Financial News

  • 4 August 2014, 9:53

Gatwick Fliers Advised Over Swissport Problems

Passengers at Gatwick are being advised to pack essential items in their hand luggage ahead of more possible disruption at the airport this weekend.

Baggage-handling company Swissport is under fire after many travellers reported waiting several hours for their bags to make it off planes last weekend.

Some were even told to go home without their luggage and the airport hit out at the company, saying it had "failed to meet standards".

A spokeswoman for travel organisation Abta said: "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 called up 40 extra staff to help, and Gatwick itself is also drafting in extra manpower to help ease any delays during one of the airport's busiest weekends.

However, it is understood that Swissport is using staff on zero-hours contracts who could be reluctant to work unsocial hours.

The baggage problem was at its worst late on Saturday evening and into the early hours of Sunday.

Swissport, which operates at 263 airports in 45 countries, has denied the problems at Gatwick were down to zero-hours workers.

Richard Sargent, 23, a wheelchair basketball player for Team GB who returned on Sunday from holiday in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh, had to wait more than four hours for his wheelchair.

"I was left stranded in baggage reclaim. I was not asking for special treatment, just to be able to freely move around the terminal and use the toilet," Mr Sargent told the Daily Telegraph.

Some 276,000 passengers are expected to use the airport this weekend and Swissport says it is doing all it can to avoid a repeat of the delays.

It 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."

It added: "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."

Willie Walsh, the boss of the company that owns BA and Iberia, has also defended Swissport.

He told Sky News: "I think Swissport is a good company - they provide us with services around the world.

"To be fair to them, it's not all their fault because Gatwick was affected by some adverse weather which meant schedules were running well off plan and aircraft were arriving at a time where they did not have resources in place."

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