experience that has traditionally caused anxiety.
  • Passengers with Out-Of-Gauge (OOG) bags or non-conveyable items – such as skis or golf bags, which typically account for 2-5 percent of all handled bags – might find it challenging, but it’s an improvement on having to check in their items at another bag drop point, which has always proved time-consuming. Extra staff resources will enable them to check in using the same self-service bag drops as their regular baggage.

A key component in the digital experience

Self-service bag drops are a perfect fit for young passengers reared in the Digital Age as they seamlessly integrate into the overall digitalisation of the passenger experience.

Empowering passengers to take care of their baggage needs in a more time-friendly fashion frees up airline personnel to focus more on customer relationship building.

Advantages of digital self-service bag drops

It might not be obvious to passengers, but there are many additional advantages going on behind the scenes that improve the overall airport experience.

  • Higher check-in capacity
  • Reduced footprint (quicker check-ins optimises the Ultimate Baggage Handling System)
  • 100 percent read rate and tracking from check-in
  • Higher percentage of conveyable items
  • Baggage updates to passengers’ mobile phones
  • Improved passenger flow and passenger experience
  • Significant increase in resource productivity

Perfectly aligned to tote solutions

Among the airports onboard with ICSs (independent carrier systems), increasing numbers are favouring a tote-based self-service bag drop as a way of further improving the check-in experience and process.

Instead of placing the bag directly onto a conveyor belt, the passenger places it directly into a tote – so not only is the luggage labelled, but it is in a tray that can be digitally tracked 100 percent of the way through an RFID tag.

Tote-based bag drops eliminate the possibility of loose straps causing sorter jams, thus cutting down the need for manual intervention. They also reduce the risk of mis-aligned bags, damage to the bag or tag, tampering and security issues.

Money well invested

Investing in airport infrastructure is money well spent, according to studies.

Airports that quickly process passengers through the check-in and security are able to increase the average dwell time of passengers in the duty free retail and food and beverage outlets.

Passengers will spend up to 45 percent more at these outlets if the airport experience is optimal.


Self-service bag drops are a key component as airports seek to improve the passenger experience – both in terms of efficiency and digitally. From the moment passengers arrive in the check-in hall, they become masters of their destiny, plotting a quick journey to the gate with minimal fuss, although help is easy to source should they need it. More often than not, the answer to their problems can be found in the solutions on their phones – and the industry tends to concur that this is only the beginning of airport services becoming fully automated.

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