How To Be A Better Baggage Belt Person

The Carousel of Dreams 

It was called the golden time for travel. Aircraft cabins were less crowded, and the seats had more legroom and space to move around. There were no first-class or economy sections, but just one cabin. In that cabin, there was often a piano lounge or bar. The flight attendants were young, single, and glamorous and had to retire before the age of 30. Which is both discriminatory and ageist, but hey, don’t shoot the messenger. Soup came in a tureen; roast beef was carved from a silver trolley and cigars were served with cocktails. For free. A 10-euro EasyJet microwaved plastic cheese sandwich was 60 years away in a dystopian future. 

Passengers also dropped off and received their luggage on the runway themselves. While meant much less lost luggage. And as baggage handlers didn’t exist, they couldn’t use your ski, snowboard and surfboard bags as frisbees.

It couldn’t last. Air travel became more and more popular, and less elitist. It was eventually worked out that it was quicker to hand over their luggage at a check-in counter. A conveyorbelt would then transport the luggage to a location where airport personnel specialising in fast loading and unloading would load it onto wagons, also known as baggage dollies.

Now conveyor belts have been around since the late 18th Century. They were made of short leather belts that ran on wooden rollers and were powered with hand cranks and a series of pullies, moving goods onto ships when they were in port. If leather belts and hand cranks aren’t sexy enough for ya, they then added steam power to make them quicker. In 1804 the British Navy used steam conveyors to make biscuits for its sailors. 100 years later these belts would revolutionise the coal industry. 

Anyway, conveyor belts were also handy for transporting airport luggage, and in 1971, the first automated baggage handling system was introduced. These days they involve kilometre-long networks controlled by smart algorithms. Which is great for moving bags, but not so good for a man who in 2021 was arrested in the UK’s East Midlands Airport after he missed his flight and attempted to board the plane via a baggage conveyor. 

The software, you see, is designed to move large volumes of baggage, not humans, to their proper destinations. Except when they don’t. And at the start of a beach holiday, you end up buying the weirdest, cheapest pool wear of your sorry life.

Usually though, in a remarkably short time, your bags are fed through the airport matrix and end up on a designated belt for you to pick up. It all works exceptionally well. Until humans get involved and start pouring sand into the airport's gears. 

@dbjourney Office on the go… 😎👌 ( New campaign coming soon ). #revisions #lastminute #airportlife #campaignlaunch @Olav Stubberud @Tin Košir Popovič @Operation Paid Vacation @Morris Grays ♬ suono originale - Joe C

Passengers tend to slot in around the carousel, meaning others have to lean around them to see, and the circle gets tighter and tighter. This has been described as a form of selfish “herding”: a phenomenon observed in animals, as individuals’ group together to let those on the outskirts get picked off by predators. At some baggage pickups, as seen in our Summer Chaos 24 campaign, it often looks like 1000 tired, hungry toddlers have gathered around a conveyor belt to eat those biscuits made by the British Navy. 

There is also no real need to stand sentry at the exact place where the luggage exits the loader. The fact that the carousel winds for 100 metres in a U-shape, designed for access along its length, never crosses their mind. The same person may also bring their trolley in close, adding further defences to his fortress and more sand in the gears. 

These people are thinking competitively, with each one wanting to be the first to get his or her bag, rather than collaboratively. Ideally, we should channel Db’s very own skater Beatrice Domond in the Summer Chaos campaign.

She knows that standing back and breaking away from the herd is best practice. Give some space, take some time. After all the only certainty when we journey out into the world is that we come back better people. That starts with picking up our bags, the very start of the adventure. We can all have our own golden age of travel.