DENVER — Denver International Airport’s baggage handling system suffered a breakdown Sunday, causing airline delays and headaches for travelers.
Officials with DIA tweeted that a mechanical issue with the baggage system brought the operation to a screeching halt early Sunday morning. However, the issue was resolved shortly after 7 a.m., but it took some time to “get the backlogged bags through the system and onto their respective planes,” DIA said in a statement.
The mechanical issue took place this morning and was resolved around 7:15 a.m. All airlines were impacted on some level. DEN is working with airlines to process bags from the ticket counter as quickly as possible and has deployed extra resources (DPD & TSA K9 units as well as City of Denver Personnel) to help assist with baggage movement.
Please contact individual airlines to learn more information.
As of Sunday night, DIA was reporting 558 delays and 63 cancelations on the day, according to flightaware.com.
“The longest line I've ever seen in my life," said Elana Sharff about the line to check her bag while trying to fly home to Oregon. “We heard that there was going to be maybe a little bit of a delay, but we had no idea what we were getting into.”
All airlines were impacted to some degree, according to the airport.
NOW: This is the Southwest line to check a bag at 3:30 PM at #DenverInternationalAirport. Employees tell me everything’s moving slowly because it’s all being done manually, after a technical issue at around 7:15 AM.— Colette Bordelon (@ColetteBordelon) January 7, 2024
Some say they’ve been waiting for 2+ hours. @DenverChannel pic.twitter.com/WJeEc9yJfa
Denver7 spoke with travelers who waited for more than two hours in lines to check their bags, only to reach the front of the line as their flight was boarding.
“It's been exhausting, sad, and tiring for the end of your vacation, when you just want to get home. That's all I want is to get home," said Melissa Buchanan, whose family had to book a new flight for Monday. “My fear is this isn't going to be resolved, and we're going to have our luggage and still have to go through this again tomorrow.”
Buchanan's husband, Jeff, said Southwest provided him with a phone number and email address for the City of Denver, telling him the city owns the conveyor belts.
“They're telling us that their conveyor belt was down. So, we asked a Southwest employee and they said it's not their issue. It's the City of Denver's issue. And apparently, it's nobody's issue. They keep pointing fingers at each other, and you can't really get a straight answer," said Jeff Buchanan.
One airline employee told Denver7 the lines were so long because all of the bags had to be manually taken to the planes.
“This is one of the busiest airports in the world, you think they'd have some type of mechanism to either deal with it, or once again, give me enough notice," said Roderick Bennett, an ER doctor who must be back in Florida to cover a shift on Monday night. "If you tell me 'Hey, you need to be here four hours early.' I'll be here four hours early.”
Some airlines are metering the induction of bags into the system based on departure times in order to get as many bags onto departing aircraft as they can. They also plan to increase customer service and ramp employees for the evening to help offset the issue, one source told Denver7.
Southwest Airlines issued the following statement to Denver7:
"A mechanical issue is affecting the baggage system and impacting several carriers that operate at Denver International Airport. Southwest Airlines Employees are working to get the bags through the system and loaded onto their respective planes, however this is resulting in delays for our Denver departures. We apologize to Customers for the inconvenience and appreciate their patience as we work to get them to their destinations as quickly as possible."
Weather delays from the East Coast are also impacting travel at DIA. Hundreds of flights at Logan International Airport were delayed or canceled on Sunday according to FlightAware. In Colorado, potential blizzard conditions along the Palmer Divide and I-70 near Limon may add to the delays at the airport on Monday.