Qantas: One in ten bags are being lost by on domestic flights at Sydney airport

One in ten bags are being lost by Qantas on domestic flights at Sydney airport – as baggage handlers sound the alarm on outsourced workers

  • Swissport worker says one in every 10 Qantas bags is currently being lost
  • Airline outsourced airport operations to foreign companies including Swissport 
  • Anonymous employee said the airline is using labour companies for staff
  • They said workers are unskilled, unmotivated and causing huge problems
  • Qantas taken to court by Transport Workers Union over sacking staff in 2020 

A worker at an outsourced company Qantas have enlisted to replace Aussie staff said they’re losing one in 10 bags of luggage.

The ‘Spirit of Australia’ were taken to court by the Transport Workers Union in late 2020 when it was ruled the airline illegally sacked nearly 2,000 baggage handlers, cleaners and ground staff before outsourcing their jobs to foreign-owned providers including Swissport.

The Swiss company has since been forced to look to labour firms, some of which aren’t aviation-specific, to manage worker shortages for Qantas and Jetstar flights – a decision that has angered the company’s staff who say they are undertrained and result in 10 per cent of all luggage being misplaced.

‘I would tell everyone, don’t check in bags when you fly with Qantas right now, or even better if you can avoid it, don’t fly Qantas at all,’ an anonymous Swissport worker told The Guardian.

A Swissport baggage handler who works at Sydney Airport said one in 10 bags are currently being lost by workers with unskilled labour filling staff shortages

A Swissport baggage handler who works at Sydney Airport said one in 10 bags are currently being lost by workers with unskilled labour filling staff shortages

The worker claimed 25 per cent of the current workforce were from labour hire companies, many who have never worked in aviation settings in the past.

They believe the workers are less motivated, cutting corners and doing a poorer job, insisting thousands of belongings are being lost, wrongly labelled and transferred to the wrong carousels.

‘These days there are about 10 barrows each day that just don’t make it on,’ the Swissport employee said.

Hired labourers have been failing to properly scan bags, according to the employee, which can result in the wrong weight distribution for planes and an inability to track where luggage is located. 

‘They’ve also been dropping transfer bags on arrival carousels, which is a reason why bags aren’t making it onto flights with passengers,’ they said.

The worker said bags are wrongly being sent to arrivals carousels rather than their transfer flights

The worker said bags are wrongly being sent to arrivals carousels rather than their transfer flights

Swissport have also introduced a series of measures to entice prospective workers, including a $50-per-day bonus simply for turning up to work.

They are also demanding new workers in other major cities spend their first month at the company working from Sydney Airport, a necessary measure to fix its extensive delays and understaffing.

The company said it was a ‘great opportunity to experience Sydney’ and are offering to pay for hotels for all new employees.

The Swissport worker took aim at underfire CEO Alan Joyce, saying its workers were extremely ‘frustrated’ seeing the Qantas boss on TV ‘showing off these shiny new flights’ – referencing the airline’s new one-stop long haul flights.

The worker claimed 25 per cent of the current workforce were from labour hire companies, many who have never worked in aviation settings in the past

The worker claimed 25 per cent of the current workforce were from labour hire companies, many who have never worked in aviation settings in the past

Mr Joyce addressed the staff shortages during an interview with 2GB Radio host Ben Fordham, where he admitted the company failed over the Easter long weekend but were back to pre-Covid levels of operations.

‘It’s booming at the moment but we had two years of people locked up and now people are wanting to travel. The domestic levels are back to pre-Covid levels or above it,’ he said.

‘Before Covid everything was in perfect balance, it ran smoothly. What we saw over Easter was not the aviation industry’s finest hour. Parts of the system didn’t run very well, we saw the queues at the airport, higher level of sick leave and in some cases up to 50 per cent of people taking sick leave.

‘There’s been a big improvement and we now think the call centres are fixed and better before Covid.’

'These days there are about 10 barrows each day that just don't make it on,' the Swissport employee said

‘These days there are about 10 barrows each day that just don’t make it on,’ the Swissport employee said

Those statements are contrasted by data from the Department of Transport which say Qantas were way below the normal averages for performance in May.

Last year, the national average for on time arrivals for Australian airlines sat at 83.8 per cent, but in 2022 Qantas saw just 61.9 per cent arrive on time.

In comparison, Virgin Australia recorded 65.7 per cent on time arrivals. 

It also saw just 62.7 per cent of flights depart on time, while recording the highest percentage of cancellations at 7.6 per cent. Virgin Australia saw 5.1 per cent of its flights cancelled.

Qantas said in a statement ‘resourcing continues to be a challenge’ for the entire industry but its airport operations had ‘improved significantly’ since the Easter long weekend. 

‘While there’s still a lot more to be done to improve our operational performance, the rate of mishandled baggage has improved in recent months,’ an airline spokesperson said.

Swissport said they are able to ‘deliver a cost-effective service that is safe and reliable’ because of their decades of experience working with Qantas. 

‘The rapid rebound in travel demand has put pressure on resourcing across the entire aviation sector, both here in Australia and around the world,’ a spokesperson said. 

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