Passengers at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg are experiencing significant delays in collecting their luggage due to a network glitch that has disrupted the airport's baggage sorting system. Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) reported that the issue began on the morning of May 21, affecting the domestic terminal’s ability to process checked bags.

According to ACSA, the glitch has rendered the automated baggage sortation system inoperative. “Bags checked into the facility are unable to be processed through the sortation system. We can confirm that our team of IT network technicians is actively engaged in resolving this matter promptly,” the company stated. In the interim, airport staff are manually processing luggage, but passengers should expect delays.

Inner Workings of Automated Baggage Systems

Your bag's journey starts at the check-in desk. Here, airline employees attach an RFID tag or special barcode to your luggage. This tag is more than simply a label; it holds important information about flight details, including destination. Your bag is tagged and then put onto a conveyor belt to begin its automated journey through the complex baggage claim area of the airport.

A bag has to go through several security checks before it can continue. Robotic screening devices, such as bomb detection systems and X-ray scanners, carefully check every luggage for forbidden objects. All passenger safety is ensured by taking this important step. Passing through the screening process, bags go on the conveyor system, but bags marked for additional examination are redirected to a different area for manual review.

Every luggage bag that passes through the system after security has been established is scanned by a number of automated scanners that read the barcode or RFID tag that is attached. These scanners guide the luggage according to its intended destination. Advanced technologies such as destination-coded vehicles (DCVs) or totes are used in the sorting process to move bags through an interconnected network of conveyors and sorting junctions. Each bag is accurately sent towards its intended flight thanks to this precise procedure.

Previous Incidents

Wide-ranging effects result from the baggage processing hold-up at OR Tambo, the busiest airport in Africa. The airport is a vital hub for both local and international travel, accommodating about 21 million passengers yearly.

ACSA has previously experienced problems with their baggage sorting system at OR Tambo. A similar technical issue happened in December 2023, during the busiest travel period, resulting in some aircraft leaving without all of the checked luggage on board, which caused major delays and inconvenience for the passengers

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