Calgary Int'l Looks Forward to Increasing Customer Service & Decreasing Energy Consumption with New Baggage System

Kristin Vanderhey Shaw
Published in: 

When Calgary International Airport (YYC) in Alberta opens the doors to its new International Terminal later this year, a new baggage handling system will be among its notable features. The system is designed to run faster, use less energy and facilitate better bag tracking. Importantly, it will also eliminate the need for passengers on connecting flights to claim and recheck their bags. 

"A key premise behind this entire project is to help expedite transfer travel between Canada and international destinations," explains Don Edwards, director of the International Facilities Project for the Calgary Airport Authority. "This new terminal, with its completely new and automated baggage system, will help facilitate faster transfer times and help support our reputation as a well-connected airport."

Project: New Baggage Handling System
Location: Calgary Int'l Airport
Expected Debut: Fall 2016
Will Serve: New Int'l Terminal & Existing Terminal
General Contractor for Int'l Facilities Project: Ellis Don 
Baggage System Design Consultant: URS
Software Provider: Brock Solutions 
System Manufacturer: Crisplant/Beumer
Make Up: 5 carousels plus oversize
Outbound Capacity: 4,000 bags/hr
Inbound Capacity: 3,800 bags/hr
Transfer Capacity: 1,100 bags/hr
Top Speed: 10 meters/second
Avg. Time for Bag to Travel 
Through System:
10 min.
Total Length: 10,000 meters of conveyor overall  
Self-drop Bag Units in Int'l Terminal: 20
Key Benefits: Eliminate the need for connecting passengers to claim & recheck bags; increased speed & energy efficiency; new system-wide bag tracking capabilities; integrated European Civil Aviation Conference Standard 3 threat detection

As Canada's fourth busiest passenger airport, YYC served more than 15 million travelers last year. Preparing for years to come, officials considered every angle possible to ensure that the new baggage system matches the future-forward environment of its new 2 million-square-foot International Terminal, notes Edwards.

Due Diligence
After researching various systems, visiting numerous airports and consulting several facility operators about best practices for baggage delivery, equipment maintenance and system operation, the planning team developed specific parameters regarding speed, efficiency and bag tracking capabilities for YYC's system.   

"We went to Europe and toured a number of systems that were not common in North America," Edwards recalls. "We didn't want to be on the bleeding edge; we wanted something that had been proven to be successful."

All the research made officials confident that the answer for YYC was a system that uses totes to carry individual bags throughout the screening and handling process. "Tote tray technology was little known in North America at that time, though it is in common use throughout Europe and all through Asia," notes Edwards.

After an extensive search, the airport awarded a contract to Crisplant, a Danish company that has led and managed baggage/material handling operations since the '50s and was folded into Beumer Group in 2009. Among its features, the Beumer/Crisplant system has two elements crucial to YYC: integrated threat detection screening that meets European Civil Aviation Conference Standard 3 and the capability to handle oversize and irregular-shaped items such as skis and golf bags. 

"The requirement by the Calgary Airport Authority for a system that can handle the necessary volume, faster and with better value, and [be] more energy-efficient than its existing conveyor system, is very much a fit with our product and capabilities, as proven in other installations," says Johan Rajczyk, international sales manager for Beumer's airport division. 

With airport officials set on a tote system, URS (which is now part of AECOM) drew up a basic design based on YYC's specific performance parameters such as current and future capacity, checkpoint throughput, sortation accuracy and compliance with Canadian Air Transport Security Authority requirements.  

The system integrates Crisplant's CrisBag tote-based transport system with CrisBelt conveyors, which feature unique start/stop technology that allows sensor-controlled modules to power on only when totes are in operation. This, combined with a top speed of 10 meters per second, makes YYC's new system one of the fastest and most energy-efficient in the world, notes Rajczyk.

The airport also required the new system to track individual bags and tie into its new baggage image and weight information system (BIWIS) from Brock Solutions. BIWIS is a custom software system that allows the airport to process passengers through Pre-Board Screening prior to U.S. Customs.  Originating and transfer passengers need not carry their bags through U.S. Customs. This provides an expedited transfer process, and streamlines the process for originating passengers as well, explains Dan Vandevenne, Brock's West Coast general manager. (YYC is one of eight Canadian airports with U.S. border preclearance facilities.)

Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on each tote provide virtually 100% positive tracking and allow YYC to know where each bag is on the system, note Crisplant personnel.  

"That's particularly important," says Edwards. "We need to be confident of the location of any given bag at all times. If someone's bag needs to be pulled from a flight, we can quickly determine the location of that bag."

As for energy savings, Crisplant says that its tote systems reduce energy costs by 60% compared to traditional conveyor systems because its equipment runs only when sensors detect a bag approaching. According to some studies, any given section of conveyer contains bags only 10% of the time. Running conveyors 100% of the time wastes energy, explain Crisplant personnel.   

One for All
When YYC's new International Terminal opens later this year, its existing facility will become the Domestic Terminal. And installation of the tote system will begin in that facility as well. 

"We made a decision that we would have only one overall bag system for all of YYC," says Edwards. "We were building a new International Terminal, but wanted this for the rest of the airport, too."

During Phase I, the airport upgraded the computer control system in its current terminal, so when the International Terminal opens, it will be ready for Phase II. The Calgary Airport Authority consequently awarded Beumer Group a contract for a second CrisBag system last year. Under the new contract, the company will replace the conveyor-based baggage handling system in YYC's existing terminal with a CrisBag tote-based sorting system with integrated Standard 3 screening. The contract also includes an extension that will link the CrisBag system in YYC's new International Terminal with the new system in its existing terminal, extending 100% system-wide traceability of individual bags to both facilities, note company officials. 

Rajczyk highlights tracking as a crucial element in the future of baggage handling. System designers and manufacturers like Crisplant/Beumer are not only driven by the service expectations of airports and passengers, but also by regulatory requirements, he notes. "Right now, we see a number of hold baggage screening regulations, and we must help the airports ensure optimum efficiency and performance in baggage handling," Rajczyk relates. "In addition, the airline industry has until June 2018 to prepare itself to comply with the new International Air Transport Association (IATA) Resolution 753."

Resolution 753 requires IATA members to "maintain an accurate inventory of baggage by monitoring the acquisition and delivery of baggage." In other words, carriers must know the whereabouts of every piece of baggage from start to finish, paraphrases Rajczyk. 

"While this resolution only applies to airlines that are members of the IATA, this still accounts for over 80% of all air traffic," he notes. "Full cooperation between the airlines, ground-handlers and airports, in addition to expert guidance, will be needed to transform a necessary investment in compliance into a cost-down initiative. This will not only benefit the airlines, airports and ground-handlers, it will mean that significantly fewer passengers will experience the frustration of arriving at their destination without their bags."

According to Crisplant, YYC's new system will provide an initial operational capacity of 8,000 bags per hour, inbound and outbound, when the new International Terminal opens this fall. Planned expansion will further increase capacity to support anticipated passenger growth.

The new baggage handling system is just one part of a larger development plan to help YYC continue to meet the demand associated with multiple years of passenger and cargo growth. As the major air transportation and logistics hub in Alberta, YYC has been the headquarters for WestJet for the last two decades and is an active hub for Air Canada and Air Canada Express. Overall, the airport serves 80 non-stop destinations. 

In addition to opening the new International Terminal, which will double the size of terminal facilities at YYC, the Calgary Airport Authority plans to build a new runway, expand throughput capabilities throughout the airport, improve the existing terminal and add another in-terminal hotel. The International Facilities Project is the single largest expansion the authority has ever undertaken. 


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