Ground-handler Swissport insisted there would be no repeat of problems with passengers’ bags at Gatwick over this bank holiday weekend, but a union official warned the airport’s problems with baggage handling were “systemic”.
Media uproar over baggage delays in late July was followed by Monarch ending its contract with Swissport and British Airways threatening to drop the firm, one of three ground-handlers at the airport.
Swissport responded by drafting in extra staff from other airports, and Gatwick sent in staff of its own to help. Both declared the problem solved.
However, a Gatwick staff member told Travel Weekly this week: “You’re taking a risk coming to Gatwick after midnight if your flight is handled by Swissport. There have been problems the whole summer, with delays of up to five hours in both terminals after midnight at weekends.
“Travellers need to know why this is happening. Most shifts end at midnight and Swissport doesn’t employ enough people after that.”
Ian McCoulough, regional officer of the Unite union, agreed. He said: “It’s a systemic problem caused by low-cost operation and it isn’t going away. Swissport got rid of 60 staff three months ago. It’s short-staffed.”
McCoulough said new baggage-handlers receive “not much above the minimum wage” and “could earn more at Costa Coffee without getting up at 2am on a Sunday”.
He said: “Swissport is losing contracts, but it isn’t just Swissport. All the ground-handlers at Gatwick have difficulties.”
Swissport confirmed it had “made changes in certain areas” ahead of the summer. But a spokesman said: “We have a full complement of staff and we’ve boosted our reserve.”
Gatwick said 52 of its staff would be available to help with baggage this weekend. But a spokesman added: “We have absolutely no influence on airlines and their baggage handlers.”
BA is Swissport’s biggest customer at Gatwick. The airline expects to carry 500,000 passengers and 400,000 bags this weekend.
Sourced from Travel Weekly