New $8M luggage sorting system at MSP being blamed for lost bags

Nearly 47 million Americans plan to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday. Those flying out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport may want to think twice about checking a bag.  A Fox 9 Investigation discovered a new baggage handling system that has a history of losing luggage.

The new $8 million automated baggage conveyor system delivers luggage from check-in counters to aircraft at MSP's main terminal.  It's a system, the Fox 9 Investigators found, that has been plagued with problems for more than a year but kept quiet by airport officials.

Fox 9 heard about this when a tip came into the newsroom from an airport insider.  Using the state's open records law, we asked the Metropolitan Airports Commission to hand over internal documents. It took more than two months for MAC to release roughly 20 pages of emails.

They paint a picture of a system that struggles to stay on track, losing luggage and sending bags to the wrong airlines. In March, an airline manager sent this email message to MAC: "I had over 50 bags miss the flights this morning. Bags were arriving an hour after the flight departed." "We have been on the system for about 6 months and I do not see any progress."

In June, another airline manager wrote a scathing critique of the contractor responsible for the conveyor system:  "continuing lousy performance out of these clowns."

Things got even hotter over the 4th of July: "We are averaging a meltdown once a week, and I see no pressure from the MAC to correct this issue."

A MAC official fired off this message to the contractor: "sortation failures continue to plague operations in a very costly and unacceptable manner for the airlines. Costs to Delta last week alone was $70K."

The Fox 9 Investigators are told by insiders the new baggage system continues to mis-sort luggage periodically.  They said it's more likely to happen during busy travel periods. MAC officials would not do an interview.

In a prepared statement, MAC wrote: "We have been disappointed by contractor delays and the number of performance issues the system has experienced" -- It went on to read, “performance has improved significantly but there still are bugs to work out.”

The project's contractor, Five Star Airport Alliance of Salt Lake City, didn’t respond to Fox 9 phone calls and emails.

There is one way to avoid the risk of a lost bag, pack light and use a carry on.