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British Airways to roll out robot baggage carriers at Gatwick Airport

Simon Calder’s Travel

British Airways is planning to use driverless baggage tugs at Gatwick Airport to help in the battle against staff shortages across the aviation industry.

The Telegraph reported that one of the self-driving robot baggage carriers could be trialled by the International Consolidated Airlines Group – the parent company of BA – at Gatwick Airport as early as May.

If successful, the machines, including some equipped with unloading arms, could approve the efficiency and turnaround time of baggage claim at airports.

Last July, the threat of ground handling strikes at Gatwick Airport over one of the busiest weekends of the year was lifted after companies made improved pay offers to workers, but short staffing continues.

The senior vice president for Airport Futures at IAG, Steve McGowan, said that the baggage tugs require 90 per cent less labour and equipment from baggage handling staff.

McGowan told The Telegraph: “IAG is exploring innovative ways to help its airlines run their operations as smoothly and punctually as possible.

“We are working with Aurrigo to trial the use of autonomous baggage trollies, to help support the work of the fantastic baggage teams at our group airlines and our ground handling partners.”

The Aurrigo machines priced between £100,000 and £250,000 have been tested at Changi Airport in Singapore since 2020 and were previously trialled part-time at Heathrow Airport by BA.

Aurrigo technology provides the robots with a digital replica of an airport’s floorplan so they can learn to overcome possible hazards and navigate direct routes to ferry baggage to aircrafts from the terminals.

Professor David Keene, Aurrigo’s chief executive, said that long wait times and missing baggage can “really dent the customer experience”.

He added: “Airlines want to be able to offer consistently good standards from a customer point of view as well. Often you’re in the airport building and it’s fantastic, you’re on the plane and it’s quite modern, but then you get off and it’s lotto time at the baggage carousel.”

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