ORLANDO, Fla. – When you travel by plane, is your biggest worry your luggage?
The Orlando International Airport’s state-of-the-art baggage handling system at the soon-to-open Terminal C should eliminate a lot of checked luggage fears.
You’ll never see it and never know it, but as soon as you hand over your luggage at the check-in counter in Terminal C, your bag will be dropped off into a yellow “smart” bin — a plastic sled that has its own RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tracking — to automatically go whizzing around the six miles of internal converter belt.
MCO provided News 6 behind-the-scenes video.
Think of it like your bag is taking its own trip, on a highway, getting off at certain exits at different places under the new terminal.
It will be shuffled to a robotic storage spot where bags will wait if passengers check them in early more than three hours before a flight.
Or it will be transported directly to the tarmac to a waiting plane, potentially at the same time as other bags headed to that plane so airline baggage handlers can load a plane quicker.
Or, a bag will be directed to the exit: the luggage carousel.
There are more automated luggage collection points closer to more planes on the tarmac, so bags will be driven a much shorter distance from planes to collection points compared to Terminals A and B.
Scott Goodwin, MCO Airport Operations Manager, said once a bag is loaded onto the sled, it will pass through the entire Terminal C in five minutes.
“Think of it like bumper cars.,” Goodwin said. “These bins run into each other and they just bounce off each other. And when they do, the system will pick up that RFID chip and say now I know what this bag is, I can still treat it differently. So your bags aren’t going to the wrong places all over the country. We always know where the bags are in the system.”
Goodwin said the sled, with your bag, will get to and from your plane faster compared to Terminals A and B.
“With these high side-walls, it gets contained in here,” Goodwin said. “One of the things I like to talk about, [with the old system in Terminals A and B] we get two bags on a conveyor system that may run together that might get hooked together, and when the system says one is going to Philadelphia and one is going to Atlanta on another airline, will they become as one bag and go to that location.”
But not in Terminal C.
“The RFID chip will match up your bag tag with bin, and we have over several thousand data points so we know where the bag is throughout the data process,” Goodwin said.
The new smart bins won’t get jammed — no loose straps or strollers will be sticking out of the bins to get snagged and stop the conveyor belt. Hundreds of bags are delayed, caught, or lost every day in the old terminals.
“In Orlando, we get more car seats, more strollers and more golf clubs than anywhere else in the country,” Goodwin said. “That is a challenge of the Terminals A and B because the conveyor system, the straps that are in car seats, can get lodged in the system and delay the system. This is contained [with the yellow bins], no straps or wheel or anything hanging out.”
So how many delays or losses or misrouted baggage does Goodwin expect in Terminal C?
“Near zero,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin said the early baggage storage area will ease the strain of travelers arriving at the airport hours early. MCO leads the country in passengers arriving at the airport excessively early, according to Goodwin.
“People have to check out of their hotels at a certain time, the cruise ships are a big one that come in at Port Canaveral in the morning, and just based on the flight schedules if somebody has a flight that might leave at 6 or 7 at night or they’re out of their hotel or they don’t have a cruise ship, they might get here at noon,” Goodwin said.
The TSA signed off on the new Terminal C baggage handling system in March. Goodwin continues to test it.
Terminal C is scheduled to open Sept. 19.