Heathrow’s great mountain of uncollected luggage gets BIGGER: Airport admits it has an ‘issue with baggage system’ as thousands of suitcases pile up and passengers are told it could be days before they are reunited
- Staggering images show hundreds of bags stacked together in what’s been described as a ‘luggage carpet’
- Bosses have blamed disruption on a ‘technical issue’ with the baggage system, which has been resolved
- But a huge backlog remains and ‘a number of passengers’ have had to fly without their bags, Heathrow said
Heathrow passengers have been told they may not be reunited with their bags for days as the airport’s enormous luggage pile-up continues to grow due to an ‘issue with the baggage system’.
Staggering images show how hundreds of bags are stacked together in what onlookers described as a ‘luggage carpet’ at one of the site’s terminals – just hours after Heathrow’s chief executive claimed travellers were only suffering ‘minor’ delays.
Bosses have apologised to customers, who were reportedly warned it could be two days before they are reunited with their belongings, and blamed the disruption on a ‘technical issue’ with the baggage system, which it says has since been resolved.
Sky News defence and security editor Deborah Haynes, who flew into the airport last night and witnessed the mayhem, told the site: ‘When I stepped outside I could see this crazy mass of suitcases filling the pavement like an enormous luggage carpet.
‘I’ve never seen anything like it. Though it did seem to be trying to be organised chaos.
‘Officials looked to be trying to arrange the suitcases next to poles with letters from the alphabet stuck on them – maybe it was to correspond with the name of the owner of each bag. It looked to be an epic task.’
It is the latest scene of chaos at British airports, which have been plagued by staff shortages and painfully-long queues for several weeks.
And there are fears the worst could still be yet to come, when children break up from school for summer, which will see millions of families looking to fly overseas for holidays.
A Heathrow spokesperson told MailOnline today: ‘Yesterday there was a technical issue with the Terminal 2 baggage system which has now been resolved.
‘Passengers are now able to check-in as normal, but a number of passengers who departed from Terminal 2 yesterday may have travelled without their luggage.
‘We are working closely with airlines to reunite passengers with their luggage as soon as possible.
‘We’re sorry there’s been disruption to passenger journeys.’
Heathrow passengers were today told they may not be reunited with their bags for days as the airport’s enormous luggage pile-up continues to grow due to an ‘issue with the baggage system’ (pictured this morning)
Staggering images show how hundreds of bags are stacked together in what onlookers described as a ‘luggage carpet’ at one of the site’s terminals (pictured this morning)
Travellers flying out of Heathrow were left fuming as their bags were reportedly left behind after they departed Britain with pictures of a huge ‘luggage carpet’ spreading across social media (pictured Friday night)
It comes as travellers going through Britain’s airports over the last month have seen flights cancelled last minute, baggage stuck hundreds of miles away and snaking queues becoming the new norm.
Shocking scenes from around the country have even shown some holidaymakers forced to sleep on the floor of terminals amid long delays.
Travellers crossed borders instead of waiting for later flights as they raced to return to work and school after half-term.
Many said they were forced to shell out hundreds of pounds for new flights or other modes of transport such as Eurostar trains.
Among them were teachers needing to get back to the classroom and A-level pupils who risk missing exams and even losing university places.
The aviation industry is suffering from staff shortages after letting thousands of people go during the coronavirus pandemic.
And Gatwick Express cancelled all trains for three days next week and Eurostar axed dozens of services, as last-minute crunch talks continued with Network Rail.
Business minister Paul Scully told Sky News there are 1.3 million vacancies across the country in various sectors but there are also ‘people who have recalibrated what they want to do when they were on furlough’.
He also said he wanted to make it possible that ‘people who can work longer – that want to work longer – can do’.
It comes as John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow, warned it will take 12 to 18 months before the industry can get its capacity back to pre-pandemic levels.
Mr Holland-Kaye pointed out that skilled jobs have been lost and it takes time to recruit and train people, while staffing issues around the world also have an impact at UK airports.
He told Sky News that Heathrow’s passengers had faced only minor delays, adding: ‘For two years most politicians and the public were calling for borders to be closed and that has had a devastating effect.’
He added: ‘It’s very easy to slam the brakes on the industry, lead to enormous job losses, but much harder to scale it up again.’
Mr Holland-Kaye believes enough workers will be in place to deal with the summer getaway as Heathrow’s ‘largest team of people are the security officers and we will have as many people in security this summer as before the pandemic’.
Ground handling companies, which deal with services such as baggage checks and cleaning the planes, have suffered big job losses.
Gatwick yesterday said it is planning to limit its number of daily flights to 825 in July and 850 in August compared to a reported 900 daily flights during the same time period in previous years.
Furious travellers took to social media to share videos and pictures of the sea of luggage left behind at T2 on Friday
Hundreds of passengers’ bags and personal belongings were pictured piled up at Terminal 2 of the UK’s busiest airport on Friday as passengers faced fresh travel headaches after weeks of continued chaos
Heathrow apologised to customers and explained the sea of luggage had built up after staff battled an ‘ongoing issue with the baggage system’
This means 4,000 flights will be axed until September – meaning 800,000 people will have to find alternative travel arrangements – but bosses hope it will help passengers ‘experience a more reliable and better standard of service’.
And easyJet, who axed 40 flights per day in June said: ‘Given the high frequencies of our services to and from Gatwick, we expect to be able to reaccommodate the majority of customers should their flight be affected by the cap’.
A spokesman for TUI, who were so short staffed that police had to tell customers waiting at the gate in Manchester that their half term holiday was cancelled, declared: TUI Airways flights have been operating well from Gatwick and we therefore plan on operating all flights as planned this summer’.
Disabled man, 82, died at Gatwick when he fell backwards down an escalator after becoming ‘impatient’ waiting for assistance to disembark easyJet plane
It is understood that this escalator to the £110million Skybridge is where the man fell down
By Jacob Thorburn and Dan Sales for MailOnline
A disabled passenger has fallen to his death on an escalator to the £110million Skybridge at Gatwick Airport after getting off his flight when he was left on an EasyJet plane.
The man had been waiting for assistance to disembark from his flight as he travelled with his wife and son on Wednesday when he decided to leave the aircraft.
His partner is understood to have already been taken off the jet by Wilson – a private firm contracted with helping disabled passengers.
He was left on the plane and was due to be collected when he left on foot with other people filing off who had been on the flight.
The tragedy unfolded on an escalator going up from the runway level to a tunnel that goes into the north terminal known as the Skybridge.
EasyJet staff battled to try and save his life after being first on the scene as the disaster happened as he tumbled on the moving staircase at around 12.50pm.
A source said: ‘A member of staff came to take [a] woman into the airport but the man was left on the plane. He must not have wanted to wait for the staff member to come back so made his own way into the terminal.
‘While on the escalator the passenger fell down and suffered serious injuries as a result and died. This is a tragic incident which should never have happened. Someone should have been helping him.’
The Skybridge – which opened in 2005 – and cost more than £100million to build.
Its 194-metre length meant 55,000 transfer-bus journeys a year were no longer needed to get people from their planes to the airport building.
The source added to The Sun: ‘Normal airport staff have had to be reminded not to help disabled passengers if they’re not qualified to, even if it means passengers waiting for hours.’
Travel expert Paul Charles, from The PC Agency, said: ‘Questions will be asked about the lack of staff available to assist in the middle of the day when this flight arrived. It shows the increasing frustration of some passengers who can’t wait on aircraft for long periods hoping help may eventually arrive.’
Gatwick is one of many airports that have witnessed huge queues and flight chaos caused by staff shortages this month.