Denver International Airport baggage screening breakdown blocked 2,000 bags from flights

Bruce Finley, The Denver Post on

Published in Business News

DENVER — Denver International Airport officials on Monday were trying to sort out a baggage system breakdown that blocked about 2,000 bags from flights and delayed travelers on Sunday, the latest of recurring baggage system problems at DIA.

DIA staffers had to manually process and haul bags between 8:30 a.m. and the resumption of “normal” operations around 4 p.m. Sunday.

It was unclear how many delays resulted from the breakdown. Typically, 1,700 to 2,000 flights a day arrive and depart from DIA. According to FlightAware monitoring data, 460 flights at DIA were delayed and 23 were canceled on Sunday — down from 528 delays and 31 cancelations on Saturday. On Monday at 1:15 p.m., DIA had 119 delays and four cancellations.

“We believe the issue is associated with equipment installed in about 2018,” DIA spokesman Michael Konopasek said in an emailed response.

“There were about 2,000 bags that failed to load on flights. The backlog is not impacting operations” on Monday, Konopasek said.


DIA has received a federal grant to improve its baggage system, which relies on conveyor belts and other equipment to screen millions of bags a month. As more travelers move through the airport — around 78 million a year — airport crews have been hard-pressed to prevent breakdowns.

The airport opened in 1995 and was designed with a capacity for 50 million travelers a year.

On Jan. 7, a problem that DIA officials described as “a mechanical issue” led to a baggage handling breakdown that contributed to hundreds of flight delays and worsened snowstorm-related backlogs. Denver airport crews worked with airlines to process travelers’ bags at airline ticket counters. The city deployed police and Transportation Security Administration dogs in a scramble to process backlogged bags.

On Sunday, airport officials said, the breakdown hit Southwest and United Airlines travelers the hardest.

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