Travel Scene: Futuristic bag-handling systems tested at MSP

It’s being called “The Airport Lobby of the Future.”

That’s what best describes the work going on at the main terminal at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Main projects involves three separate airlines — American, Delta and United — which are evaluating self-service luggage bag drop devices as well as construction that is underway on an expanded and user-friendly area at the front of the main Terminal 1.

Currently, MSP reports that travelers on the three airlines who are checking bags can use self-bag drop technology. The process for each airline involves printing a bag tag at a kiosk and then taking a few steps to the self-serve bag drop machines.

Travelers then scan their boarding pass and place their baggage on a belt that weighs and checks the dimensions of the bag before sending it through security screening and to baggage handlers who load it onto the plane.

The Metropolitan Airport Commission, which owns and operates MSP, is working with the three airlines to monitor the performance of each of the three separate software systems used by the airlines during the self-service pilot project stage.

MAC is providing the airlines with information technology services, including computer network hosting capability required for the bag drop devices. Eventually, after evaluating the systems’ operations, MAC plans to purchase one of the self-service bag drop systems for use by all the airlines at the airport. The airlines would brand the equipment and the software interface with their own individual content and logos, but the supporting technology and user experience would be common for all carriers.

Self-service bag drop technology is already the norm in Europe and is moving in the same direction at U.S. airports, according to MAC. The technology increases efficiency and helps reduce wait times for passengers.

The bag drops are only one part of the extensive remodeling project underway in MSP’s ticketing and baggage claim areas at Terminal 1.

An ongoing “vertical circulation” project at the front of the terminal is creating additional interior space closer to the roadway and redesigning the escalator and elevator operations for smoother traffic flow and more intuitive wayfinding for travelers. The additional space will also provide more room for security lines. The remodeled north security checkpoint features an exterior wall of electrochromic glass that adjusts to the amount of sunlight and cuts the glare for passengers and security checkpoint employes. Also, the new sound system in the lobby will use directional sound and workers are installing tele-coils under the new terrazzo floors, allowing users of hearing aids to get a better signal.

A new piece of art will grace both the baggage claim and ticketing lobbies following the installation of a cut-out in the floor between the two. The MAC commissioned Jen Lewin, an artist known internationally for her interactive art to design the piece.

Additionally, on the baggage claim level, work will begin in coming months on new restrooms, baggage carousels and improved ventilation. The new restrooms will have rooms for lactation and nursing mothers.

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