Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Gatwick luggage delays avoided

Baggage-handling company Swissport was unable to cope with a succession of off-schedule arrivals at Gatwick last Saturday

Passengers flying into Gatwick Airport were largely spared delays at the baggage returns carousel after extra staff were brought in to ease congestion.

Contingency plans have been made at the West Sussex airport to avoid a repeat of last weekend's disruption, where some travellers at the arrivals gate were sent home without their luggage due to lengthy delays.

Staff-shortage problems meant baggage-handling company Swissport was unable to cope with a succession of off-schedule arrivals at Gatwick late last Saturday night.

Swissport, which has apologised for the difficulties, has drafted in 40 extra staff to cope with the demand this weekend.

Gatwick management also laid on staff to assist with the baggage operation, having been critical of Swissport's performance.

An airport spokesman said it had been "business as normal" at the airport, despite it being one of the busiest periods of the year as schools break up for the summer holidays, prompting a surge of holidaymakers at the terminals.

The spokesman said the "vast majority" of flights had met the time targets for returning luggage, with fewer than 15 of the 311 flights arriving between 1am and 7pm taking more than 55 minutes for the baggage to be loaded onto the returns belt.

He said: "Gatwick is operating well today and passengers booked to fly through Gatwick this weekend are advised to do so as planned.

"We would like to re-iterate that the issues we saw last weekend were limited to arriving bags and delivery has been good every day since then.

"While we are not anticipating issues with arriving baggage this weekend, we do have a robust contingency plan in place. This includes providing an additional 60 staff to support the Swissport operation.

"On average, bags are delivered on time for 95% of flights at Gatwick. We would advise, however, that in the very busy peak periods passengers may experience slightly longer waiting times than usual.

"We continue to work closely with our handlers and airlines to ensure our high service standards are met."

The spokesman said it would assess staffing levels on a frequent basis but that additional personnel would be drafted in during the busiest dates over the summer.

Last week, travel organisation Abta advised passengers to pack important items in their carry-on hand luggage.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways' parent company IAG, said that Swissport had "some issues at Gatwick that they need to address, and if they don't address them to our satisfaction then we have options".

Mr Walsh said he was confident that Swissport would resolve their difficulties while Gatwick management, stressing that last week's problems only affected incoming flights, also said they were expecting a smooth weekend.

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