Bags advice for Gatwick passengers
Passengers 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.
"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."
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."
One airline, Monarch, is understood to be ending its contract with Swissport.
Today, Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways' parent company IAG, told ITV News: "I think they (Swissport) have some issues at Gatwick that they need to address, and if they don't address them to our satisfaction then we have options.
"At this stage we are working with them. We are satisfied they are putting the right measures in place and I'm confident they will resolve them. If they don't we will certainly look at other opportunities."
A Gatwick spokesman said: "Gatwick is operating well 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 since the weekend. "
He went on: "While we are not anticipating issues with arriving baggage delivery 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 and we continue to work closely with our handlers and airlines to ensure our high service standards are met."
Later, Abta said: "It is vital that airlines ensure efficient baggage-handling services are in place so customers can collect bags swiftly, as soon as they land at the airport
"There have been notable delays at Gatwick's baggage reclaim on inbound flights over recent weeks, and they have taken steps to deal with this through supplying extra staff and offering customers the option of having their baggage delivered back to their homes."
The spokeswoman went on: "Following these measures, we hope customers flying through Gatwick enjoy a smoother service this weekend.
"But for all air passengers important items such as medicines, mobile phones and chargers should always be carried in their hand luggage."