Bags advice for Gatwick passengers

Passport control at Gatwick AirportPassengers are being advised to pack essential items in their hand luggage ahead of another possible weekend of baggage chaos at Gatwick.

The West Sussex airport's under-fire baggage-handling company Swissport has drafted in 40 extra workers following last weekend's staff-shortage problems which saw some passengers told to go home without collecting their luggage.

And Gatwick management have also brought in their own employees to assist with the bag-recovery operation.

A spokeswoman for travel organisation Abta said today: "We hope people can pass through Gatwick smoothly this weekend. But if people are concerned it would be a good idea for them to put essential items in their carry-on bags.

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"Both Gatwick and Swissport are putting on extra people and we are confident this should help address the problem."

Swissport has been criticised for using workers on zero-hours contracts who are reluctant to work unsociable hours.

The baggage problem last weekend was at its most acute between 10.45pm on Saturday until the early hours of Sunday, with Richard Sargent, a wheelchair basketball player for Team GB, being left waiting more than four hours for his wheelchair after returning from a holiday in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Gatwick management have criticised Swissport, saying the company had "failed to meet standards".

A Gatwick 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."

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Bags advice for Gatwick passengers

If you are a victim of a strike, or any other event beyond the airline's control (including ash clouds!), they must offer you a refund (in which case it's up to you to find a way home) or an alternative flight. While you are waiting for the flight you have the right to food and refreshment and accommodation.

If you are on a package holiday, your tour operator is entirely responsible for looking after you until you get back to the UK.

This is more likely to happen due to the financial crisis, but in some situations you are covered. 

If you pay by credit card and it's over £100, you'll get a refund from the card company. 

Your travel insurance may well cover you too, but check before you go.  

Talk to the airline, and if it is temporarily misplaced they should arrange for it to be sent to your accommodation, and you should be either given cash to cover the essentials in the interim.

If it's completely lost you must wait 21 days and then make a claim for compensation. If you are travelling as part of a package you can claim costs from your operator.

If you are travelling within the EU you need an EHIC card, which gives you access to public healthcare. However, this won't necessarily be free, and if you need extra services such as accommodation for a carer, a helicopter home or a delayed flight, you could end up seriously out of pocket.

The only protection that will guarantee you will be looked after without running up a horrendous debt is by having travel insurance - which often covers up to £10 million of costs.

The most common form of theft is pick-pocketing, followed by theft from a car and bag snatching. Meanwhile, 752,000 of those surveyed had items stolen from their hotel room or villa.

If you have anything stolen, your only protection is insurance. You need to tell the local police immediately and get a crime reference for your travel insurer.


Swissport has blamed last week's problems on the arrival of off-schedule flights but has also apologised for its performance.

Swissport said: "Nothing that has happened during the past week gives an indication that this weekend will cause the baggage chaos being suggested.

"In order to accommodate the expected higher level of movements this weekend, Swissport has continued its policy of recruitment to Gatwick and increased its ramp staff accordingly.

"Swissport has taken steps to boost the number of staff available to cover for off-schedule arrivals, increasing its ramp teams by over 40 staff."

The company went on: "The summer peak season puts pressure on all baggage handling companies.

"Swissport is disappointed that we have fallen below our standards during this time and will do all possible to ensure the travelling public are not inconvenienced in any way."

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