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Disney World Guests Warned About Potential Fiasco at Orlando Airport This Summer

Image of a castle with vibrant, exaggerated colors and a dark, ominous sky. The word "WARNING" is prominently stamped in red across the castle, creating a sense of urgency or danger.
Credit: Disney Dining

School’s out, and the summer traveling season is in full swing. And while there’s great anticipation and excitement about summer vacations, fans traveling to Mickey’s stomping grounds in Central Florida are in for a rude awakening if they’re not prepared for a potential problem at Orlando International Airport.

Related: “Danger Noodle” Discovered in Carry-On Bag By TSA Agents at Florida Airport

A map of Florida with a large red pushpin marking a central area near Orlando. An illustration of a blue castle is overlaid on the pushpin, indicating a theme park or significant landmark in that region. Nearby city names like Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville are visible.

Credit: Disney Dining

The Summer Travel Season Is Upon Us

Summertime is upon us, and that means different things to different people. For teachers, it’s the beginning of a nearly three-month sabbatical from the now-empty classroom. For students, it’s the long-awaited break from classes, assignments, and essays.

A classroom with several rows of blue chairs and desks facing a whiteboard. The walls are decorated with colorful educational posters and a string of alphabet cards hung across the room. Cabinets and a sink are visible to the right.

Credit: Disney Dining

For Disney World fans, the beginning of summer serves as a green light on a roadway, welcoming guests to begin making their way from wherever they call home to the Most Magical Place on Earth. The influx of Disney World visitors to Central Florida also signals the beginning of one of the busiest seasons of the year at Florida’s Orlando International Airport (MCO).

Orlando International Airport Sees a Record Year

Orlando International Airport enjoyed a banner year in 2023, experiencing a 15% increase in overall passenger traffic. From January 1 to December 31, 2023, MCO hosted 57.7 million passengers, setting a new record for the airport.

Mco reopening

Credit: Orlando International Airport

International traffic completely rebounded to pre-pandemic numbers, with approximately seven million passengers served in 2023—an increase of nearly 27%. Domestic traffic topped out at more than 50.7 million passengers–a 13.6% increase.

And while airport officials are no doubt pleased with the increase in passenger traffic at MCO, a new problem at Orlando’s largest airport could spell trouble for travelers, especially if they’re not prepared for the situation.

One Airline Pulls Out All the Stops at MCO

In June 2023, one airline that features service to and from Orlando, Florida, via Orlando International Airport announced a brand-new way of doing things when it comes to the daunting task of checking baggage.

A close-up of a gray hard-shell suitcase with orange accents on a conveyor belt in an airport security checkpoint. The suitcase is positioned upright and next to other passengers' items on the conveyor belt.

Credit: Disney Dining

The airline unveiled a new baggage check-in system aimed at reducing the time it takes for passengers to check their luggage when they arrive at MCO. The system involves multiple self-service kiosks.

Passengers can approach the kiosk to begin the process of checking their luggage. At the time of the announcement, the process was said to reduce baggage check-in time to 70 seconds or less.

Per the announcement about the new system, biometric photo-matching technology would be used, as it was currently being used at several other major airports in the United States, including Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport, Chicago/O’Hare International Airport, Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport, and LAX:

Guests can now breeze through check-in at Orlando International Airport (MCO) with the addition of an award-winning self-bag drop with biometric photo-matching. 

Self-bag drop allows Guests to check bags directly without working with an agent. Spirit’s machines are also equipped with biometric photo-matching capability that compares a scan of government-issued identification with a photo of the Guest for verification. Following an initial testing period at MCO with both manual ID check and biometric opt-in, the solution will eliminate the need to hand government-issued identification to an agent when checking baggage.

A busy airport terminal with many passengers standing in line for check-in. People are moving through a maze of black stanchions with their luggage. Various signs and monitors are visible overhead, and the area is well-lit with natural and artificial light.

Credit: Disney Dining

At the time of the system’s unveiling, there was at least one drawback: it was only available for passengers with airfare booked with one particular carrier. In theory, the new system made it unnecessary to stop and visit with an airline agent for assistance with baggage check, thus moving passengers on to the security checkpoint much more quickly.

How Does the New System Work?

In addition to its promise of reducing the time passengers spend checking their bags, the new check-in system also came with the promise of being simple to use.

An airport self-service luggage check-in kiosk with a conveyor belt for scanning bags. There are screens on either side showing instructions. One screen displays a suitcase graphic, indicating the process for baggage check-in.

Credit: Courtesy of SA

It sounds easy enough: Check in at the kiosk and tag your own bag. Then, move toward the self-bag drop receptacle. Scan your boarding pass and then scan your ID. At that point, the system was said to compare the photo ID with information gathered from a facial scan before comparing information from your ID with information about your upcoming flight.

A sleek, modern ID/Passport scanner at an airport positioned next to a conveyor belt. The scanner has a black intake area with a small display screen and is well-lit, ready for travelers to scan their documents for processing.

Credit: Courtesy of SA

If a successful match is found, you simply place your bag on the conveyor belt at the kiosk. The system then scans the bag, weighs it, and even accepts payments for additional services as needed.

It’s a revolutionary system that lends a hand in safely and securely moving passengers through the pre-flight check-in process–when it’s working properly.

But, as is true of many high-tech systems and processes, the new bag-check kiosks at MCO have experienced some technical difficulties of late–difficulties that can increase the time passengers spend in checking their luggage exponentially.

A Sweet Idea Turns Sour

At Orlando International Airport, the airline that features the new kiosks has replaced almost all of its manned bag-check stations with the new self-check kiosks, and often, many of the kiosks are not working properly.

This has led to longer lines at the kiosks that are working, and rather than the unbelievably reduced time of only 70 seconds at the kiosk, some passengers have had to wait close to 40 minutes just to use the machines.

At this time, there is no word on whether the airline is aware of the issue or whether there are plans to service the kiosks. Hopefully, the situation will be resolved before the height of summer travel at Orlando International Airport.

Related: Unauthorized Intruder Causes Mass Chaos at Orlando International Airport

MCO Terminal C

Terminal C at MCO/Credit: Orlando International Airport

A Potential Silver Lining

While this news certainly doesn’t bode well for passengers who are hoping to use the self-check kiosks when they visit Orlando International Airport en route to their destinations this summer, there is, perhaps, a silver lining for many passengers.

As stated above, the new kiosks are only available for passengers of one airline at MCO. The carrier is Spirit Airlines, a so-called “budget-conscious” carrier that specializes in offering low fares on commercial flights. Other airlines have not announced plans for such kiosks at this time, meaning that if you and your traveling party are not flying with Spirit Airlines, you won’t have to deal with the often malfunctioning bag-check kiosks at the Orlando airport.

mco with no passengers

Credit: Disney Dining

Remember, however, that summertime is a very busy season for travelers into and out of Central Florida, and as such, you may find yourself waiting longer than usual to get through the tedious pre-flight processes at the airport.

So that you don’t miss your flight, it’s good to plan ahead and allow extra time for delays that may be caused by an increased number of passengers moving through Orlando International Airport.

Safe travels, and have fun this summer!

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

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