As we all plan to disappear off on our annual “get away from it all” holiday, many of us will be flying. So this month we look at the extraordinary human effort that goes into making your holiday memorable for all the right reasons.

What no one said

I have never heard anyone say “I can’t wait to get to the airport so I can go shopping”. Or when you get to your destination “the airport was marvellous, the building was amazing, the steelwork was epic and the baggage handling systems were ridiculous!”. No one ever said that, but the best part of 20% of your airline ticket is spent on it. It would be more if not for all the shops and restaurants hoping you spend more with them. Do it! It might just bring down the cost of your ticket for the next visit.


When you leave your bags unattended

Then hidden away in there is the cost of your bags and getting them to your destination. What could go wrong? Well, here are 3 pieces of great advice:

  • If your journey has several legs, think about leaving more than one hour between connecting flights, otherwise travel light.
  • Don’t turn up at the airport with an overloaded donkey and too little time to check-in, especially on long-haul. Even with state-of-the-art systems, companies such as Beumer make, someone still has to get your bag on the aircraft.
  • Take a bag that is up to the journey!

Doctor Who?

Some years ago, just after T5 was completed I met the man whose company put the system in. They now have over 1000 airport installations in place backed up with state-of-the-art software systems and special dedicated transport cars just to get your travel-weary bag back to you. His name is Dr Beumer and his company has probably handled your bags and you had no idea.  So, what has the Doctor done for you, I hear you ask? Well, the industry as a whole is experiencing a substantial drop in loss and damage. That would be down to him and his team. Their head office is in Germany and for some reason, they love British engineers, so don’t be shy!

Bag Dad? Instruction or unattended destination

The minute you check in your bag, you enter a 10-part care system which is state of the art engineering that you will never see.  This is what happens to your bag:

  • It is logged in so they always know where it is and what it is doing
  • It is sorted so it goes on the same aircraft as you and gets there before you
  • If you are not going to fly for a while your bag has a special VIP storage slot and its own vehicle to get it there wrapped up in cotton wool
  • When the whistle goes, the Doctor’s system magically retrieves your bag and hands it to the ground teams or takes it and feeds it to you at arrivals
  • The software to do this is as simple as they can get it, it just wasn’t simple to create it. That’s why you get your bag back in one piece.
  • The system then keeps statistics on your bag along with millions of others. A small, but elite team of Doctor’s special forces keep his gear and your bag fully accountable, safe and delivered on queue.

So, next time you hand in your luggage remember to send The Doctor a postcard and thank him!

baggage handling

The ‘F” word in flying explained

When you are sitting in the plane going mad because you are still on the ground, just remember it is much better to be on the ground wishing you were up in the air than the other way round. Keeping the aircraft safe in the air accounts for 20% of the ticket money. This is what happens even when you do invest in maintenance:

  • 10% of aviation accidents are down to bird strikes, ground crew, maintenance errors, random small aircrafts getting in the way and military intervention.
  • 10% – poor or adverse weather conditions
  • 10% – sabotage
  • 20% down to poor fault analysis or other equipment issues
  • 50% pilot check error, such as hydraulic pressures or being on the incorrect flight path when landing. Stress and runway conditions are also a factor.

Money Drain or Money Dream

So, the 0.4% you spend on your insurance sometimes comes home to roost so it may be worth checking the terms and conditions.

The airline running costs which overlap some of the fun you just had in the airport are 15% of your flight costs with 19% attributable to airport costs (where they put your bags for example), whilst your very presence helps pay off the aircraft purchase price or rental at a mere 17%. Then there is by far the biggest slice: taxes and charges at a whopping 23%!

That just leaves the long-suffering crew including the pilots who only get 2%, the smallest after insurance, but easily the most important! So don’t stress them by turning up in an unfit condition to fly, arguing or complaining. They need their minds on the job, not you. Remember the 50% figure from above!


Finally, fuel comes at 3.6%. Not as much as you may think, why? Because we are getting better at building more fuel-efficient engines, and engines which pollute less too.

Happily ever after

Bear in mind that there are nearly 40m flights a year and the incident statistics only crop up less than 16 times a year.  You would have to be very unlucky to experience it first hand, though you may be involved in one or two dramas that end well. In my book as we all strive to make the planet a safer and cleaner place, any landing you can walk away from is a good one. Have a great holiday!

Get in touch with us if you are looking for design and supply of industrial buildings, loading bays and doors. By engineers – For engineers.

Written by Paul Casebourne.