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Narrowbody Containerization

Wed Nov 18, 2009 5:44 pm

So I am curious about the case for narrowbody cargo hold containerization. For example, I know that Air France (and I am pretty sure British Airways as well, in addition to other carriers) loads small cargo containers with passenger baggage into the holds of their Airbus narrowbody fleets (A319/A320/A321). These containers look like shrunken-down versions of LD-2/LD-3 containers, but I don't know what their identifier is. However, in the U.S., none of our carriers use any form of containerization on narrowbodies, all bags and cargo are bulk loaded. So I am curious as to why several European carriers chose this option and why none of the U.S. carriers did. Specifically, what is the business/operational case in favor of or against containerization? Why is it more or less efficient than bulk-loading? Is there something specific of the under-wing operations in Europe vs. the U.S. that justifies this? Also, what additional equipment or overhead comes along with choosing containers vs. bulk? Just another little operational thing that I've been curious about for a while.


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RE: Narrowbody Containerization

Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:16 pm

Didn't Emery have some oddly shaped containers for their DC-8s?
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RE: Narrowbody Containerization

Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:54 pm

As far as equipment goes, you'd need to replace belt loaders with k-loaders which I imagine aren't very cheap, as well as purchase a whole new fleet of carts to carry the containers around. I would also assume that the introduction of the roller trays and other necessary locking equipment, as well as the tare weight of the containers, to an aircraft would add an unfavorable amount of extra weight.

On the operations side, I'm not sure how exactly a containerized system would work with a large connecting hub. Most domestic turns through the hub I work at are scheduled for around 1 hour, and having to break open a bunch of containers to deliver 70-100 connecting bags to 20 different gates seems like quite a task. A couple of weeks ago I had about 50 connecting bags show up 15 minutes prior to departure, and I don't think they would all fit in the bulk hold of a 320. I think this system would work well, however, with longer turns and/or a higher percentage of O&D pax.

Maybe someone who actually has worked with containers can offer a better perspective on this though, since I really have no experience with them.
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RE: Narrowbody Containerization

Thu Nov 19, 2009 12:01 am

Containers for the A320 series are LD3-45 or AKH (depending on the classification you prefer). Pic here:

BA have all A319,320,321s containerised. A319s were bulk loaded until T5 opened, however this is a container only terminal (one of the reasons the 757s were kept at T3), so they were all converted.

BD have all A320,321s containerised, with the exception of some ex-BMED aircraft. The A319s are still bulk loaded.

Quoting MadDogJT8D (Thread starter):
Specifically, what is the business/operational case in favor of or against containerization? Why is it more or less efficient than bulk-loading?

I would say it is far more efficient to bin load an aircraft than bulk load it. A bulk loaded aircraft needs every single bag to be placed onto a belt, then removed at the other end. This can use up quite a few men, and can take aaages (a full A321 can have 200+ bags). Its also a physically tiring job, meaning overall lower productiveness. Container loading uses only 2 men and takes significantly less time & energy. Bins are filled and emptied away from the aircraft, where time constraints are much less allowing more work to be done by fewer people.

Of course this has to be balanced against funding the equipment and infrastructure needed, which is more advanced for container loading.
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RE: Narrowbody Containerization

Thu Nov 19, 2009 12:27 am

I believe LH has their A319 in bulk config and A320/321 containerized.

AB uses containers on its A321 and bulk loads A319 and A320.

AY uses containers on its whole Airbus fleet, but I've also seen occasions when they have been bulk-loaded. It's basically just a matter of adding nets into the hold.

From my experience most charter- and low cost carriers prefer bulk loading and traditional network airlines use containers more often. Having worked in arrival service for a couple of years, I also have a feeling bulk-loaded planes end up with much more damaged bags than containerized aircraft, though I haven't seen any statistics about it. Makes sense when you think about it, though!

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RE: Narrowbody Containerization

Thu Nov 19, 2009 3:56 am

Quoting MadDogJT8D (Thread starter):
However, in the U.S., none of our carriers use any form of containerization on narrowbodies, all bags and cargo are bulk loaded.

UA used an early form of containerized baggage on DC-8s 50 years ago. They were fairly small with a curved bottom and were transported to/from the aircraft on special trolleys. If memory correct, they were hoisted into the aircraft through a hatch in the bottom of the fuselage using some kind of pulley system, rather than being loaded through the usual type of baggage compartment doors. That may have been unique to UA DC-8s as I can't recall other DC-8 operators using that system. Four of those containers (sitting in their special trolleys) are visible in the following photo.

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