The National Academies

ACRP 03-53 [Completed]

Airport Baggage Handling System Decision-Making Based on Total Cost of Ownership

  Project Data
Funds: $344,666
Research Agency: Studdiford Technical Solutions
Principal Investigator: Larry Studdiford
Effective Date: 5/20/2020
Completion Date: 3/25/2022



Airports take a wide range of approaches to designing and building baggage handling systems (BHS). Most systems are designed and built with a focus on minimizing capital costs without much consideration given to the future costs of performance, operations, and maintenance. ACRP Research Report 172: Guidebook for Considering Life-Cycle Costs in Airport Asset Procurement provides broad total cost of ownership guidance for airport infrastructure projects; however, it does provide specific guidance for BHS. In addition, airports lack guidance for benchmarking and tracking BHS total cost of ownership, and incorporating it into financial models.


Research is needed to develop a guidebook for airport stakeholders for incorporating total cost of ownership for BHS, including related infrastructure and resources.




The objective of this research is to develop a guidebook for incorporating total cost of ownership into BHS decision-making, including related infrastructure and resources.


The guidebook should help users:

  • Incorporate BHS into benefit-cost analyses and financial models;
  • Identify and evaluate potential project delivery methods;
  • Define fixed and variable costs for capital expenditure and ongoing operating costs;
  • Identify intangible costs that should be considered for BHS (e.g., customer experience, worker productivity, risk management); and
  • Evaluate operation and maintenance business models (i.e., third-party, airline, and airport). 

The guidebook should include:

  • Overview of trends in baggage handling technologies (e.g., automated guided vehicle (AGV), individual carrier systems (ICS), early bag storage (EBS));
  • Overview of trends in baggage handling services (e.g., remote bag drop, self-service bag drop, universal bag drop);
  • Overview of trends in BHS operations and maintenance;
  • Potential BHS fixed and variable cost elements to evaluate total cost of ownership;
  • Recommended metrics to benchmark and measure BHS performance (e.g., energy cost per bag, total cost per bag, cost of maintenance per bag);
  • Representative case studies from the airport industry and other material handling industries demonstrating:
    • How total cost of ownership informed decision-making;
    • Key elements of the decision-making process for new-build, renovation, expansion; and
    • Analysis of total cost of ownership for systems of varying complexities;
  • Simple visual tools (e.g., flowchart, decision tree, checklist of costs) to facilitate decision-making; and
  • Glossary.


Research is complete.  Publication is anticipated in spring of 2023.

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