At least 2,000 passengers who arrived on British Airways flights at Heathrow airport on Saturday evening were told to abandon their baggage after waiting for hours for their luggage to be offloaded off planes. In the end, it became apparent that the luggage wasn’t going to arrive so tired and frustrated passengers were ordered to leave the airport without their belongings.
The issue was believed to be down to a major staffing shortage which had knock-on effects across the entire British Airways operation. Other passengers said they arrived on flights to Heathrow on time but were then stuck on aircraft for hours because there wasn’t any staff available to connect jettys or steps.
In other cases, passengers on outbound flights were also delayed because there weren’t enough staff to load baggage onto planes.
“British Airways failed to deliver 1000’s of pieces of luggage at T5 and now their website is down so you can’t make a claim,” Alec Wilkinson said on Twitter on Saturday. Steve Regis said he had been left “stranded” by British Airways and labelled ground staff “embarrassing”.
The latest meltdown comes just weeks after British Airways suffered a major IT outage that left thousands of passengers grounded for days. The outage was so bad that BA took the decision to cancel all of its short-haul flights for an entire day and sent in security guards to turn back disappointed customers from entering Heathrow airport.
A union leader which represents BA’s check-in staff and gate agents said its members were spat at and suffered homophobic abuse after passengers started taking out their frustrations on front line employees. Some workers had to change out of their uniforms to escape Heathrow without being mobbed by angry passengers.
The IT outage came just days after British Airways suffered another baggage disaster which the airline blamed on Storm Eunice. In that incident, thousands of passengers were again ordered to leave Heathrow without their belongings and instead lodge a lost property claim on the BA website.
So many passengers were affected that the BA website crashed when it became inundated with customers trying to log on.
Problems caused by high winds, however, were exasperated by a major staffing shortage which is affecting most front lone departments. Despite a major recruitment campaign, the airline is struggling to hire new staffers and is now calling on workers to ‘volunteer’ to work in other departments.
Some critics say the current staffing woes can be traced back to the start of the pandemic when British Airways was labelled a “national disgrace” after it made thousands of staff redundant and attempted to fire and then rehire many other staff on drastically reduced terms and conditions.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.