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Buffalo airport’s $45 million upgrade will let you snag bags faster

Just like in airport terminals in New York or Toronto, retrieving suitcases from sloped plate carousels will soon provide faster service and fewer breakdowns following approval of a $45 million upgrade to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport’s baggage handling system.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s airport planners and consultants are now ready to begin designing 60,000 square feet of additional space to the airport’s lower baggage level. A new two-and-a-half story addition is now preliminarily planned for the main terminal area’s west end.

The 4.8 million travelers annually using Buffalo Niagara will notice the difference when the project is completed in late 2018, NFTA Executive Director Kimberley A. Minkel said.

“It should be quicker and easier,” she said, improving average wait time for baggage retrieval to even better than the current nine minutes after landing.

Highlights of the new system include:

• New inbound baggage belts.

• Three new sloped plate baggage claim carousels.

• A new passenger meet and greet area.

• A new passenger arrival exit way.

• Reconfigured arrival level vehicle drive lanes with covered passenger pick up.

Construction is expected to start in late 2017.

The new baggage system is only part of a 20-year master plan the NFTA adopted in 2013 that will eventually devote more than $406 million to a host of new projects. Some aspects of the plan such as new main doorways to the terminal and parking improvements have already been implemented, but other major projects remain on the drawing board.

A significant part of the plan includes the new baggage system, which is expected to eliminate congestion in the claim area and provide better passenger circulation during peak periods.

In addition, the project will enhance security by eliminating potential access points on the existing flatplate baggage conveyors between the airport’s “landside” operations inside the terminal and its “airside” operations where planes land.