Video: 'Baggage system from hell'

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/16/2005 7:33:00 PM ET 2005-08-16T23:33:00

It took 10 years and at least $600 million to figure out big muscles, not computers, can best move baggage.

The baggage system launched, chewed up, and spit out bags so often, it became known as the “baggage system from hell.”

In 1994 and 1995, the baggage system kept Denver’s shiny new airport from opening. When it finally did open, the baggage system didn’t.

It was such a colossal failure every airline but United Airlines refused to use it. And now, finally and miserably, even United is throwing in the towel. 

On Labor Day, the system of 300 computers directing carts along little railroad tracks in the bowels of the airport will be shut off. The airport will go back to old reliable tugs and carts.

“United wanted a system that would move hundreds of thousands of bags quickly and efficiently,” says aviation consultant Michael Boyd, “and basically, it couldn’t move a Barbie doll efficiently.”

The airline, which wouldn’t talk on camera, told NBC News it will save  $1 million in maintenance costs if it can get out of a $60 million-a-year equipment lease it pays the airport, which runs until the year 2025.

People who have tried to make the baggage system work say it’s always been a bunch of scrap. 

And that’s likely where it will end up — on the scrap pile fetching somewhere between $60 and $90 a ton.

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