In order to improve the quality of services, AIR FRANCE invested in a world-unique, state-of-the-art centre for the automated processing of late bags.

Because of certain problems of the airline industry, some bags may be mishandled, mainly during transfers, and cannot be redirected on a same-day flight. To be able to process these particular cases as quickly as possible, AIR FRANCE wished to optimise the whole process to significantly improve their performance and the quality of information provided to passengers, while limiting the operating costs.

Alstef was in a good position to bring its expertise to Group 3S, a supplier of the logistics services at Paris CDG, who had been selected by Air France following an international call for tender.

The building and the equipment of this centre were designed to meet the standards of HEQ (High Environmental Quality), with particular attention given to minimise the energy consumptions of the automated equipment used in the process.

The baggage handling system has been designed taking in consideration two major steps: the fast pre-sorting of late bags that can be redirected immediately onto another flight; and the storage of remaining late bags in an automated storage area.

Thus all late bags on the platform are collected and conveyed in the fast pre-sorting area that can process up to 1,600 bags per hour.

he bags are immediately identified in this same area. The computer system designed by Alstef communicates with the Air France IT system to find the most appropriate flight. Approximately 13% of late bags can be immediately re-routed towards their final destination.

Late bags for which no immediate flight is available are transported in dollies towards the automated delivery centre located approximately 3km from the pre-sorting area.

The automated delivery centre can receive during peak periods up to 1,400 "standard" or "oversize" bags.

This centre includes a computer controlled manual storage area used as buffer, which can store up to 200 dollies. It can absorb the occasional peak flows.

A second area is dedicated to automated storage. It has a capacity of 1,050 standard bags per hour.

The automated storage area includes:

  • A bag handling tote system with 6 stations to load bags in totes at input , and to identify bags with bar-code readers
  • Three manual identification stations for bags without a tag or with an unreadable tag
  • Each tote is tracked with an RFID tag
  • A storage system for totes (empty or full) with 5,240 locations is served by 7 mini, fast running (4m/s) stacker-cranes, with the possibility to add 2 others
  • Each stacker-crane is fitted with a specific picking device to be able to pick up to 2 totes simultaneously, and the storage is in double depth to allow access to any bag, even if a stacker-crane is stopped in the adjacent aisle
  • 13 continuous or discontinuous lifts are used to link the tote handling loops between them at the various levels of the system
  • Several stations are located along the circuit: five screening stations for bags without a tag, five re-tagging stations for bags to be re-routed, six programmable sorting destinations allow the loading of the dollies, one sorting destination is allocated to customs. Bags go through X-Ray control and are dispatched either to an AF agency integrated to the delivery centre, for final delivery to the passengers, or to a loading platform for onward transport (taxis or forwarders)

Alstef is responsible, for the next six years, for the operation and maintenance of all the mechanical and IT aspects of the management system in this centre that was commissioned in May 2012.