The Future of Baggage Handling: A Collaborative Approach by KLM, Schiphol and TU Delft

Passengers at Amsterdam Schiphol airport.
Franklin Heijnen, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the key learnings to come out of the post-pandemic resurgence in air travel demand is that efficiency in baggage handling is paramount.

Recognizing this, KLM, Schiphol, and the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) are joining forces to not only streamline baggage services but to revolutionize the very nature of work in baggage handling halls.

This collaborative effort aims to make significant strides in reducing physical strain and enhancing overall work conditions.

The Concept and Collaboration

The primary goal of this initiative is clear: to lighten the workload in baggage handling halls. While the immediate plan includes installing lifting aids across all workplaces by April 2024, the collaboration goes beyond the physical aspect.

Professor David Abbink, leading a team of researchers from TU Delft FRAIM, emphasizes the importance of digital innovation in supporting physical activities.


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This forward-looking approach is not just about machinery; it’s about finding the delicate balance between human expertise and technological advancements.

Photo Credit: Daniel Kist via Pexels

Human-Centric Approach

Acknowledging the indispensable role of baggage handlers, Professor Abbink stresses the need to learn directly from the experts in the field.

The researchers, with diverse backgrounds in design, psychology, organizational change, robotics, and logistics, are actively involving baggage handlers in shaping the future of their work.

This human-centric approach ensures that the solutions explored are not only technically sound but also socially and organizationally viable.

Leadership Perspectives

Harm Josephi, Vice President of Baggage Services at KLM, highlights the commitment to continuous improvement. Despite already leading globally in reducing physical strain, KLM and Schiphol recognize the need for constant enhancement.

The collaboration with TU Delft exemplifies their dedication to pushing boundaries and setting new industry standards.

Dennis van Kleef, responsible for baggage at Royal Schiphol Group, emphasizes the ongoing efforts, stating that even with the automation of physical work, employees will retain a crucial role. This collaboration aims to redefine the future of work in baggage handling halls.

Future Impact

The strategic implementation plan involves equipping every workplace with a lifting aid by April 2024, setting a tangible deadline for the first phase of improvements.

Simultaneously, the focus shifts to the subsequent phase: the automation of physical work. This forward-looking approach ensures that the study is not just a one-time endeavor but an ongoing process of evolution.

The collaborative efforts will not only shape the future of work at Schiphol but will serve as a blueprint for airports worldwide.

What sets this research apart is its real-world application. Conducted in baggage halls, not in a controlled lab environment, the study ensures meaningful cooperation between researchers and baggage workers.

This authentic setting guarantees realistic, actionable outcomes. The involvement of TU Delft’s field lab RoboHouse accelerates innovation, allowing the researchers to assess the impact of technical innovations early on.


The success of this study lies in its ability to develop a new way of working collaboratively with baggage hall employees.

As the collaboration progresses, it holds the promise of becoming a long-term partnership, ushering in a groundbreaking era in baggage handling.

With a commitment to improving work conditions, reducing physical strain, and embracing technological advancements, KLM, Schiphol, and TU Delft are paving the way for a future where the balance between humans and machines defines the dynamic of baggage handling halls worldwide.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
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