Airport in chaos now firefighters are called to 'load baggage belts'

More than 2,000 people were made redundant at Manchester Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic as the aviation sector was savaged. However, travel restrictions are lifting and passenger numbers are on the rise but bosses at the airport say the labour market is “extremely challenging” at the moment.

As a result, passengers reported huge delays in baggage reclaim on arrival last week. Tourists resorted to sleeping on the baggage carousel as they waited hours to be reunited with their luggage. 

And now staff members have claimed firefighters, engineers and parking staff have been roped in to help ease the growing workload.

One employee, who asked not to be named, told Manchester Evening News: “It’s been so bad that they have been asking firefighters, engineers and parking staff to offload the bags onto the conveyors in the Arrivals hall.

“I think the summer is going to be horrendous, at this rate we just won’t have the staff, and morale is already low.

“I just hope that we get the staff we need in time and get back to normal.”

It’s understood firefighters refused to take on the baggage duties, although staff from other departments have stepped up to help.

There are now fears of more disruption and queues for passengers in the busy summer months ahead as plans to reopen Terminal 3 are in the pipeline.

It’s because the staffing shortage, with bosses struggling to fill the vacancies left by the mass exodus, has reportedly hit a range of other departments, including security. 

Manchester Airport, a hub for and Ryanair, has said that in recent months, there have been a small number of instances when it, and other organisations, have asked other teams to support the baggage operation for a “short period of time”.

It said it is working to ensure all third parties have the support and resource they need as the aviation industry continues to recover.

From November 2021 to February 2022, more than 940,000 passengers travelled through Manchester Airport, compared to 198,000 in 2020, at the height of the pandemic hit.

During the same period in 2019, there were more than 2.7million passengers, but staff say numbers are now rising steadily. However, with growing passenger numbers comes the need for a bigger workforce.

Speaking about the staffing operations, a spokesperson for the hub said: “Many organisations are involved in running an airport, and Manchester Airport is committed to adopting a ‘one team’ culture when delivering its daily operations. We engage closely with all our partners – including handling agents, airlines, retailers and Border Force – to understand the challenges they are facing and, where necessary, work together to deliver the best possible service to our customers.

“In recent months, there have been a small number of instances when handling agents have identified short-term resource issues. On these occasions, Manchester Airport and several other organisations asked some of their teams to support the baggage operation for a short period of time to minimise disruption to customers.

“It was pleasing to see colleagues from a range of different organisations and departments come together to help each other in this way and, moving forward, we are working closely with all third parties to ensure they have the support and resource they need as the aviation industry continues to recover.”

William Murphy

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