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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 January 2007, 19:04 GMT
Airline tackles luggage mountain
Freighter planes are being used to clear the backlog
Thousands of items of luggage are piled up at Heathrow Airport because of faulty equipment and poor weather.

Problems began before Christmas when a faulty baggage belt at Terminal Four and cancellations caused by fog stopped 10,000 bags being delivered.

British Airways (BA) said it was using freight planes to clear the backlog and it hoped passengers would have their bags within 48 hours.

BA said half the bags belonged to passengers from other airlines.

"We have put on air freighter planes to get the bags to their owners, and we have drafted in a number of volunteers to help," said a spokesman for BA.

No attempt was being made to do anything about the situation
Colin Barber, passenger

The airline said the problems coincided with the introduction of new working practices for baggage handlers at Terminals One and Four.

The company is preparing to move its entire Heathrow operation to the new Terminal Five in March 2008.

It wants its baggage handlers to be working under one system when they come together at Terminal Five.

Technical issues

Currently the 2,000 handlers are allocated work in different ways depending on whether they are at Terminal One or Four.

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For delayed bags, some airlines give immediate payments for purchases
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Source: Air Transport Users Council

The BA spokeswoman denied reports the problems had been made worse by not having enough staff.

A spokeswoman from the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) said: "There's an ongoing pressure on staff which can be exacerbated by technical issues or circumstances beyond their control."

The loss of bags has caused frustration for passengers.

"My bags were lost at Terminal Four on 30 Dec and still have not been returned.

"The phone lines are now down and the web site is useless," reader Dave Penlington told BBC News.

Passenger Colin Barber said he asked staff about unattended bags piled up at the airport.

Baggage monitored

"No attempt was being made to do anything about the situation," he alleged.

The only time that my luggage has ever been lost was when flying to Heathrow

Hundreds of Heathrow flights were cancelled and delayed in the week before Christmas due to the fog.

BA said the bags were being monitored by staff as they awaited collection.

A spokesman for airline BMI said problems it had had earlier in the week were resolved by Monday.

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Pictures of the luggage backlog at Heathrow Airport

Why is the fog so bad?
22 Dec 06 |  UK

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