Passengers fly without luggage as Gatwick chaos worsens

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Gatwick tackles luggage crisis
Gatwick tackles luggage crisis

Passengers are being told they have to fly without their luggage as Gatwick Airport struggles to cope with a baggage handling crisis that has caused chaos for thousands.

The airport is bringing in its own staff to help with the luggage crisis amid fears there could be further problems this weekend.

Staff shortages affecting baggage-handling company Swissport led to some passengers at the Sussex airport having to fly abroad without their luggage last weekend, while others ran into long delays in reclaiming bags having flown back to Gatwick.

Richard Sargent, a wheelchair basketball player for Team GB, was left waiting more than four hours for his wheelchair after returning from a holiday in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Mr Sargent, 23, who landed on a Thomson Airways flight at 1.25am on Sunday, told the Daily Telegraph: "I was left stranded in baggage reclaim. I was not asking for special treatment, just to be able to freely move around the terminal and use the toilet."

Another traveller had still not got his suitcase by the middle of this week having flown to Paphos in Cyprus last weekend.

A number of UK airlines use Swissport and one of them, Monarch, is understood to be ending its contract with the company, although it is carrying on using them for the time being.

Swissport has said it put extra staff on last weekend to deal with "off-schedule arriving aircraft" but added that it was still not able to accommodate the handling of all these off-schedule arriving planes.

However, it is understood that the company is using staff on zero-hours contract who could be reluctant to work antisocial hours. The baggage problem last weekend was at its most acute between 10.45pm on Saturday until the early hours of Sunday.

A Gatwick airport spokesman said: "Bags on 95 per cent of scheduled flights into Gatwick are delivered to passengers in the reclaim halls within 55 minutes. We want all bags on all flights to be delivered within this timeframe and so are working closely with the small number of airlines which employ Swissport to help improve the baggage delivery service.

"While Swissport is directly employed by the airlines to provide ground handling services, including baggage delivery, Gatwick has been supplementing their staff by up to 25 per cent to assist with baggage delivery and other ground handling services in recent weeks."

The spokesman went on: "Gatwick will continue to carefully monitor Swissport's performance and offer assistance to them as required over the remainder of the summer to minimise the impact on passengers and safeguard our expected level service."

Monarch Airlines would not comment on contractual arrangements with Swissport. Monarch said: "We work closely with a number of third party service providers across our bases to provide services such as baggage handling.

"We are working closely with Gatwick airport and our ground handling agent to improve service levels for customers flying with us."

British Airways said: "We have been given no reason to expect any issues this weekend at Gatwick, either from the airport authority or Swissport.

"We will continue to work with Swissport to improve the levels of service to our customers."

In a further statement, Gatwick said it was "disappointed that recent baggage issues have affected too many passengers".

An airport spokesman said: "This has been frustrating for passengers and we are disappointed with the recent arrival baggage service. Swissport has committed to getting this right, and we are working closely with them to help. Gatwick is providing additional staff.

"Although we are not permitted to unload the aircraft, we are assisting with transport of bags to the terminal and the unloading of bags on to belts. We've also introduced a free baggage home delivery service for those who prefer not to wait.

"We are committed to providing an excellent service every day and will continue work with our handlers and airlines to deliver the high standards of service we expect."

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