Child Safe After Accidentally Entering Minneapolis Airport Baggage System

There aren’t many of us ‘regular travelers’ that get to see what happens to our checked luggage after it floats away on a conveyor belt behind the check-in agent. However, a nine-year-old boy was one of the few that went ‘behind the scenes’ after making his way into the baggage handling system at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport over the weekend.

Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport
A child climbed into the baggage system at MSP airport. Photo: Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport

Child dives onto baggage conveyor belt

MPR notes that the nine-year-old boy was found unharmed in the baggage system by police. An airport spokesperson says the incident took place on Saturday afternoon when a group of around 20 travelers were checking in their bags for a trip together.

“Among them was a 9-year-old child who dove onto the bag belt as it left the ticketing lobby to go down into where all the conveyors separate the bags to wherever they’re going to go to the proper airplane,” Pat Hogan, Spokesperson for Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport via MPR News

No one noticed the boy’s absence

In what sounds like the beginning of the movie Home Alone, no one in the group of 20 noticed that the boy was missing amidst the chaos of checking-in bags. “There was a lot of confusion because there were so many people in the group,” the airport spokesperson says.

Hogan goes on to say that since everyone was preoccupied checking their own bags and loading them onto the belt system, it took some time before anyone realized the child was missing.

Airports have moved to completely automated baggage systems, which direct baggage to the appropriate flight either using RFID tags or barcode scanners along conveyor belts. Overall, this had led to gains in efficiency and accuracy.  Photo: Getty Images

Despite heading into the airport’s elaborate baggage system, the boy was found by police in less than five minutes.

To prevent this from happening again, a review of the airport’s baggage system’s security safeguards will likely be reviewed, the MSP airport spokesperson adds.

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The complexity of a baggage handling system

As Simple Flying covered in a December 2020 article, most airports have some form of automated Baggage Handling System that takes bags from check-in counters or luggage drop areas to a storage or loading area.

While some smaller airports may do this manually, most facilities these days employ an automated conveyor system, as demonstrated in this Siemens promotional video for its handling system, installed at Guangzhou International Airport:

With these sophisticated systems, bags are tagged (usually with a barcode), scanned, and then transferred by a conveyor system to the appropriate location. Depending on how early you are for your flight, your luggage may head straight to a loading area for a flight or a designated storage area.

While the system does look like a fun roller-coaster ride for your luggage, it obviously presents a dangerous situation for humans that might be curious enough to hop on.

Is there anything you think the airport could do differently to prevent this in the future? Let us know in the comments.

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