Heathrow International Airport

10 Pages   |   1,701 Words


Heathrow is the world's busiest international airport. It is the UK’s only middle airport and an important economic asset. It is about 15 miles away from central London. It is considered as the hub of the flying ecosphere. It flies to over 180 destinations in over 90 countries, and around some 90 airlines have made Heathrow their base. The airport is owned by BAA Airports Limited. The total area of airport is 1,227 hectares with only 2 runways. The Terminal 5 baggage system is the biggest, single-terminal baggage handling system in Europe.

BAA has still striving plans to transmute Heathrow and over the next few years, the airport will be completely renovated. Once complete, Heathrow’s baggage system will be able to connect all of Heathrow’s terminals, thus making it the world’s largest totally incorporated baggage system. By 2014 the airport will function a single baggage system, accomplished of handling 110 million bags a year.

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Current System:

The baggage handling system in the Heathrow Airport was first designed and installed by Babcock Airports in 1990s. The system was deployed in Heathrow Terminal 1 only. Since then the baggage handling system in Heathrow Terminal 1 has been functioned and retained by the corporation in partnership with BAA's Baggage Team. The baggage handling system comprises of primarily three distinctive regions;
  1. The fully computerized bag store,
  2. The transfer baggage facility,
  3. The main sortation hall.
In the first region, the process of baggage handling starts when the passenger checks-in to the airport. The baggage is tagged and scanned and then sent to the baggage storage area through conveyers of the airport network. The second region deal with the process of transferring luggage bags to or from other terminals of the airport depending upon the route of authority passenger. The third and the last region consists of two unique and two inclined tray sorters which are used to sort the baggage and move them back to the luggage claim area from where the passenger will receive his/her baggage.

Proposed System:

In order to improve the baggage handling processes at Heathrow airport, the existing system needs to be modified to a better automated baggage handling system which will use the functionality of unique bar codes to tag the baggage of the passenger at time of check-in. Each baggage will be distinguishable from the other on the basis of this bar code and hence the baggage handling can be easily and quickly maintainable as the baggage is moved around in the airport. By introducing an automated baggage handling system, all the processes will be performed using the System which will improve the process time consumption when the same process is performed manually.
The proposed System will be responsible for providing and operating the sophisticated mechanical baggage system, which will transport, screen and sort the baggage systematically. The proposed system will be comprised of over 30 miles of conveyors, two miles of tunnels and features the latest technology to safely sort and screen over 150,000 passing bags a day. It will be a robust system, with multiple inherent possibilities and functionalities to provide the best possible service to passengers in a quick time.
Since the proposed System is believed to be an expansion of the current system, the proposed Heathrow baggage system will perform under three main divisions:
1. To transport baggage from check-in to the departure gates.
2. To transport baggage from one gate to another during transfers.
3. To transport baggage to arriving passengers in the baggage reclaim area.
The proposed system will be capable to fulfill the following processes systematically under each division of the System.
To Transport Baggage from Check-In To the Departure Gates:
At time of passenger check-in, the System will enable the airline agent to print a luggage tag and attach it to the baggage of the passenger. The tag will contain a unique barcode and a ten digit number. The ten digit number shall be created with details of the baggage final destination and airport network route according to the passenger`s destination. The baggage then will be entered in the BAA baggage system where it will be read by a barcode scanner and then automatically routed through the airport’s network of conveyors and junctions to a collection chute for processing by an airline baggage handling staff. For secure screening of the baggage, the bag will be passed through x-ray machines and other security devices and equipment to safeguard it to the maximum. The baggage then will be moved to the collection chute where a baggage handler will scan the baggage tag to create a record of the baggage location for security reasons and traceability of the baggage. Then the handler will load baggage onto carts and driven out to the plane to load them into the footing of the plane.
To Transport Baggage from One Gate to Another during Transfers:
Transfer baggage will be unloaded from the airplane by airline baggage handlers and be placed in the BAA baggage system, where they will be scanned, screened and sorted for reloading onto the ongoing flight. At this stage, system will also be capable to transfer the baggage from other terminals of the airport thus linking up the terminals and an airport network altogether. Baggage transferring between Terminals will automatically be transported through a 1,500 meter underground baggage tunnel. And baggage travelling between the other terminals will be transported through the airside network of roads and channels.
To Transport Baggage To Arriving Passengers In The Baggage Reclaim Area:
Baggage arriving at Heathrow will be unloaded from the airplane by the airline baggage handling agent and be transported to the terminal building where they will be placed on the baggage reclaim belts. Each baggage hall will have numerous baggage belts, which will act as contingency when belts are being serviced.

Functional Requirements:

Based on the above proposed system, the SHALL statements of the system are as follows;
Serial # SHALL Statements
01 System SHALL maintain information about each passenger.
02 System SHALL maintain information about Arrival flights.
03 System SHALL maintain information about Departure flights.
04 System SHALL allow the user to print the baggage tag.
05 System SHALL generate a unique barcode on the tag.
06 System SHALL generate a ten digit code on the tag.
07 System SHALL read the baggage by the bar code scanner.
08 System SHALL maintain credit time records.
09 System SHALL route the baggage through the conveyors, to a collection chute.
10 System SHALL pass the baggage through an X-ray machine for screening.
11 System SHALL scan the barcode on baggage tag at a collection chute.
12 System SHALL transfer the baggage to/from different Terminals.
13 System SHALL sort the baggage according the its passenger`s destination.
14 System SHALL re-scan the baggage at time of reloading on the plane.
15 System SHALL track the status and route of the baggage under screening process.
16 System SHALL track the route of the baggage on baggage reclaim belts.
17 System SHALL maintain the data about unpicked baggage from reclaim belts.

Non Functional Requirements:

Some of the nonfunctional requirements of the proposed system are as follows;
  1. System shall be compatible with the barcode reader devices.
  2. System shall be compatible with X-ray machines and screening sensors.
  3. System shall be compatible with the airport operational network. (Conveyors and Reclaim belts etc.)
  4. User Interface of the System shall be user friendly.
  5. User Access requirements of the System shall be authenticated.
  6. Security requirements of the System.
  7. Performance requirements of the System.
  8. Airline Agent shall tag the baggage.
  9. Airline agent shall place the baggage on the conveyor.

Use Cases Diagrams:

Air Line Agent Use Case Diagram
Air Line Agent
System Use Case Diagram
Baggage Handler Agent Use Case Diagram
Baggage Handler

Scenario Description:

A Passenger checks in at the check in counter. An Airline agent enters the information about the passenger in the System and enters the flight information. Then agent will print a baggage tag. The tag will contain the unique barcode and ten digit code. Airline agent will attach the tag with passenger baggage and transfers the bag through conveyor. Now
System will start tracking the baggage routine on the conveyor. The baggage will reach to the baggage handler who will scan the bag through a barcode reader. Then baggage will be transferred through screening on x ray machines. This all process will be happening automatically on the conveyor and System will keep track of all the baggage routing whereas a baggage handler will keep on monitoring the routing results on the System. After passing through the scanning and screening processes, the baggage will be sorted by the System and based on the sorting, system will transfer the baggage to the respective terminals. The remaining processes to carrying the bags to the airplane footing are not in the scope of the scenario.

Scenario Use Case Diagram:

The Use Case diagram of the above described scenario is as follows. 
Scenario Use Cases Diagram
Air Line Agent
Baggage Handler

Additional Question:

Question: What changes to the requirements should have been done to avoid the Heathrow disaster?
Answer: In order to avoid the Heathrow disaster, System requirements should have been tested on the basis of expected real time transactions/day, thoroughly before upgrading the existing system. There should have been backup machines to work on in such rare situations. The complete trace of all the baggage records should have been maintained in form of hard copies so in case if System halts due to any reason, the baggage traces as per passengers, would still be available so that baggage could still be handed over to the authenticated passenger . It should been considered that both systems should not be upgraded at a time. User should have been upgraded the one System to analyze the system performance and then s/he should have been upgraded the second system.


  1. BAA: British Airways Authority


  1. http://www.heathrowairport.com/portal/page/Heathrow%5EGeneral%5EOur+business+and+community%5EMedia+centre%5EPress+releases%5EResults/c3de64aa828e0210VgnVCM10000036821c0a____/a22889d8759a0010VgnVCM200000357e120a____/
  2. http://www.heathrowairport.com/assets/Internet/Heathrow_Airside_and_Baggage/Downloads/Static_files/Baggage_Handling_at_Heathrow.pdf
  3. http://www.zdnet.com/blog/projectfailures/system-update-kicks-heathrow-baggage-system-offline/610
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baggage_handling_system
  5. http://www.zdnet.com/blog/projectfailures/system-update-kicks-heathrow-baggage-system-offline/610
  6. http://newsweaver.ie/qualtech/e_article000776781.cfm?x=b11,0,w
  7. http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-04-09-airport-baggage_N.htm
  8. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk/7321564.stm
  9. http://www.smartdraw.com/resources/tutorials/uml-diagrams/#/resources/tutorials/UML-Use-Case-Diagram

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