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Passengers travelling through Gatwick airport have been told to prepare for long delays waiting for their luggage as the company running baggage handling faces staff shortages.
According to The Telegraphpeople flying to Gatwick airport last weekend faced delays of up to 90 minutes due to “resourcing issues” at Swissport – one of three baggage handling companies at the airport.
Union leaders are now warning of further delays if Swissport do not do more to address these issues.
Passenger numbers at many UK airports are set to peak over the next couple of weeks with the summer holiday rush.
“Swissport have been experiencing staff shortages for a while,” Peter Raven, Gatwick branch secretary for GMB told The Telegraph.
“Our members were all saying they have been struggling with the workload and working through their breaks, which isn’t acceptable when they are working long shifts or 12 hours or so.”
Raven said there seems to be a high turnover at the company and there is a need to “address the terms and conditions they are offering to keep experienced professional staff in place".
“They need staff that know their way around the airport, for new staff and agency workers this can be very difficult,” he said.
“People should prepare themselves for more delays.”
Swissport is contracted to handle luggage for airlines at Gatwick including British Airways, Monarch, Thomson and Thomas Cook.
It also handles baggage at most of Britain’s major airports including Heathrow, Luton, Manchester and Edinburgh.
Colin Higgins, a spokesman for Swissport, said the company has now addressed staffing issues, and doesn't "anticipate any more problems".
“We did experience a few difficulties over the weekend as we were particularly down on staff but we have appointed new staff and are continuing to do so," said Higgins.
A spokesman for Gatwick said it’s the airlines that own the commercial contracts with their chosen baggage handler not the airport.
However, he confirmed Gatwick is in discussions with Swissport with the aim of “strongly encouraging them to improve their service levels”.
Oliver Richardson, national officer for Unite which also represents a number of Swissport employees, blamed cost-cutting by airlines for the problems.
He said: “Unite is aware of ongoing problems with Swissport’s Gatwick operations.
“We’ve raised our concerns about staffing with Swissport management over many months, offering a number of solutions to get work back on track at Gatwick.
“Blame for the ongoing problems is not Swissport’s alone, but stems from a culture of cost-cutting right across the airline industry.”