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Wednesday, 24 July, 2002, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Stansted 'struggling' to meet demand
Stansted airport
Ryanair admits it has had "a number of problems"
Baggage handlers at Stansted Airport are struggling to cope with the number of passengers passing through, BBC News Online has learned.

The airport could face massive expansion with an extra three runways under government proposals announced on Tuesday.

But, according to airport staff, the growth in demand for budget flights has already stretched staffing levels to breaking point.


The phenomenal growth in passengers on Ryanair flights has outstripped staff resources

BAA

A spokesman for the airport's owner and operator, BAA, told BBC News Online: "The phenomenal growth in passengers on Ryanair flights has outstripped staff resources."

One passenger returning to Stansted from Austria on Monday said she had waited almost two hours to collect her bags.

Wait in vain

"It was awful," said Aldya Smith, who flew back with Ryanair from Salzburg, Austria.

Her husband Ken said there had been "thousands of people" waiting in the baggage reclaim area.

He said: "It is not designed for people to sit round for hours on end. There are no facilities whatsoever. People were really freaking out. It was outrageous."

A Ryanair spokesman apologised for the delay, which he put down to "late check-in closures, delays in the delivery of baggage into the arrivals hall, and short-shipment of bags".

Staff shortages

In February handling agency Servisair lost the Ryanair contract to a new company, Groundstar, one of several companies with baggage handling contracts at the Essex airport.

"As a result of the failure of a large number of Servisair employees to transfer over to Groundstar as they had indicated they would, Groundstar suffered staff shortages both in check-in and in baggage handling," the Ryanair spokesman explained.

"It has taken a number of weeks to recruit more than 200 new people in Stansted firstly to eliminate these problems, and secondly to allow for these new people to be trained and become proficient in meeting the needs of Ryanair's passengers."

'Teething problems'

But the GMB union's senior aviation organiser Ed Blissett said there were still too few baggage handlers trying to move too many bags in too little time.

He told BBC News Online: "Ryanair is expanding - but there are not enough people to meet the demand."

Mr Blissett said Groundstar was unable to retain staff because they were underpaying them.


It is an extremely difficult environment

Pat Cafferly
A Groundstar spokesman told BBC News Online the company was continuing to recruit and train baggage handling staff to cope with the expected summer rush.

"As always when you take on a new contract there are a number of initial teething problems to overcome," he said.

Problems involving baggage had affected less than 1% of flights, well below the industry average for this time of year.

But the Servisair managing director Pat Cafferly was less optimistic that his successors would find a quick solution.

"It is an extremely difficult environment in which to work, with lots of bags in a short space of time," Mr Cafferly explained.


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