Life Travel Baggage piles up as air crisis wreaks travel havoc

Baggage piles up as air crisis wreaks travel havoc

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Thousands of passengers have had their flights cancelled as baggage malfunctions cause chaos at London’s Heathrow Airport.

About 30 flights were cancelled on Monday, leaving about 5000 travellers stranded, after airport management asked airlines to cut 10 per cent of flights across two terminals.

It followed days of problems at baggage reclaim areas, with extraordinary images emerging of luggage piled up across the airport.

“We apologise unreservedly for the disruption passengers have faced over the course of this weekend,” an airport spokesperson said.

“The technical issues affecting baggage systems have led to us making the decision to request airlines operating in terminals two and three to consolidate their schedules on Monday, 20 June.

“This will enable us to minimise ongoing impact and we ask that all passengers check with their airlines for the latest information.”

Airlines that cancelled flights included Virgin Atlantic, Flybe, Air France, Air Canada, TAP Portugal, Loganair, British Airways, Delta, Brussels Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Aer Lingus, ITA Airlines, Eurowings, Lufthansa, KLM and Bulgaria Air.

Elsewhere, hundreds of passengers reportedly waited up to three hours to get their luggage after landing at Heathrow on Monday.

By some estimates, 15,000 passengers on about 90 flights were affected.

The chaos came as post-pandemic operations test airlines and airports around the world, including in Australia.

Last week, Britain’s second busiest airport, Gatwick, said it would cut flights taking off during the peak summer season because of staff shortages.

Across the Channel, Amsterdam’s main airport, Schiphol, has also said it will cap the number of passengers during summer, leading to a 16 per cent fall in planned flights.

Earlier this month, there was chaos at Australia’s busiest airports as thousands of people caught flights for the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.

That followed long queues and lengthy delays in the April school holidays.

Airports have warned a repeat is likely in the upcoming July holidays.

Sydney Airport and Melbourne Airport ramped up recruitment efforts ahead of the school holidays, but analysts say it’s too late to make a difference.

Both airports have also announced jobs fairs, aiming to hire thousands of workers. Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said 15,000 jobs were lost during the pandemic and 5000 had yet to be replaced – “even though everyone started recruiting heavily when borders looked like opening”.

“Our security contractor and ground handlers have been advertising jobs since December and have brought 500 staff on board since the start of the year, but they have another 1200 roles to go, which is incredibly challenging in this market,” Mr Culbert said.

A spokesperson from Melbourne Airport told The New Daily on Thursday that the airport was working to avoid a repeat of the Easter travel chaos.

But they conceded baggage handling was proving to be a persistent pain point, as airlines were struggling to put on enough staff with customers returning en masse and many workers stuck at home with COVID.

A Melbourne Airport spokesperson said it was working to avoid a repeat of the Easter travel chaos. But they conceded baggage handling remained a persistent pain point.