This Video Shows Your Luggage's Journey From Check-In to Plane

Getting checked bags from front desk to the proper airplane takes a few important (yet surprisingly simple) pieces of technology.
Shelby Rogers

Frequent flyers know the drill. They check in at their airline's kiosk of choice, and often drop off a bag or two of luggage that won't quite fit in an overhead bin.

But what exactly happens to those bags when they get dropped off hours before a flight? How do the baggage handlers ensure that a person's bag makes it on the proper flight? 

It all comes down to the baggage tag, according to this video from the Smithsonian Channel. Baggage tags include a passenger's name and final destination, but they also include valuable pieces of information most passengers take for granted or completely ignore. There's a 10-digit barcode that clues the airline into a passenger's 3-digit airline code, a 6-digit number that's only found on a particular piece of luggage. The final number is single number that clues other baggage handlers into certain messages, like whether or not the luggage is of high priority or not. 

Once the piece of luggage is dropped off, the bags go through additional sorting and processing. Those millions of bags don't get lost throughout the process thanks to a simple piece of technology -- metal trays that are fastened to rails as the bags move throughout the airport at high speed. The side of each tray and each chassis is a code that pairs the code on the tray with the code on a baggage tag. From there, computer systems send the baggage throughout the track, switching routes as needed to get to its final stop -- and ultimately, back into the hands of its owners once they've landed at their own final destination.