Baggage handler's bleak account of staff at breaking point

‘Think airports are bad now, just wait until the summer holidays’: Baggage handler’s bleak account of staff at breaking point and cleaners and pilots loading luggage… as more queue chaos hits Heathrow and Manchester

  • Baggage handlers have branded Britain’s airport chaos ‘the worst disruption ever seen’
  • They warned pilots and cleaners are now loading luggage as experienced handlers leave the sector
  • Hundreds of passengers crammed inside Manchester’s Terminal 2 to drop off bags at 6am today
  • Queues at Heathrow’s Terminal 2 were so big last night that they stretched outside 

Baggage handlers have branded Britain’s airport chaos ‘the worst disruption ever seen’ as even pilots now load suitcases while staff flee the beleaguered sector in droves – as hundreds of frustrated holidaymakers form massive snaking queues at Manchester and Heathrow.

Teary baggage handlers have warned the ‘Olympic-level strain’ of recent weeks has reduced even experienced colleagues to ’emotional wrecks’, and that new pressures caused by staffing shortages following pandemic-era mass layoffs have caused many workers to leave the hard-hit sector.

Saying they have just two-thirds of the staff needed to operate luggage safely, they added that baggage handlers are taking safety risks which could result in broken necks if they go wrong – just to get the bags on board and get the planes off the tarmac.

One handler, who works at one of the UK’s biggest airports, told the Sunday Times: ‘Passengers are waiting up to six hours for their bags. The other day I saw a cleaner driving the luggage trolley on the tarmac, unescorted, because there were not enough baggage handlers to do it. And if people think the delays are bad now, it is nothing compared to what is going to happen when children break up from school at the end of July and beginning of August.’

The bedlam at Britain’s airports continued again today as passengers crammed inside Manchester’s Terminal 2 at around 6am trying to drop off their luggage, while flyers formed a queue at Heathrow last night which was so long that it stretched outside T2.

It comes as:

  • Thousands of British Airways staff including cabin crew and engineers have threatened to go on strike during the school holidays;
  • Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary blamed the airport staffing shortage on British people not wanting to be baggage handlers; 
  • Mick Lynch’s militant RMT paralysed Britain again yesterday by launching the third national rail strike in a week.

MANCHESTER: Passengers form massive snaking queues at Manchester’s Terminal 2 at around 6am today

HEATHROW: Flyers form a queue that goes outside Heathrow’s Terminal 2 last night 

MANCHESTER: Tired passengers wait for their flight at Manchester amid flight delays and cancellations across the UK

MANCHESTER: A passenger sleeps on the floor of Manchester’s Terminal 3 this morning

British people do not want to be baggage handlers, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has said amid staff shortages and planned strikes at Heathrow Airport.

The low budget airline has been ‘completely unaffected’ by airport chaos this summer which has seen others British airlines cancel thousands of flights due in part to staff shortages.

In contrast, Mr O’Leary said Ryanair was prepared for the return of pre-Covid levels of travel because it could see the ‘recovery coming’ and got its staff back to work early.

He also claimed unlike his competitors, his Irish company can take advantage of the European Labour market and not be faced with British workers who do not want to ‘pick fruit or work in hospitality, security and baggage handling at airports’.

His comments come as thousands of British Airways staff including cabin crew and engineers have threatened to plunge airports and airlines into yet more chaos during the school holidays.

Militant unions are asking over 16,000 workers if they want to join the more than 700 BA staff who have already committed to a walkout over pay at Heathrow.

Yesterday, ITV’s Nick Dixon, correspondent at Good Morning Britain, arrived from Amsterdam at Terminal 3 in Heathrow to see piles of baggage at arrivals.

Fellow GMB colleague Kieron Clarke said: ‘I am still to be reunited with my luggage, which is in another part of Heathrow along with thousands of other items. Unfortunately, staff cannot access them. Worse still, those items are now being sent from London to Amsterdam for processing because of a lack of staff in the UK.’

Ashley Burke, a reporter at CBC’s Parliamentary Bureau, also said on Twitter when she arrived there was a 10 minute delay on the plan but quick walk through security of about 15 minutes. She didn’t check a bag but said she saw ‘scattered [luggage] everywhere in the baggage claim area’.

One customer coming from Australia said: ‘[I] arrived 12:28 from Australia into @HeathrowAirport … it’s taken my bag longer to get from the plane to the baggage hall that the plan took to get from France to the gate.’

Another person claimed on Twitter they had an hour long wait for a shuttle bus for Terminal 5 and begged the airport ‘please send more shuttles soon, people are missing connections’.

A further customer said: ‘Heathrow Airport is a complete disorganized mess. Over an hour (and counting) waiting for a terminal bus transfer and the only solace is the fact that British Airways flights are seemingly always delayed.’

A TUI rep was seen today telling passengers that their flight to Palma has been delayed for 12 hours. Customers were then pictured sitting on floors at Manchester to wait out the delay while more passengers waited to check in and drop off their bags at other airlines including Pegasus and TUI.

Yesterday passengers also had to endure long queues at Bristol, Birmingham, Edinburgh, and Glasgow Airports.

Many airports experts have pointed to recruitment post-Covid as the underlining issue. However, Ryanair – largely based in London Stanstead and Dublin Airports – appears to have escaped largely unscathed from the mess, according to the Telegraph.

Between May 7 and June 6, the low cost airline had three cancellations out of its 13,099 flights (0.02%) compared with 142 out of 13,010 (1.09%) BA flights, while easyJet had 16,425 flights with 636 (3.87%) cancelled.

Ryanair’s boss has largely blamed Europe’s inflexible labour market for the flight cancellations.

Michael O’Leary told the Telegraph that Ryanair has been ‘completely unaffected’ as unlike some airlines it saw the recovery coming ‘early’.

He added: ‘I’m not re-campaigning on Brexit, but the UK is going to have to find a way to open up the Labour market between the UK and Europe, to get people in here to do the jobs which frankly British people don’t want to do.

‘They don’t want to pick fruit, they don’t want to do agricultural labour, they don’t want to do hospitality or security or baggage handling at airports.’

John Grant, chief analyst at global travel data provider OAG, said unlike BA, Ryanair is not ‘reliant’ on UK labour.

He added: ‘EasyJet has access to a wider range of labour, but most of its bases are in major Western European countries which are facing similar resource issues to the UK.

MANCHESTER: Hundreds of passengers pack out Manchester’s Terminal 2 this morning

MANCHESTER: Passengers queue in the underground car park at Manchester this morning

HEATHROW: Arrivals at Terminal 2 and 3 saw a sea of luggage spilling out across the airport yesterday

British people do not want to be baggage handlers, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary (pictured) has said

‘Ryanair has a much broader range of bases across the whole of Europe and during the pandemic retained a larger proportion of its staff in some of those bases, particularly in Eastern Europe.’

Gilbert Ott, creator of flight tips website God Save the Points, said Ryanair is also an ‘uncomplicated’ airline with one aircraft, the Boeing 737, and short-haul European services.

He said: I think many people don’t realise how many weeks it takes to get staff through the safety checks required to fly again, particularly pilots.

‘Furthermore, European countries were the first to signal a big summer of restriction-free travel, which gave Ryanair ample opportunity to scale up and be aggressive.’

Mr O’Leary said that his cabin crew staff – who need to be retrained for eight weeks if their working hours lapse – and pilots – who need to fly every month to not lose their licence – were in the sky ‘well ahead of the expected recovery’.

He added: ‘We made sure, even if we had flights with no passengers, we sent up pilots and cabin crew. We sent everybody flying at least once a month. We didn’t dump them all at home and say, “We’ll call you in 18 months when this is all over”.

Those returning to Britain also faced possible disruption as Ryanair cabin crew staff began a three-day walkout in Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain on Friday.

The biggest impact was felt in Belgium, where the work stoppage led Europe’s biggest budget airline to cancel 127 flights to and from Charleroi airport near Brussels between Friday and today.

Britain’s airport chaos descends into violence as furious easyJet passenger shoves his girlfriend out of the way before PUNCHING airport worker as he waits to board flight in Bristol

Do you know any of the people in the video?

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This is the shocking moment a furious traveller attacks two airport workers as tempers continue to flare amid Britain’s ongoing travel chaos.

The drama erupted as the man and a woman who appears to be his girlfriend were waiting to board an easyJet flight from Bristol to Alicante.

Somerset and Avon Police said an intoxicated man, 39, and woman, 37, were arrested on suspicion of assault and given conditional cautions after interviews.

Footage shows the woman shouting and raising her arms at staff members wearing hi-vis jackets.

The man then shoves his own partner out the way and races towards the two workers as onlookers gasp in horror.

He punches one and knocks the other over immediately after, leaving them both on the floor.

One of the employees quickly manages to separate the passenger from his colleague and appears to call security. 

The man is seen throwing his own partner out of the way before racing to punch the workers. Right: The two workers soon get up and try to face off against the man, but the partner stands in their way

But the row between the holidaymaker and the worker continues as they carry on shouting each other, with another man in a t-shirt appearing to hold back the staff member. 

The clip has been viewed some 90,000 times since being posted on Twitter. 

A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police told Bristol Live: ‘At around 9.30pm on Friday 17 June, officers based at Bristol Airport responded to a report that members of security staff had been assaulted after two people were stopped from boarding a flight, due to being intoxicated.

The pair are thought to have been arrested and quizzed by cops for the outbreak of violence

‘A 39-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of assault. They were both interviewed and given conditional cautions.’

A spokesperson for Bristol Airport told The Sun: ‘Anti-social, violent, or threatening behaviour will not be accepted by Bristol Airport or airlines.

‘Whilst such incidents are rare, we take them very seriously and will fully support any police investigation.’

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