AN invention pioneered in the North-East to help airline passengers avoid excess baggage charges could now on the verge of global expansion.

Husband-and-wife team Gerard and Carole Stewart created a baggage weighing machine equipped with foldaway hand luggage bags, so passengers can re-distribute their luggage before they reach the check-in desk and avoid financial penalties.

The machine, created under their company name Weigh- Ahead, is already being used in Bristol International Airport and the nearby Holiday Inn, and is proving popular with travellers.

And now, after the Tyneside business struck a deal with global distributor Bagport GmbH, the invention could be installed into airports and hotels around the world.

The Stewarts have spent the past four years working to research and establish their business, finally setting up Weigh-Ahead last year.

Mrs Stewart said she is shocked by how popular their invention has become. The couple stumbled on the idea at an airport when they saw how irate passengers became after being told at the check-in desk they had to pay an excess baggage charge, and how lengthy the delays caused by overweight bags could be.

“Ultimately this idea will help bring the feel good factor back into flying, by enabling passengers to weigh their baggage, and redistribute any excess weight,” said Mrs Stewart, from North Shields, North Tyneside.

“We now have commercial agreements in place, which means we can now look forward to seeing Weigh-Ahead in more British and European airports, and ultimately around the world.”

As well as the potential of international expansion, the entrepreneurs have scored further recent success by winning the business start-up category at the North Tyneside Small Business Awards.

Weigh-Ahead has been helped by TBI Solicitors, to protect the invention.

Amanda Mitten, intellectual property specialist at TBI Solicitors, said: “Weigh- Ahead is a great, but simple, idea and for this reason it was vital to maximise protection with a portfolio of intellectual property rights for the products to avoid imitations.

Alongside patent protection, we secured design registrations and trade mark protection in the UK and Europe,” she said.

“Carole and Gerard have researched extensively, and taken four years to reach this point. It is inspiring to work with such enthusiastic entrepreneurs, and we wish them every success as Weigh-Ahead rolls out to many more airports.”