Gatwick staff to help with baggage handling at weekend

Dawn Elson from Gatwick Airport: "It's really important that our high service standards are met"

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Gatwick Airport is to bring in up to 45 of its own staff to help with luggage handling to ensure there is no repeat of last weekend's delays.

Then, some passengers had to fly without bags, and people arriving at the airport, London's second-largest, had to wait hours for their luggage.

Gatwick says baggage handlers Swissport had failed to meet service levels.

A Gatwick spokesperson told the BBC that passengers this weekend would be "absolutely fine".

"We demand high standards. We want to support the passenger and so we will do everything we can to help our partners out, Swissport specifically, to shore this up and make sure passengers have a good experience," she said.

If there are further problems this weekend, Gatwick will also offer to deliver passengers' bags to their home addresses.

Depending on the airlines concerned, it will make the offer to passengers if they have to wait 90 minutes or an hour to get their baggage.

'Off-schedule arrivals'

Leisure airline Monarch has ended two contracts with Swissport, after chaotic scenes last weekend, when passengers were left waiting for up to three hours for luggage.

Swissport said last weekend's problems were exceptional and should not be repeated.

It has blamed the delays on too many aircraft arriving in quick succession - either late or early - which it called "off-schedule arrivals".

Start Quote

Although bags have been delivered on time for 95% of flights, this is not good enough”

End Quote Spokesman Gatwick Airport

It is thought that Monarch's decision was not specifically to do with the issues at Gatwick last weekend, but because of service levels generally.

'Frustrating'

The BBC understands a new baggage handler will be appointed by November.

Monarch is also terminating a contract with Swissport at Manchester airport.

Shaun Tipton, spokesperson for the travel agents' association Abta, said that Swissport needed to address "the number of staff they have in place at busy times".

"What's been happening recently simply isn't good enough."

A crowded area at Gatwick Airport Delays at Gatwick last weekend were the latest in a series of incidents

"This has been frustrating for passengers and we are disappointed with the recent baggage arrival service," said a spokesperson for Gatwick airport.

"Recently, Swissport has failed to meet these standards," the spokesperson said. "Although bags have been delivered on time for 95% of flights, this is not good enough."

Two other baggage-handling firms at Gatwick are meeting the relevant service standards.

Gatwick requires that luggage from large aircraft should be on the carousels within 55 minutes of a plane's arrival.

Luggage from small planes should be delivered within 35 minutes.

Zero hours

After similar delays at the end of June, Gatwick airport blamed a shortage of staff at Swissport.

One suggestion was that the baggage handler was employing too many staff on zero hours contracts, and could not get enough workers to volunteer for week-end shifts.

But Swissport denied this, saying that out of 1,500 staff at Gatwick, it employs fewer than 50 on zero hours - and they all choose to be on such contracts.

"Zero hours is not the issue," said a spokesman for Swissport.

"The problems at the week-end related to 20 aircraft being off-schedule between 11pm and 1am. There are no service problems now," he insisted.

Swissport has 55,000 employees globally and is owned by the European private equity company PAI.

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