British Airways deliberately stopped loading luggage on flights on Thursday evening and some planes went uncleaned as the carrier tried to keep up with a surge in demand while battling a staffing crisis that has already resulted in several operational meltdowns at the London-based airline over the last few months.
The airline told baggage handlers to stop loading luggage on short-haul flights in order to prioritise long-haul services on one of the biggest travel days so far this year.
One of the problems that BA has faced in the last few weeks is not having enough staff available to unload bags from planes that have arrived at its main hub at Heathrow Airport. With bags just sitting in the belly hold of planes, British Airways has then been forced to cancel or delay flights until the baggage has been unloaded from aircraft.
The hope, presumably, is by not even bothering to load luggage on planes in the first place, it will allow the airline to continue operating flights and, at the very least, get passengers where they want to be.
As complaints started to pour in from disgruntled customers on Twitter, the airline responded by asking passengers to report missing bags and wait for them to be sent separately in the coming days. Some passengers caught up in previous rounds of disruption, however, say they are still waiting for their luggage several weeks later.
British Airways says it is facing a staffing crunch because the aviation industry is facing delays in security vetting which is preventing newly hired employees from starting work. Industry insiders have blamed vetting delays on the government but Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has refused to take the blame, saying airlines were given plenty of notice to prepare for the end of travel restrictions.
Airlines say they were forced to slash employees numbers at the height of the pandemic because of government-imposed travel restrictions but the industry is facing more challenges than just security vetting delays. There is a general reluctance to rejoin an industry that was so quick to lay off thousands of employees, while COVID related sickness continues to plague the industry.
In a recent memo, BA chief executive Sean Doyle admitted that customers and staff were “rightly fed up” about the situation and promised to make changes to stop the disruption. The airline has already trimmed its schedule through to the end of May to take some pressure off.
Similar issues are being felt by airlines around the world. In recent days, JetBlue has cut back its schedule and offered incentives for flight attendants not to call in sick over the coming weeks. And in Australia, there have been chaotic scenes at airports across the country as staffing woes cause long delays at check-in and security. Thousands of passengers have also found themselves without luggage because it was never loaded on flights.
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.