The Art of Baggage Handling: Fraport Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Frankfurt Airport's Automated Baggage Conveyor System
Frankfurt am Main, ots) - More Than 400 Million Suitcases Transported Quickly and Reliably with Clockwork Precision - World's Largest Baggage System Continues to Grow
This week Fraport AG celebrated the 30th anniversary of Frankfurt Airport's (FRA) automated baggage conveyor system. Regarded as unique in the world in terms of size, functionality and performance, Frankfurt's baggage system - called GFA in company jargon (short for Gepäckförderanlage in German) - has grow significantly over the past three decades. Resembling a miniature roller coaster of conveyor routes, the GFA now comprises more than 67 kilometers of guideways versus 26 kilometers when it first went into regular operation in 1974. The GFA could be called a mission critical system because it gives Frankfurt Airport a strategic advantage in delivering top quality service to its airline and passenger customers from around the globe. "Without the GFA system, Frankfurt Airport would not be able to perform competitively as one of the key hubs in intercontinental air transportation," said Prof. Manfred Schölch, Fraport AG's executive board vice chairman. The system is also vital for maintaining Frankfurt Airport's quick transfer times of 45 minutes or less. Not surprisingly, about 54 percent of FRA's 48.4 million passengers in 2003 transferred or connected to another flight.
A technological marvel, then and today, the GFA has grown into an airport-wide system and has become more efficient than ever. In the beginning, the GFA - which automatically sorts and conveys the baggage of departing and transfer passengers - handled around 13,000 baggage items per day. Now, this is the amount sorted and conveyed during the early morning hours up to about 07:00. Currently, the GFA handles more than 100,000 items on peak days. Lined up in a row, these suitcases would stretch all the way from Frankfurt am Main to Heidelberg, Germany.
Major expansions to the system included: an apron station, Terminal 2 (inaugurated in 1994), the Pier A-Extension (2000), and the AIRail Terminal (FlyBaggage Station). In tandem with the airport's growth, the GFA has been expanded incrementally and adapted to new requirements. One of the milestones included the first migration to new control computers in 1993/94, while operations where ongoing. Another milestone was the construction of a high-speed baggage transfer tunnel between Terminals 1 and 2, which allows baggage to be transported at up to five meters per second. This summer, Fraport will switch over to another new generation of computers for running the GFA.
The concept of transporting baggage items in coded plastic tray-type containers has long proven to be very successful at major air hubs like FRA. The reliability rate of this gigantic electromechanical workhorse is 99.65 percent. Operations are only interrupted between 23:30 and 02:00 hours for routine maintenance. Approximately 1,500 Fraport employees work in baggage services and GFA operations and maintenance at Frankfurt Airport.
However, the GFA success story does not end with the 30th anniversary that was marked on February 18. New challenges lie ahead. FRA's planned Airport Expansion Program (AEP) calls for the phased construction of a new Terminal 3 on the southern side of the airport. Terminal 3 will have its own baggage system but this will have to be linked via a tunnel under the parallel runways to the main GFA at Terminals 1 & 2 on the northern side of the airport. Another challenge is that X-ray machines and other security features for 100-percent screening of hold baggage have to be fully integrated into the GFA system by 2006. Frankfurt Airport now meets this EU security requirement using X-ray machines placed in front of the check-in counters throughout Terminals 1 and 2.