One of the main luggage-handling companies operating at Dublin Airport has apologised for the role it played in an increase in the number of bags going missing at the airport in recent days.
A spokesman for Swissport, which handles baggage for airlines all over the world and is one of a number of such companies with an operation in Dublin Airport, told The Irish Times that while it had embarked on a massive recruitment drive since the start of the year and hired more than 3,500 new people, its capacity had been stretched in recent weeks.
It pointed to issues including lengthy queues at security and late changes to flight schedules imposed by airlines which, it said, had disrupted the flow of baggage through airports and led to an increase in bags going missing or being delayed in reaching passengers.
“The post-pandemic return in travel demand is positive news, but the current peak period – which can be stretching even in normal times – is exacerbating resource challenges across the recovering aviation industry,” the spokesman said.
“Airlines, airports and aviation services all work together to deliver different elements of a single passenger journey and in busy periods the knock-on effects of delays stemming from one part, such as air traffic issues, security queues and late changes to flight schedules can lead to disruption in others.”
He said the company was “very sorry for our part in the disruption people are experiencing. We are working hard to address our resource challenges, with over 3,500 new hirings since the start of the year. We will continue to work with our partners to find solutions for this industrywide issue.”
It was another day of misery for more than 1,000 Aer Lingus passengers after the airline cancelled more flights to and from Ireland with further significant disruption to its schedules likely over the weekend.
The airline cancelled nine return flights from Ireland and a single one-way flight over the course of Friday as a result of what it said was a spike in Covid-19 cases among its staff. It also announced that three return flights would not take off as scheduled on Saturday.
Flights to Zurich, Amsterdam, London, Brussels and Birmingham were among those cancelled by the airline, taking the number of routes Aer Lingus has pulled from its schedules at short notice to more than 60 in just seven days.
Industrial action by ground-handling staff at Bordeaux and Lyon airports further exacerbated the airline’s difficulties at the start of the peak travel months of July and August. In one instance a return flight to Bordeaux was cancelled on Friday with two return flights to Lyon similarly grounded for Saturday.
While the disruption has thrown the travel plans of would-be passengers into disarray, and led to chaotic scenes at the airport, Aer Lingus stressed that the cancellations amounted to no more than 1 per cent of the flights it has operated over the last week.
“Aer Lingus wishes to apologise to those impacted and teams at the airline are working to reaccommodate impacted passengers on the next available services as efficiently as possible,” said a spokeswoman.
She added that the airline had “anticipated the return of demand for travel once Covid restrictions were removed and built appropriate buffers into our plans in order to deal with a reasonable level of additional disruption”.
However, she said that “system pressures and ongoing issues at some airports and among third-party suppliers have created considerable operational challenges which have been compounded by a significant spike in Covid cases in recent days”.
Two women, aged in their 20s, who were due to move to London on Friday told The Irish Times they were “frustrated” that their flight was cancelled as they were due to start jobs on Monday.
“We don’t know when we will get there now, it’s a mess,” said Chloe.
The long queues at Dublin Airport, which resulted in about 1,000 missed flights in recent weeks, have for the most part subsided. For the month of June 93 per cent of passengers got through security screening in less than 45 minutes.
On Friday, long lines formed at the Terminal 2 baggage check-in gate, but passenger Dale Barney said other airports he had been to recently were far worse.
“If you’re going to fly anywhere, you have to expect to have to deal with queues … You can never be too early,” he said.
In Terminal 1 passenger Graham White said the “main difficulty” was baggage check-in, while security queues were moving “much faster than you’d expect when you look at social media”. Some passengers had only been in the queue for between five and 12 minutes.
Dublin Airport has recently separated check-in and security queues at the entrance of Terminal 1 and stationed staff outside to direct passengers to their gate faster. But while queues have improved, dozens of social media users have reported problems with baggage handling and missing luggage on arrival.
On Twitter and Facebook, some complained they had not heard from Aer Lingus for days on end about the whereabouts of their luggage and many had difficulty getting through to customer service over the phone to resolve the issue.