15 July 2014 at 08.21 GMT
Airline passengers may face long delays waiting for their luggage if the company behind the problems does not address its staff shortages ahead of the summer rush, a union claims.
People flying in to Gatwick airport last weekend had to wait up to 90 minutes to reclaim their bags due to “resourcing issues” at Swissport, one of the three baggage handling companies at the airport.
Gatwick confirmed the delays were not due to any technical failures and said the airport was in discussions with Swissport to urge the company to improve its services.
The problems came just two weeks after a previous wave of baggage reclaim delays at the airport due to Swissport’s lack of staff, the Telegraph reported.
Swissport claims it is taking on more staff to prevent further problems.
But union leaders warned that there will be further delays as the school summer holiday rush begins if Swissport does not do more to retain its staff.
Peter Raven, Gatwick branch secretary for GMB, which represents a number of Swissport workers, told the newspaper: “Swissport has been experiencing staff shortages for a while.
“Our members were all saying they have been struggling with the workload and working through their breaks, which isn’t acceptable when they are working long shifts of 12 hours or so.
“This problem is going to re-occur, especially if it gets busier, which it will do in the next few weeks with the school holidays. I don’t think the company is doing enough to address this issue.
“They seem to have a high turnover and need to address the terms and conditions they are offering to keep experienced professional staff in place.
“They need staff who know their way around the airport; for new staff and agency workers this can be very difficult. People should prepare themselves for more delays.”
Swissport is contracted to handle luggage for a number of airlines at Gatwick including British Airways, Monarch, Thomson and Thomas Cook.
It handles baggage at airports including Heathrow, Luton, Manchester and Edinburgh.
Swissport spokesman Colin Higgins said: “We did experience a few difficulties over the weekend as we were particularly down on staff, but we have appointed new staff and are continuing to do so. We do not anticipate any more problems.”
Gatwick expects departing passenger numbers to reach 200,500 people this weekend, then 356,000 the weekend after with a peak of 508,000 people from Friday, July 25 to Monday, July 28.
Manchester airport is predicting 241,000 people to pass through next weekend, while East Midlands airport set the figure at 57,000.
Stansted Airport is expecting passenger numbers to reach 37,000 on July 25, with 38,000 the following Friday.
Sourced from Travel Weekly