Baggage handler’s plea to passengers amid airport chaos warning ‘only gets worse’

An anonymous airport worker says staff shortages have meant his colleagues have risked “breaking their necks” while frantically loading luggage onto planes – and says the worst is yet to come

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Heathrow Airport: Baggage stacks lie unattended in chaos

A baggage handler has asked passengers to help airport staff get their job done quickly and safely, while warning that the worst travel chaos of the summer is yet to come.

As passengers at UK airports face cancellations, delays and nightmarish queues, baggage handlers have expressed their horror at watching pilots unload suitcases from their planes while other staff regularly burst into tears.

That Trade association of the airlines of the world has urged the government to introduce rapid security checks for new workers or face even worse delays when the school summer holidays begin.

Thousands of passengers had flights canceled or missed takeoff in recent weeks as they waited in nightmarish queues for check-in and security clearance, while undelivered and unclaimed baggage piled up at the country’s airports.

Passengers have to put up with long waiting times at check-in and pass through security

According to a baggage handler writing in The Times, understaffing is the main cause of the chaos – yet security clearances for new employees still take up to six months to process.

The anonymous worker said: “I’ve been a baggage handler for more than a decade and this is the worst disruption I’ve ever seen.

“Prior to this year I had never seen pilots helping to load and unload suitcases. In the past few weeks, I’ve seen captains and first officers lend a hand. At other airports, I hear it’s commonplace now.”

Staffing problems are now the worst they’ve ever seen, and even experienced workers become “emotional wrecks.”

A huge pile of luggage was seen at Heathrow Airport

“Passengers wait up to six hours for their luggage. The other day I saw a cleaning lady drive the baggage cart onto the tarmac unaccompanied because there weren’t enough baggage handlers to do it.

“And if people now think the delays are bad, that’s nothing compared to what will happen when kids drop out of school in late July and early August.”

Revealing that their airport only has two-thirds of the required baggage handlers, the author added, “We are so understaffed that colleagues are taking security risks just to get the bags on board and take the planes away.

“We use conveyor belts to get the bags on and off the planes, but sometimes there aren’t enough workers to get them to the tarmac.

Passengers wait up to six hours for their luggage


Belinda Jiao)

“Some baggage handlers are so frustrated that they stop waiting for the belt and heave each other into the hold and throw bags from ground to plane. You could break your neck if you fall.”

Last week a disabled passenger fell to his death at Gatwick Airport after stepping off a plane unassisted and falling down an escalator.

The baggage handler added: “The workers who escort disabled passengers on and off planes are really struggling.

“There may be 30 passengers who need help but only three or four people to help them. It can take up to three hours for everyone to get off and through the arrivals hall.”

They added: “I want out because it’s only going to get worse.

“The perception of baggage handlers is that we only load and unload baggage on the plane, but we are trained to do a lot more. It’s dangerous work. We drive the airport tugs that help the plane reverse out of parking spaces and we put the chocks in front of the wheels to prevent the plane from accidentally rolling forward.

“We are the people who get off the passenger boarding bridge to connect the plane to the terminal. It is now not uncommon for multiple planes to wait an hour for the passenger boarding bridge to arrive while passengers are stuck on board.”

They added that airlines would have to pay their employees more if they wanted to avoid a mass exodus from the industry – and revealed some practical tips for travelers to keep in mind to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Passengers can help the baggage handlers with a few quick tips


Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)

Key tips from a baggage handler for passengers during the current crisis

  • Carry only carry-on baggage to avoid lost baggage and baggage claim delays
  • Put clothes for each person in each suitcase in case one gets lost
  • Take photos of your suitcase so it can be identified by airport staff if it’s delayed or lost, and photos of the contents for any insurance claims
  • Write your name and number on your suitcases with permanent marker in case the labels come off
  • Use a suitcase with four wheels, not two, so workers can easily slide it across the luggage compartment

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Fry Electronics Team

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