The BHS in 20 years: The changes we expect to see

With the launch of AI-driven tools around the world, where are baggage handling systems (BHS) headed and how they will look twenty years from now? We give you some insights into what the future might have in store for baggage handling. 


How will the airport BHS look in the future?

The BHS will become more self-managed in the future, with BSH technology integrating significantly more AI-controlled and autonomous systems. AI tools are likely to replace most decisions BHS operators make today.

If we look to the immediate future, autonomous processes will replace baggage loading and unloading because this part of baggage handling operations can be automated to a much greater degree than we are seeing today. We are likely to also see a higher use of AGVs for various processes, especially in ULD transport or dealing with last-minute or exception bags.

Longer term, we believe the BHS controls will make more operations decisions without the need for human intervention. We already see this in infant form, such as the system alarms that are triggered when an incident or anomaly occurs.

The enabler for this intelligent automation is the analysis of data that is collected from the BHS operations and sources. Data analytics and deep learning tools will reveal data patterns to predict irregularities and autonomously remove them before they even occur.

Which technologies will have the greatest impact?

AI-driven technologies will become the driver of many new BHS arrangements. They will be used more extensively than they are now and the AI-powered developments we see today are just the tip of the iceberg.

We are of the view that AI tools will drive BHS performance improvements and enable OPEX reductions. Data-driven AI tools are already performing predictive maintenance but will establish even better system service in the years ahead.

Following the vast potential of AI to change BHS operations, robotic technology will have the next most significant impact.

Robotics or other automated/semi-automated solutions will, in all probability, replace some of the existing manual processes, such as in the bag loading area. In doing so, they will improve baggage handlers’ health and safety.

Changes to particular aspects of the BHS operations

Bearing in mind these technologies and their potential impact on baggage handling operations, we expect to see changes to some core elements of the BHS.

We believe the BHS layout will resemble a bag factory in the future, for example, inspired by how logistics businesses handle their warehouse processes.

How will other parts of the BHS look in the future?

Will baggage tracking improve?

We expect to see more technology that can integrate tags into bags or new types of RFID tags.

While tags are not our core business, we boldly suggest that some form of biometric baggage identification will be seen in future baggage handling operations. It’s highly likely that the development of virtual tags using image-based data will be based on technologies from other industries that will be presented to the market over the next couple of years.

We also expect an increased use of the tote-based ICS system, which is the leading system solution for improving baggage tracking.

Will the baggage reclaim experience improve?

We think that differentiation will be the key change to the baggage reclaim area of the future. Airport services will develop several baggage reclaim options to fit individual passenger needs.

In the future, many passengers will want to choose the travel solution that best works with the purpose of their journeys. We are already seeing airports offer baggage reclaim services on various levels – such as reclaim-on-demand – or routing bags automatically to railway stations or hotels, in accordance with passenger wishes. We will see much more of these types of baggage reclaim services in the future.

The possibility of a baggage-less airport

It’s more than likely that baggage handling will occur off-site in the future and be managed by a third party.

A logistics process independent of the airport could present new opportunities for airports looking to grow their terminal strategies. Many airports today have limited possibilities for growth because they have no more room to expand their terminal services and cannot fit larger baggage handling systems into their buildings.

Moving the BHS away from the terminal and allowing others to handle baggage operations cast a whole new light on brown-field airport development projects.


There is little doubt that the BHS of the future will look different from today’s system – in the technologies used, where they will be positioned and who even operates these critical systems. Our prediction is that the future BHS will be shaped massively by artificial intelligence and automated technologies.

Subscribe to our newsletter