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How Baggage Handling Works

        Science | Modern

Making Transfers
The maze of DCV tracks inside a terminal
The maze of DCV tracks inside a terminal

Since the United terminal is a hub, most of the people coming through it are making transfers. Again, the goal of the system is to have the bags keep up with the passengers. Generally, the people can get off the plane faster than the bags can be unloaded, so for the bags to keep up they need to be able to move between gates very quickly.

The terminal is about .6 mi long (1 km) long, and some bags may have to travel that whole distance. The terminal has two separate DCV tracks that make loops around the terminal in opposite directions.

The transferring bags are loaded onto conveyors, where they move through scanning stations and then are routed onto the DCV track. The DCV takes the bags to the proper gate and unloads them.

If you're not making a transfer, your bag has to make it to the baggage-claim area. Let's see how it gets there.