Heathrow at 'breaking point' as bags processed in different terminals

EXCLUSIVE: Staff warn Heathrow is ‘at breaking point’ with bags processed in a different terminal, holidaymakers made to wait a WEEK for missing luggage and families forced to sleep on the floor as flights are cancelled

  • EXCLUSIVE: Heathrow ordered 10 per cent of flights to be cancelled to cope with the ongoing baggage crisis
  • Airport is at ‘breaking point’ with luggage being processed in different terminals to cope with the carnage  
  • 15,000 passengers are left stranded at the eleventh hour following weeks of flight delays and cancellations
  • 90 flights expected to be affected today after airlines flying from Terminals 2 and 3 asked to cut departures 
  • EasyJet also said it is ‘proactively consolidating a number of flights’ at airports affected by ‘operational issues’
  • ** Are you being caught up in airport chaos in Britain or elsewhere? Please email: [email protected] ** 

Staff have warned that Heathrow Airport is ‘at breaking point’ with bags being processed in different terminals, holidaymakers being made to wait a WEEK for missing luggage and families forced to sleep on the floor.

Are you being caught up in airport chaos in Britain or elsewhere?

Email: [email protected] 

Thousands of British holidaymakers faced chaos again at UK airports today as Heathrow ordered airlines to cancel 10 per cent of their flights to cope with the baggage backlog – leaving 15,000 passengers stranded.

An emergency system has been set up where passengers’ bags are driven to different terminals to be processed because of the mounting pressure.

A lift was set aside for workers to ferry trolley after trolley down to the ground floor where the bags were piled up next to a car park and outdoor smoking area.  

Baggage handlers in high visibility vests then loaded them onto another set of trollies where they were wheeled to vans waiting in an area where passengers are picked up by taxis.

One worker told how the vans were then driven to the baggage area in nearby Terminal 3 where they were put through security checks – before being sent back to Terminal Two where the bags should have been checked in.

They told MailOnline: ‘We got absolutely hammered last week so they have had to introduce this system as an emergency.

‘The airport is at breaking point. There is too much luggage in the baggage area at Terminal Two so they cannot be processed there. There is just no room.

‘The baggage for all short haul flights has to go to Terminal Three because it is not quite as bad there.’

Some frustrated travellers have been waiting for up to a week with no word on what has happened to their belongings. 

Patria Fopiano, from Los Angeles, has been waiting for her bags for a week. She came to the UK to see family and friends.

She said: ‘I am waiting to get my tickets scanned to look for my bags.

‘I arrived on Tuesday June 14 from Florence via Munich to get here. Missed flights, came in late, got an email from Lufthansa saying my bags did not make my plane so I came back to Heathrow on Thursday last week.

‘They could not tell me whether my bags were scanned or where they were. Lufthansa is very unhelpful. I have no clothing except what I wore and I don’t like shopping, I’m here to visit and have a bit of a holiday.’

Passengers’ travel plans have been thrown into disarray at the 11th hour again following weeks of cancellations as the ongoing staffing crisis continues to cause mayhem at Britain’s travel hubs. Some 90 flights are expected to be affected today after airlines flying from Terminals 2 and 3 at Heathrow were asked to scale back schedules.

Virgin Atlantic has cancelled at least three long-haul flights to destinations including New York and Los Angeles, while British Airways has been forced to make a small number of cancellations. Three flights BA had planned to Toulouse in France have been grounded alongside two of four Marseille departures. 

STANSTED AIRPORT: EasyJet has today announced plans to cut more flights over the busy summer period and has scrapped seven per cent of the 160,000 flights it expected to run between July and September

HEATHROW AIRPORT: Passengers continue to face chaos at UK airports, including at Heathrow, where hundreds of bags are mounting up outside Terminal 2

HEATHROW AIRPORT: The baggage crisis has caused chaos at Heathrow with hundreds of suitcases piled up in the airport, with airport staff having to move them today

As the chaos continued, two women said they were left without food or water for 11 hours while stranded in Palma de Mallorca Airport after their Jet2 flight back to Manchester was scrapped at the last-minute.

Meanwhile, EasyJet said it is ‘proactively consolidating a number of flights’ at airports affected by ‘operational issues’, such as London Gatwick and Amsterdam Schiphol. The airline expects its capacity between April and June to be 87 per cent of 2019 levels – rising to 90 per cent during the following three months.

EasyJet also said there will be a ‘cost impact’ from disruption and the amount of money it spends to operate each seat per mile excluding fuel will ‘exceed’ previous guidance. It added: ‘We believe that these capacity/cost impacts are a one-off this summer as we would expect all parties to build greater resilience in time for 2023 peak periods.’

The airline’s chief executive Johan Lundgren said he could not provide a figure for the number or proportion of flights that will be cancelled because ‘we need to work this through’ as ‘it would be misleading for me to give any numbers today because we simply don’t know.’  

He added: ‘The actions we’re taking, we do need to make sure that we can continue to operate a stable programme for the remainder of the summer. We believe it’s the right measure to take.’

An EasyJet trading update issued today stated that ‘there will be a cost impact from disruption, coupled with the enhanced resilience easyJet is putting in place this summer, from additional wet leased aircraft, crew costs and airport charges. We will therefore exceed the previously provided operating CASK [Cost for Available Seat Kilometres] ex fuel guidance. We believe that these capacity/cost impacts are a one-off this summer as we would expect all parties to build greater resilience in time for 2023 peak periods’. 

‘Wet leasing’ agreements are between air carriers where the aircraft is operated under the party from which it is leased. For example, British Airways have wet leased four FinnAir planes with crew to run BA flights.

The reason for the ongoing chaos has been due to an aviation staffing crisis – recruiting for roles such as security staff, ground handlers and check-in staff which is seeing passengers advised to arrive much earlier than normal for their flights because they are facing long queues. 

HEATHROW AIRPORT: Terminal 2 at London Heathrow Airport today as passengers still continue to face long queues

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Thousands of British holidaymakers again faced lengthy queues in Bristol airport this morning

HEATHROW AIRPORT: Terminal 2 at London Heathrow Airport today as passengers still continue to face long queues

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Passengers were pictured sleeping in the airport after arriving early this morning to try and beat the queues

HEATHROW AIRPORT: Terminal 2 at London Heathrow Airport today as passengers still continue to face long queues

MANCHESTER AIRPORT:  Today holidaymakers are facing even more travel chaos – with exceptionally lengthy queues at Bristol, Manchester and Heathrow Airport at 4am this morning

HEATHROW AIRPORT: Baggage is moved from busy Terminal 2 over to Terminal 3 and 4 – where more staff are in hand to move the outward bound luggage again due to T2 staff shortages

HEATHROW AIRPORT: A spokesperson said that while there is ‘ongoing disruption’ caused by the issue, no additional baggage was being delayed and the airport is doing its best to ensure all passengers flying today do take their luggage with them

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Hundreds of passengers queued this morning outside the Jet2 check-in desk at Bristol airport

STANSTED AIRPORT: Chaos continues at Stansted Airport in Essex today with passengers sleeping on the floors amid further cancellations and delay

Two women say they were left without food or water for 11 hours while stranded in Palma after their Jet2 flight back to Manchester was scrapped.

Nyomi Loftus, of Sale, and her friend Megan Sainsbury were due to fly home from Palma Airport on Saturday – and arrived early for their Jet2 flight at 11.25pm.

However the flight was delayed and they eventually got an update at 3.50am which revealed a mix-up with baggage led to Jet2 ‘missing their slot to fly’.

Ms Loftus, 36, said 70 bottles of water were then shared around 380 passengers before arrangements for hotels were made.

She told the Manchester Evening News: ‘The worst part was that they called out the names of 30 or 40 passengers and told them to go to a special spot so we could go to an adult-only hotel. We had to pay for the hotel; families with babies were lying on the floor. 

‘The hotel ended up being a family hotel anyway – they could have gone. We were told there was a mix-up with the baggage and they had miscounted. They had to unload it off one plane before moving it and then they lost the slot to fly as the staff needed a rest. No one could get any detail from anyone.’

She added: ‘There was a little girl sat near us in the airport who was being sick because she was crying so much. People were just walking around trying to find out what was going on. It was left it absolute uproar – it was a bit of a disaster.’

Miss Loftus and Miss Sainsbury had to pay for a taxi to their hotel 40 minutes away from the airport, costing €65. The pair were eventually flown home nearly 24 hours later and said the first food and drink was given at the hotel at 7.30am – eight hours after the flight was due to depart and 11 hours after they arrived at the airport.

A Jet2 spokesman said: ‘We would like to apologise once again to customers affected by this delay. Our teams have worked tirelessly to look after everyone, however unfortunately there was a shortage of accommodation in Majorca yesterday evening. We advised customers immediately via text that we would reimburse anyone that needed to book hotels separately and we have done everything we can to look after everyone. All remaining customers are being flown home this evening.’

While many businesses in the aviation sector are struggling to rehire staff after many were let go during the pandemic due to a collapse in demand thanks to successive lockdowns, high levels of staff sickness for those who are still employed is also having an impact.

A Heathrow spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We apologise unreservedly for the disruption passengers have faced over the course of this weekend. 

‘The technical issues affecting baggage systems have led to us making the decision to request airlines operating in Terminals 2 and 3 to consolidate their schedules on Monday 20th June. This will enable us to minimise ongoing impact and we ask that all passengers check with their airlines for the latest information.’

Ryanair, which has been largely unaffected by recent cancellations, announced it has added 200 ‘rescue flights’ on its routes serving 19 UK airports until the end of September. 

This is aimed at passengers whose flights have been cancelled by easyJet, British Airways and Tui, the Dublin-based carrier said. 

Today holidaymakers are facing even more travel chaos – with exceptionally lengthy queues at Bristol, Manchester and Heathrow Airport at 4am this morning.  

One ‘stressed out’ passenger who was queuing at Manchester took to Twitter and said: ‘I’ve been queuing for an hour and I’m not even at security… stress levels are through the roof!’ 

Meanwhile, Brussels airport has cancelled all departing flights today following a strike by security staff. In a statement, the Belgian hub said: ‘Brussels airport has closed to all departures due to security strike. No departing flights on Monday 20 June.

‘Due to the national manifestation and strike of a large part of the security staff of G4S on Monday 20 June, no passenger flights will depart from Brussels airport. Passengers are urged not to come to the airport and to rebook their flight.

‘Only arriving (and cargo) flights will be carried out. Contact your airline to rebook your flight.’

The chaotic scenes came after one pilot was spotted loading luggage on to a plane, helping ground crew to load up to the plane with baggage ahead of an Edelweiss flight from Edinburgh airport.

The issue started on Friday with Heathrow chiefs blaming a ‘technical glitch’ in the luggage system. But it has sparked a huge baggage backlog which has been described a ‘carpet of luggage’.

Meanwhile, hundreds of passengers have reportedly been waiting up to three hours to retrieve their baggage today after flying into Heathrow.

A spokesperson for the west London airport said that there is ‘ongoing disruption’ from Friday’s glitch. But they said no additional baggage was being delayed.

They also said the airport was doing its best to ensure all passengers flying today can take their luggage with them – and reiterated that baggage is the responsibility of airlines and not the airport itself.

Simon Clarke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, appeared on Sky News with Kay Burley this morning and said it’s ‘sensible’ that airports are ‘revising their schedules’ because it will prevent a repeat of the ‘terrible scenes’ passengers have been experiencing. 

EDINBURGH AIRPORT: A diligent airline pilot has been spotted loading luggage on to a plane, as baggage chaos continues to hit airports across the UK. Video shows the conscientious captain down on the tarmac helping ground crew to load up to the cargo hold ahead of an Eldeweiss flight

HEATHROW AIRPORT: Heathrow was seen to be chaotic with long queues at the departure counters today and heaps of luggage piled up pending collection

HEATHROW AIRPORT: Passengers have encountered long delays to get to check-in and security at Heathrow today

HEATHROW: Passengers continue to face hours of waiting just to check in at the under staffed Terminal 2 at Heathrow today

Pregnant woman left stranded in Lanzarote for 17 hours after TUI ‘told her there was no space left on flight home’

A woman seven months pregnant was left stranded in Lanzarote for more than 17 hours after TUI allegedly told her there was no space left on her flight home.

Ceri Burns waited through six hours of delays on her flight home to Birmingham on Sunday, June 12 before she was denied boarding.

Ceri Burns and Chris Goulding were caught up in airline delays

Ms Burns, 37, and partner Chris Goulding were allegedly told by the holiday agents that ‘those who needed assistance and those with children’ had priority boarding. However, Mr Goulding, 38, claims that TUI kept himself and Ceri inside a pen by the gate, where he and other travelers weren’t allowed to board the flight.

Having spent the night in a hotel, the couple finally boarded a Ryanair flight home the following afternoon, more than 17 hours after their original flight departure time. However, having finally touched back down in Birmingham, the pair were met with another blow when TUI revealed they had lost track of their luggage.

Passengers in Lanzarote waiting for information on a TUI flight

Still without their suitcases, the couple have still not received a refund from TUI.

Mr Goulding said: ‘I went for a week in Lanzarote with my partner Ceri for our babymoon. TUI told us that we were flying home but then we kept getting delayed, by 2:10am I had gotten a text to say the reason for this was an unwell passenger in Birmingham. This meant that the crew had used up their maximum legally permitted flying hours.

‘We were put in a pen and as Ceri is pregnant I told her to sit down as we all had seats booked. It became clear when passengers started arguing that something was not right. They were scanning boarding passes and holding people in the room on the right of the gate if their bags had been removed due to there not being enough space on the flight. They randomly selected who wasn’t flying.

‘When the commotion started they stopped scanning boarding passes to deal with people and then told us the plane had already gone before we had our passes scanned. We were delayed three hours coming here which made us miss our first evening as well.

‘There has been no refund from TUI, it is ridiculously hard to get hold of someone and they are saying they cannot find our flight. We’ve not received any contact for the next steps from TUI and are struggling to actually speak to someone.’

TUI declined to comment when contacted last Friday. 

He added: ‘What we’re seeing here is a result of the airline industry having massively contracted during the pandemic and now it’s facing this surge of pent-up demand as things stand back up.

‘It isn’t resourced and manned for that challenge and that’s why I think it is sensible that we’re starting to see some of the airports revising their schedules for the summer season ahead.

‘Frankly, we can’t have a repeat of the scenes we’ve had in some of our airports in recent weeks.

‘The transport secretary and ministers have been working very closely with the airline industry to try and get it into a more sensible place because they are offering flights they simply can’t honour and that is simply terrible for passengers.’

Mr Clarke also addressed the baggage crisis happening at Heathrow and said the ongoing issues are due to the Covid pandemic which led to the airline industry ‘slimming down’ their staff and operations.

He added: ‘This is not a result of Brexit, what I would say is it’s an industry that massively slimmed down and understandably so – at a time when flying was impossible for a year and a half.

‘It’s now massively expanded its operations and the pressure is enormous and it hasn’t managed to align the two.

‘We will do our part as government to try and make sure our side of things is right from issues like passports to border control.

‘We’re pouring resources into this and making sure the process is as robust as it can be. The airlines need to do their part and make sure the flights they’re offering can indeed be honoured.

Yesterday huge queues built up at Stansted airport and some passengers described the scenes of people sleeping in the airport overnight as looking ‘like a shootout’. 

Meanwhile, scores of BA passengers, including a frail 81-year-old woman, were forced to spend the night on the floor of Rome airport when their flight was cancelled.

Holidaymakers endured a gruelling 14-hour delay on Saturday night after their 9.30pm flight was scrapped.

One traveller, Samantha Booth, fumed online: ‘@British_Airways you are a disgrace my 81 year old frail mother and my family have been left stranded over night in Rome airport. What are you doing about this.’

Other pensioners on the same cancelled flight to Heathrow told MailOnline they were treated ‘appallingly.’

Retired mechanic Tony Fairhead, 62 and his wife Sandra, 63 from Weybridge, Surrey, spent most of the night outside the check-in area before Tony borrowed an Emirates business class check-in mat to try and sleep on.

The couple, along with Tony’s sister Maureen, were being treated by big sister Jean, 74, to a week-long Greek island cruise with business class flights to and from Rome.

But the dream holiday was beset with cancelled flights, downgraded tickets and unwelcome surcharges which Jean is now addressing with BA and the cruise company.

The flightmare began as the four of them checked in, recalled Tony.

‘Our other sister back in the UK used to work for BA and she told us as early as 8pm that there was no flight showing from Rome to Heathrow that night, which obviously worried us.

‘Then we were told we had to leave the business lounge as it was closing, but it wasn’t until hours later that we were told the flight was cancelled.

‘We had to get our luggage back and were told we could spend £200 per hotel room for two people, but when we looked online there were absolutely no hotel rooms at that price and we’d have to spend about €50 for a taxi each way as well.

‘We were shunted back to the check-in area as everything else was closed, but there were hardly any seats there and we spent much of the night outside on the pavement. There was an old lady with dementia and a young baby who needed formula milk, but there wasn’t anywhere to make it.

Retired mechanic Tony Fairhead, 62 and his wife Sandra, 63 from Weybridge, Surrey, (both middle) spent most of the night outside the check-in area before Tony borrowed an Emirates business class check-in mat to try and sleep on

‘It was the worst night I’ve ever spent. About 4am we moved inside and I rolled up the mat from the Emirates check in, but it wasn’t much better.

‘It was just horrendous.’

The flight was finally scheduled for 11.30am the next morning, but the unlucky planeload found their problems were still not over.

Added Tony: ‘We checked in again and were sent over to security with the same boarding passes from the night before, and of course were not allowed through.

‘There was a young Dutch lady who went back and forward across the terminal three times, being assured by the check-in staff that the problem had been sorted, only to be refused entry by security.

‘In the end, she shouted and swore at them, and the security people let us all through!’

Film worker Clare Wilson, 26, from West London, was booked on a TAP flight to Lisbon at 1.45pm but said she could end up arriving in Lisbon three days late for work because of the chaos.

Clare told how she was one of 10 people flying out to work on a film production in Portugal.

She said: ‘This is my first day working for a movie production company. I was supposed to get there this afternoon and have a quick catch up ten start work tomorrow. It’s chaos at the moment. I’m trying to check things online but it says the next available flight is not until Thursday.’

Describing the mayhem she said: ‘We were booked onto the 1.45pm which has been cancelled and somebody automatically moved me to the 8am. Because we are booked through the film company the message did not get through to me. I found out at 9am that it had been cancelled.

‘It might be three days before I can get out there. I live only 10 minutes away so I came down to try to find out what is happening. I’ve been queuing up for 45 minutes to try to sort it out. There are 10 of us travelling out there and I am supposed to be going out for a month. Some of the group were automatically moved to a later flight at 6.45pm. I’m trying to find out what’s happened to the others.’

Miguel Mora, 24, told how he is battling to get to Rome to meet up with his sister Daniella, 22, to go on a special cruise to celebrate her university graduation in three days time.

Liverpool fan Mr Mora told how he had flown to London with his mother Rosa from Miami. They found out an hour before leaving the US on Sunday night that their Heathrow flight to the Italian capital had been cancelled.

He said: ‘My sister is in Rome with a couple of friends. We have to get there to meet up for the cruise but we’ve got no idea how we are going to do it. We were going to spend a day in London. We wanted to see the sights but all you can see out of the window is a car park at Heathrow. My mum is trying to figure it all out. We might end up taking a train all the way there.’

IT worker Dale Kingsbury, 54, was flying with his wife Carrie and son Paul, 20, to return to Newark in the US after a week’s holiday in the UK.

Dale said: ‘We showed up for our flight. We queued up and got right up to the front. When we arrived at the check in desk they said ‘Didn’t you get the email?’

‘They told us that our travel agent had been sent an email telling them that our flights had been rescheduled. The flight had been moved forward to 11am but we had no idea.

‘It was sent at 7am but because of the time difference that would have been in the early hours on Sunday. They probably haven’t even seen the email now.

‘We were flying via Lisbon. We were due on the 1.45pm flight and were rescheduled in the middle of the night for a flight nearly three hours earlier.

‘So we turned up and found we had missed the flight we’d been moved onto.

‘We had a week in London. We thought we had timed it perfectly and would get out just before all the chaos started. It’s frustrating’

Baggage carnage continued at Heathrow with one worker saying how passengers’ bags were being driven to different terminals to be processed because of a massive backlog.

A worker said: ‘It must be strange for passengers to check in their bags and then watch as they are taken back past them on trolleys rather than going airside.

‘The bags are sent down to the left to the car park. It’s not ideal and takes up a lot of manpower which seems crazy since a shortage of staff is one of the reasons we are in this situation.’

HEATHROW: Passengers luggage is pictured at Terminal 2 today following the ongoing staffing crisis

HEATHROW: Piles of bags are being moved from Heathrow’s Terminal 2 this afternoon following a ‘technical glitch’ which effected the baggage systems on Friday 

HEATHROW: A Heathrow spokesperson said: ‘We unreservedly apologise for the technical issues with our baggage systems that have impacted passengers this weekend’. Pictured: Heathrow staff are attempting to clear the huge backlog of luggage today 

HEATHROW: Airport staff stood around piles of left-behind luggage after a ‘technical issue’ meant hundreds of passengers left the airport without their belongings

HEATHROW: Travellers flying out of Heathrow were pictured today before check-in to avoid the lengthy queues

** Are you being caught up in airport chaos in Britain or elsewhere? Please email: [email protected] ** 

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