JetBlue delays Terminal C move-in again largely over high-tech luggage handling system

Testing, learning, setting up new luggage system continues

JetBlue has once again delayed its move-in date at the brand-new, multi-billion-dollar terminal at the Orlando International Airport.

ORLANDO, Fla. – JetBlue has once again delayed its move-in date at the brand-new, multi-billion-dollar terminal at the Orlando International Airport.

News 6 has learned much of the extended delay is because of ongoing issues with the high-tech baggage handling system that MCO touted as a major highlight of the new terminal.

JetBlue, the anchor airline contracted to use a majority of the new gates at Terminal C, was supposed to move in at the end of September. Hurricane Ian delayed the move until early October, but now the projected move-in date is Oct. 25, according to an airport spokesperson, largely because of the baggage handling system currently not handling baggage the way it was designed to.

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When the first passengers passed through the newly-opened Terminal C late last month, it wasn’t quite ready for business. Some of them told News 6 they waited hours to get their luggage and some of them said it didn’t come at all.

Rental car customers arriving at the Orlando International Airport's new terminal are frustrated.

The state-of-the-art baggage handling system on the ground floor of the $2.8 billion terminal is one of the most advanced in the world, so advanced that staff is still learning how to properly use it and configure it, according to MCO Senior Director of Public Affairs and Community Relations Carolyn Fennell.

The miles of track and the RFID-tagged yellow sleds that carry the bags are supposed to deliver luggage from the tarmac to the top of the terminal in record time, but the entire system has to be precisely programmed for each airline, each pickup point and each drop off point, Fennell said.

News 6 could not ask MCO CEO Kevin Thibault about the issues directly – Fennell said he was unavailable Monday for an interview and instead sent us a video in response to our questions.

“Over 20,000 passengers traversed our brand new facility and though it’s a very exciting time and the transition went as smooth as we expected, there were some challenges,” Thibault said in the pre-recorded video. “So while we simulated and tested a number of different scenarios while getting ready for this move into the new facility, clearly nothing substitutes for having live passengers with their luggage and aircraft connected to the terminal to be able to find out the full operations within the new facility. Our baggage system did have its issues, whether it be in the training and familiarity with the airport and airline personnel or customization of that system to meet airlines’ needs. We are continuing to do those customizations and our commitment is to make it the seamlessly flawless baggage system we’re expecting to deliver on behalf of the customer.”

MCO hasn’t said when it thinks all of the issues will be worked out. The same baggage handling system operates perfectly at some of the busiest airports around the world.

On the flip side, the TSA checkpoints in Terminal C and the new technology there has worked perfectly, Thibault said.

Several international carriers moved into Terminal C on Sept. 20 when the terminal opened and in the days after and continue to operate at Terminal C.


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About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.