Work has begun at Melbourne Airport to replace its conveyer belt luggage system with new technology that will let staff track every suitcase from check-in to being stowed on the aircraft.
The airport has described the challenging upgrade as being like “open heart surgery” but said the new process would eventually reduce the number of lost items.
It forms part of a larger $500 million project that will expand Melbourne’s international terminal footprint ahead of a potential expansion.
Melbourne Airport CEO Lorie Argus hailed the new system that will include a new individual carrier system.
“Bags will be stored in a central holding area before being automatically sent to their flight, so we will be able to accept them for check-in much earlier than we currently do, providing passengers and airlines with more flexibility,” she said.
“Our team will work hard to minimise disruption, but this will be a challenging project because our baggage system is effectively the terminal arteries, so it is like doing open heart surgery while running a marathon.”
The project is due for completion in 2027 and comes after Melbourne submitted its plan for a third runway in February, with a decision expected later this year.
The proposed north-south runway would run parallel to an existing north-south runway. Melbourne currently has four terminals, with terminals 1, 2 and 3 in the same building.
The expansion comes after Australian Aviation reported earlier this week how a seventh Chinese airline has resumed flights into Melbourne Airport in a sign of the international market’s continued recovery.
Hainan Airlines has restarted twice-weekly Airbus A330 return services between Melbourne and Haikou, meaning almost all eight of the mainland Chinese carriers that operated to Melbourne before COVID-19 have come back to the airport. The flights will expand capacity between Melbourne and China by more than 1200 seats per week.
According to Jim Parashos, Melbourne Airport’s Chief of Aviation, the resumption of Hainan services to Melbourne is another step in rebuilding Victoria’s biggest pre-COVID inbound market, which saw $3.4 billion in spending in 2019, or 38.3 per cent of all international overnight visitor spend in the state.
“One of the current barriers to a full recovery is the lack of group travel from China, but we are hopeful of a resumption in the coming months, so the additional capacity that Hainan brings will be essential for the inevitable future growth in the demand,” said Parashos.