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I was wondering, how are Lufthansa able to unload luggage (LH 760) of 500 passengers and load the luggage (LH 761) of another 500 passengers, in just a 2 hour gap for return leg of 7000 KM FRA-DEL journey.

What is the average time taken to complete a typical loading and unloading operation for a fully loaded A380? Some simple maths in this case shows its about 14.4 seconds for unloading and loading, pretty very high. But that's assuming that no time is spent in any task other than handling luggage, which is pretty foolish.

Bonus Question : How are the handlers able to complete this operation that fast?

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    $\begingroup$ Because the bags are not handled one-by-one. They come out in a container which is loaded, and unloaded, directly to the aircraft full of bags. $\endgroup$ – Simon Aug 4 '15 at 11:27
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    $\begingroup$ In many (if not all) airliners, there are multiple luggages bay. You may load/unload them independently and simultaneously (given you have enough workers). Not to mention ULD and self-loading fret using multiple jetways while the luggages are handle (possible as they are not using the same doors) $\endgroup$ – Manu H Aug 4 '15 at 13:06
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Another Airbus document mentions (on page 188, section 5-2-1) full load of A380 as

  • FWD cargo compartment: 20 containers
  • AFT cargo compartment: 16 containers
  • Bulk cargo compartment: 1,000 kg (2,205 lb).

and rate of loading and unloading as

Container unloading/loading times:

  • Unloading = 1.2 min/container
  • Loading = 1.4 min/container. Bulk unloading/loading times:
  • Unloading = 110 kg/min (243 lb/min)
  • Loading = 95 kg/min (209 lb/min).

From this calculation best case is they can finish unloading and loading within just above 30 minutes. However this is not possible since there will be some delay due to the fact that there are other things to be done during turn around that may disrupt exchange of cargo. Also other services such as cleaning need to be done during turn around time.

Airbus provides 2 scenarios for turn around time
- 90 minutes if both decks are serviced at the same time.
- 140 minutes if both decks are serviced only from the main deck.

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Passengers' luggage is not loaded in an A380 by one suitcase at a time. That would have been very time consuming.

After passengers check in the luggage and head towards the gate where the superjumbo is parked, their baggage is started to get stored in unit load devices1. And after that, those ULDs are loaded into the airplane:

ULD stored in airplane
Image Source

According to Airbus, A380 can store 38 LD3s. Volume of a typical suitcase/bag (dimensions: 32"H x 12"W x 21"D) is less than 5 cubic feet, so 30 suitcases can easily fit in a single LD3.


Now let's talk about your questions about loading and unloading times. As A380s mostly fly on international routes, passengers are required to check in several hours before a flight's departure. But once they check in their luggage, the process of loading those LD3 start, even if the airplane has not yet arrived at the gate. As soon as the airplane reach the gate, unloading and loading processes start. These two processes are not as time consuming as they may appear2.

Passengers' checked in luggage is not loaded like in this manner (picture below). On a wide-body like an A380, this is the case of carry-on baggage which stored in the underfloor area, instead of overhead bins.

Baggage loading
Image Source


1: A380 uses LD3, whose capacity is 159 cubic feet.
2: Note that after an LD3 is unloaded from an airplane, it might take another hour or even more for the passengers to get their luggage at the baggage claim area.

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    $\begingroup$ Nice detailed and illustrated answer. $\endgroup$ – mins Aug 5 '15 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ accepting the other answer just because it answers the main point of time taken... $\endgroup$ – anshabhi Aug 5 '15 at 12:06

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