Multi-million dollar system at Lindbergh Field promises shorter airport baggage wait

Lindbergh Field unveils $35 million baggage system

SAN DIEGO - Lindbergh Field is promising a new $35 million system will get you your bags faster.

San Diegans know standing at the baggage claim at Lindbergh Field can be a painful waiting game.

"I've had [baggage] not show up and end up somewhere else," said traveler Tracy Ferrell. "I mean, you're thinking, 'This is a smaller airport. It's not far to bring your bag from here to there.'"

For Marine Brian Tully, that kind of long wait or lost bag is not something he can afford to have happen on Tuesday. He told 10News he has been burned at Lindbergh before.

"I was going from Minnesota to San Diego to Hawaii," said Tully. "By the time I got to Hawaii they'd lost three pretty big pieces of luggage. We had to buy all new clothes in Hawaii, which is not cheap."

On Tuesday, he was on way to combat training. He said he could get dishonorably discharged if he shows up late and that he has seen it happen before.

"It's an unauthorized absence and I could get a dishonorable discharge," said Tully. "So, hopefully I don't show up late."

10News was the first to go behind the scenes of a new baggage handling system. The airport says it will help reduce wait times for passengers like Tully.

"I think what they're going to find out is that it's made their trip much more efficient," said Katie Jones, who is with the Airport Authority.

Not only that, the airport claims it will be safer, with every bag being itemized and scanned.

Luggage will only be searched if an alarm goes off. About $35 million went into a sprawling 1.5-mile maze of sorters, screeners and conveyer belts. The money came from a combination of FAA grants, stimulus money, airport bonds and concession profits. It is all automated and takes a staff of only five. The whole system uses 500 motors to run.

10News reporter Natasha Zouves put it to the test, timing a bag from the beginning to end.

However, the whole system stalled three times. The airport says it is still working out the kinks and that it is part of having a new completely automated system.

The system has been up and running for a month now. Although the airport says it is too early to tell definitively, they have noticed a change for the better.

Tully made it out of the airport in less than 15 minutes.

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