Passengers Find Convenience in New Baggage Handling and Screening System
What has over 6.5 miles of conveyor belt and almost 4,000 motors and gearboxes? That would be Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport’s new In-Line Baggage Handling System.
This project has been underway for the past several years. It began as a result of the September 11th attacks. In November 2001, Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, making it mandatory for all airports to screen 100% of all checked baggage by the end of 2002. Due to this requirement, in December 2002, large baggage screening machines came to Sky Harbor. These machines were located in the lobbies and on the curbs of Sky Harbor’s three terminals. Travelers wouldn’t have been able to miss them as they were 18 feet by 5 feet or approximately the size of a small car and weighed roughly 6,000 pounds.
However, over time, there was a need to make the process more efficient for the airlines and easier for travelers. In 2006, Phoenix Sky Harbor created a special section in its Facilities and Services division that would ultimately be responsible for bringing the machines to where they are today, behind-the-scenes out of the public space.
Since then, all of the large screening machines have been moved out of the terminal lobbies. The machines in Terminal 3 were the last to go – in January of this year. Soon, the large screening machines on the curbs will also be a thing of the past.
Sky Harbor’s Design and Construction, Capital Management, Operations and Facilities divisions worked together to make today’s new, behind-the-scenes baggage conveyor and screening system a reality. All of the screening is still done as required, but it is a seamless process with checked baggage being screened in new, dedicated facilities out of the public areas. From a passenger’s perspective, it is similar to how things were before 9/11. Travelers once again leave their checked luggage at the airline ticket counter instead of taking bags to the security screening area.
There are other benefits as well. The screening of checked luggage frees up TSA employees from spending time loading checked luggage into the screening machine. This gives them a chance to be stationed elsewhere to assist travelers.
The first relocation of the system to behind-the-scenes began in Terminal 4 in September 2007. Relocations have continued throughout Terminal 4 with the final three machines expected to be removed from the curbs in late February. In Terminal 3, the new system went live in December 2010. In Terminal 2, the project was completed in June 2008.
Much has changed in air travel since 9/11, but when it comes to checking luggage, the process at Sky Harbor is now very similar to what it was ten years ago.
First posted: 1/28/2011