Before he was happily married to his wife Zoë, before their three children were even a thought, before he became a world-renowned airport and airline operations professional, DJ Kanters was a bright-eyed 18-year-old who had never considered a career in aviation. In fact, he only applied on a dare.
When young DJ’s then girlfriend had received a rejection after interviewing for a Dutch airline, he questioned how hard it was to get hired. She bet he couldn’t get in either. He rose to the challenge, sent in his application, and scored an interview at KLM. He showed up to the reservations department in jeans and a Guns N’ Roses t-shirt – and got the job! Little did he know that it would turn into a long and fruitful career.
After earning his MBA in Innovation and Change Management from InHolland University of Applied Sciences, DJ moved up the ranks at the Royal Dutch airlines for 24 years, starting as a reservation agent and eventually being elevated to Operational Baggage Manager. Now an expert in his field, he was poached by the glamorous new airline out of the UAE, Etihad Airways, where he served as Manager of Baggage Network. He, and the family he had now built, moved from Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi. A world of difference and an entirely new culture.
“I had never before considered myself an ‘international’ man,” explained DJ about the experience of working and living abroad. “But when you are able to immerse yourself in new cultures, it allows you to reflect on your own. I learned not all areas of the world are as lucky as we are in the Netherlands – I witnessed poverty and other hardships on my travels that left a deep impression and desire to help. At the same time, the Dutch are known for being very straightforward. Sometimes too much so. I learned the art of patience and listening, holding my opinions for the right moments and respecting the other experts around me. It was an amazing experience living abroad, I wouldn’t have changed it.”
Despite the family’s joy in Abu Dhabi, unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic led to massive downsizing across the aviation industry, which was hit especially hard. They moved back to their home in the Netherlands. Thankfully, everything happens for a reason because it was there that an innovative new start-up in airport and airline baggage handling was being launched – and DJ was a seasoned expert in that exact niche.
“When Marlon [van der Meer, CEO and founder] called and offered me a position at BagsID, I couldn’t believe it,” Dirk-Jan remembered fondly. “Here I was in my hometown, with the most amazing opportunity. I had never been referred to as a true subject matter expert, although I knew the industry in and out. It was extremely flattering and very exciting to join what will definitely change the way we travel with baggage around the world.”
Today as Vice President of Airline and Airport Development, DJ Kanters helps to introduce his global airport and airline contacts to the enormous benefits of the BagsID A.I. machine-learning ‘baggage biometrics’ solution for baggage handling. He also serves as an internal tech development advisor, providing his deep insight to ensure that the BagsID SaaS solution can be seamlessly integrated into legacy systems in all parts of the world.
“I’ve never been a ‘techy,’ I’m a total operations guy, but what I do provide is my knowledge of how airlines and airports really run so that our tech team can use that insight to develop a system that works for any airline, any airport, anywhere around the world. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of.”
When it comes to the excitement of BagsID and the potential our solution offers, DJ had the following final words to share with us:
“Airlines are all talking about the passenger experience, but they never discuss baggage. But the two are connected – both need to arrive at the same destination without complications. No traveler ever comes to the arrival desk and says ‘got my bag, thank you,’ but they definitely make themselves heard if their baggage is lost or damaged. There are so many mishandled bags, airlines don’t realize that it is costing them millions. We’re here to solve that. Expect great things in the near future with BagsID.”