How Baggage Handling Works

By: Karim Nice

Baggage-handling Basics

The DCV highway goes through a tunnel from the check-in area to the passenger terminals.
Photo courtesy BAE Automated Systems, Inc.

A baggage-handling system is kind of like a road system in a city: The conveyors are like the local roads, the DCV tracks are like the highway and your bag is like the car. Baggage-handling and road systems share these properties:

  • If a conveyor or DCV track is blocked (a traffic jam, of sorts), baggage can be routed around the blockage.
  • Baggage starts and ends its journey on conveyors (just as you start your drive to work on local roads), moving to the DCV track to make longer journeys, such as from terminal to terminal or gate to gate.
  • The DCVs never stop, just as there are no stop lights on a highway.

Unlike a road system, however, a baggage-handling system makes all of the decisions about where a bag is going. Hundreds of computers keep track of the location of every bag, every traveler's itinerary and the schedules of all the planes. Computers control the conveyor junctions and switches in the DCV tracks to make sure each bag ends up exactly where it needs to go.


The process begins when you check in and hand your bag to the agent.