Heathrow passengers have been told they may not be reunited with their bags for days as the airport’s enormous luggage pile-up continues to grow due to an ‘issue with the baggage system’.
Staggering images show how hundreds of bags are stacked together in what onlookers described as a ‘luggage carpet’ at one of the site’s terminals – just hours after Heathrow’s chief executive claimed travellers were only suffering ‘minor’ delays.
Bosses have apologised to customers, who were reportedly warned it could be two days before they are reunited with their belongings, and blamed the disruption on a ‘technical issue’ with the baggage system, which it says has since been resolved.
Sky News defence and security editor Deborah Haynes, who flew into the airport last night and witnessed the mayhem, told the site: ‘When I stepped outside I could see this crazy mass of suitcases filling the pavement like an enormous luggage carpet.
‘I’ve never seen anything like it. Though it did seem to be trying to be organised chaos.
‘Officials looked to be trying to arrange the suitcases next to poles with letters from the alphabet stuck on them – maybe it was to correspond with the name of the owner of each bag. It looked to be an epic task.’
It is the latest scene of chaos at British airports, which have been plagued by staff shortages and painfully-long queues for several weeks.
A Heathrow spokesperson told MailOnline today: ‘Yesterday there was a technical issue with the Terminal 2 baggage system which has now been resolved.
‘Passengers are now able to check-in as normal, but a number of passengers who departed from Terminal 2 yesterday may have travelled without their luggage.
‘We are working closely with airlines to reunite passengers with their luggage as soon as possible.
‘We’re sorry there’s been disruption to passenger journeys.’
Heathrow passengers were today told they may not be reunited with their bags for days as the airport’s enormous luggage pile-up continues to grow due to an ‘issue with the baggage system’
Staggering images show how hundreds of bags are stacked together in what onlookers described as a ‘luggage carpet’ at one of the site’s terminals
Travellers flying out of Heathrow were left fuming today as their bags were reportedly left behind after they departed Britain with pictures of a huge ‘luggage carpet’ spreading across social media
It comes as travel plans for millions of Britons continue to hang in the balance as holidaymakers brace for a week of disruption caused by the militant RMT’s industrial action that are expected to cripple the nation.
Train users were also left stranded in the sweltering heat when their journeys were delayed for hours after lines out of Euston Station were blocked on Friday due to a reported fire on the line.
Passengers heading into the capital said they were left trapped on trains to Euston ‘without water or air conditioning’. Euston was forced to close at one stage, with police officers pictured manning doors and gates into the station to prevent people from entering.
Euston Station tweeted shortly after 8pm: ‘We have two faults in this area being worked on that are causing issues. There is a test train checking the overhead lines while our engineers are working on fixing the signalling issue. This is after a fire near the rail line has been extinguished.’
Operator Avanti West Coast also confirmed all travel on the Milton Keynes Central to Euston line was suspended after damage to overhead electric wires. Three out of the four main lines have since reopened, but delays continued well into the evening.
The chaos comes just days before the country will be hit by the biggest rail strikes in three dcades, and after Britain’s beleaguered airports hit headlines in recent weeks with flights cancelled last minute and huge queues.
Half of Britain’s rail services will shut down during the walkouts on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday next week, while those that do operate a limited service will run between 7.30am and 6.30pm only.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union has demanded 11% pay rises for workers and a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies in response to a national drive to save more than £2bn across Britain’s railway network.
Holiday plans for millions of Britons continue to hang in the balance as holidaymakers brace for a week of chaos, with travel on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday expected to be badly affected due to the knock-on effects of the industrial action by 40,000 members of the RMT union.
Furious travellers took to social media to share videos and pictures of the sea of luggage left behind at T2 on Friday
Hundreds of passengers’ bags and personal belongings were pictured piled up at Terminal 2 of the UK’s busiest airport on Friday as passengers faced fresh travel headaches after weeks of continued chaos
Heathrow apologised to customers and explained the sea of luggage had built up after staff battled an ‘ongoing issue with the baggage system’
Hundreds of travellers took to social media to vent their frustration at the huge queues which quickly built up at Euston on Friday
How Britain’s rail network will grind to a halt due to multiple strikes amid ‘summer of discontent’
- June 21: RMT and Unite strike on London Underground
- June 21, 23 and 25: RMT strike on Network Rail and 13 train operators, also affecting services on June 22, 24 and 26
- June 26: Separate Aslef strike on Hull trains
- June 28-29 and July 13-14: Aslef strike on Croydon Tramlink
- July 20: When c2c, LNER and Northern workers could go on strike if TSSA members vote for action
- From July 25: When Network Rail strike action could take place if TSSA members vote for it in ballot
It comes as travellers going through Britain’s airports over the last month have seen flights cancelled last minute, baggage stuck hundreds of miles away and snaking queues becoming the new norm.
Shocking scenes from around the country have even shown some holidaymakers forced to sleep on the floor of terminals amid long delays.
Travellers crossed borders instead of waiting for later flights as they raced to return to work and school after half-term.
Many said they were forced to shell out hundreds of pounds for new flights or other modes of transport such as Eurostar trains.
Among them were teachers needing to get back to the classroom and A-level pupils who risk missing exams and even losing university places.
After pictures of the Terminal 2 nightmare emerged online, a Heathrow spokesperson said: ‘Earlier today there was a technical issue with the Terminal 2 baggage system which has now been resolved.
‘Passengers are now able to check-in as normal, but a number of passengers who departed from Terminal 2 earlier today may have travelled without their luggage.
‘We are working closely with airlines to reunite passengers with their luggage as soon as possible.
‘We’re sorry there has been disruption to passenger journeys.’
The aviation industry is suffering from staff shortages after letting thousands of people go during the coronavirus pandemic.
And Gatwick Express cancelled all trains for three days next week and Eurostar axed dozens of services, as last-minute crunch talks continued with Network Rail.
LONDON — This Transport for London map shows greyed-out lines for those that will be affected by disruption next Tuesday all day, and Wednesday morning. ‘Severe disruption or no service’ is expected on all Tube lines from the start of next Tuesday until at least 8am on Wednesday. Only the Croydon Tramlink and Docklands Light Railway are shown as running normally
GREAT NORTHERN, GATWICK EXPRESS, SOUTHERN AND THAMESLINK: This map from Govia Thameslink Railway shows the trains expected to operate on its network during strike action next week on June 21, 23 and 25 – a fraction of normal services
SOUTHEASTERN – Limited services set to run between London, Kent and East Sussex next week on June 21, 23 and 25
SOUTH WESTERN RAILWAY: There will be no trains beyond Southampton to Weymouth; or beyond Basingstoke to Exeter
GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY — A very limited services will run Cardiff or Plymouth to London via Bristol, Swindon and Reading
LNER: The operator says it will be running only 38 per cent of its usual trains, with the last from London to Edinburgh at 2pm
RMT general secretary Mike Lynch smiles as he arrives at the union’s headquarters in London this afternoon
Commuters look at information boards at London Waterloo yesterday ahead of the biggest rail strike in over three decades
Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured at an early childhood roundtable hosted by Kate Middleton in London, urged Labour to condemn rail strikes planned for next week amid warnings they will cause deaths
In a letter to Labour health spokesman Wes Streeting, Mr Javid wrote: ‘The disruption these strikes will cause will make it more difficult for doctors, nurses, carers, and other healthcare staff to get into work’
Now strikes threaten HOLIDAYS: Gatwick Express cancels ALL trains during TfL and rail walkouts next week
The holiday plans of Britons were threatened today after Gatwick Express cancelled all trains on three days next week and Eurostar axed dozens of services, as last-minute crunch talks continued with Network Rail.
Rail union leaders accused Grant Shapps of ‘bully boy tactics’ after he warned they are putting their jobs at risk by striking next Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – and Downing Street said there was ‘still time’ to stop the action.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union has demanded inflation-tied pay rises for workers and a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies as part of a national drive to save more than £2bn across Britain’s railway network.
Underpinning the calls for industrial action are also claims that train operators have endured years of pay freezes and changes to their terms and conditions.
The militant union also claims Network Rail plans to cut jobs and reduce spending –with an impact on safety. But Network Rail and the Government have accused the union of an unwillingness to modernise work practices.
It comes as Eurostar became the latest operator to cancel trains with a total of 41 axed to and from the Continent between next Tuesday and Saturday – putting breaks to France, Belgium and the Netherlands at risk. The firm said it was seeing ‘unprecedented contact levels across phone, email and social channels’ after its announcement.
One passenger, Tanja Goossens, tweeted: ‘Eurostar, you just cancelled our international train from Paris to London due to a national train strike in the UK. Are you also going to refund us for having to cut our holiday short now?!’
Gatwick Express trains will also not run on strike days – but there will be limited Southern and Thameslink services running between London Victoria or London Bridge and Brighton, which will call at the airport in West Sussex.
Another social media user, Nadia Holmes, tweeted today: ‘Was so happy that I’m missing the Tube/train strike next week because I’m on holiday… then realised how tf [the f***] am I getting home from Stansted on Thursday?’
Business minister Paul Scully told Sky News there are 1.3 million vacancies across the country in various sectors but there are also ‘people who have recalibrated what they want to do when they were on furlough’.
He also said he wanted to make it possible that ‘people who can work longer – that want to work longer – can do’.
It comes as John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow, warned it will take 12 to 18 months before the industry can get its capacity back to pre-pandemic levels.
Mr Holland-Kaye pointed out that skilled jobs have been lost and it takes time to recruit and train people, while staffing issues around the world also have an impact at UK airports.
He told Sky News that Heathrow’s passengers had faced only minor delays, adding: ‘For two years most politicians and the public were calling for borders to be closed and that has had a devastating effect.’
He added: ‘It’s very easy to slam the brakes on the industry, lead to enormous job losses, but much harder to scale it up again.’
Mr Holland-Kaye believes enough workers will be in place to deal with the summer getaway as Heathrow’s ‘largest team of people are the security officers and we will have as many people in security this summer as before the pandemic’.
Ground handling companies, which deal with services such as baggage checks and cleaning the planes, have suffered big job losses.
Gatwick yesterday said it is planning to limit its number of daily flights to 825 in July and 850 in August compared to a reported 900 daily flights during the same time period in previous years.
This means 4,000 flights will be axed until September – meaning 800,000 people will have to find alternative travel arrangements – but bosses hope it will help passengers ‘experience a more reliable and better standard of service’.
And easyJet, who axed 40 flights per day in June said: ‘Given the high frequencies of our services to and from Gatwick, we expect to be able to reaccommodate the majority of customers should their flight be affected by the cap’.
A spokesman for TUI, who were so short staffed that police had to tell customers waiting at the gate in Manchester that their half term holiday was cancelled, declared: TUI Airways flights have been operating well from Gatwick and we therefore plan on operating all flights as planned this summer’.
Meanwhile, militant union bosses were accused of self-sabotage and warned travel chaos will make it harder for frontline NHS staff, including doctors and nurses, to get to work, potentially putting patients at risk.
A senior NHS leader warned yesterday that the industrial action will ‘probably end up killing people’ because it will exacerbate delays for ambulances.
In a letter to Labour health spokesman Wes Streeting, Health Secretary Sajid Javid wrote: ‘The disruption these strikes will cause will make it more difficult for doctors, nurses, carers, and other healthcare staff to get into work.
‘They will also make it harder for patients to come in to see them for much-needed treatments. Some of these patients will have had to book time off work to attend their appointments.’
Transport Secretary Mr Shapps said workers were carrying out an ‘act of self-harm’ by walking out, claimed union bosses were driving them to do so ‘under false pretences’ and said the strikes were ‘the last thing’ they should do.
Speaking at a train depot in London, he warned striking was pointless because of the new era of working with home in which the railways are ‘in a battle’ with Zoom, telling workers: ‘Don’t risk striking yourselves out of a job’.
But Transport Salaried Staffs Association union boss Manuel Cortes replied: ‘Bully boy tactics will not wash with our union when the truth is our members are fighting for their jobs, pay and for a safe railway fit for the future.’
And the Unite union warned that strikes could now spread to London’s bus network amid its concerns that a consultation on proposals to cut a number of routes in the capital could lead to hundreds of job losses.
Disabled man, 82, died at Gatwick when he fell backwards down an escalator after becoming ‘impatient’ waiting for assistance to disembark easyJet plane
It is understood that this escalator to the £110million Skybridge is where the man fell down
By Jacob Thorburn and Dan Sales for MailOnline
A disabled passenger has fallen to his death on an escalator to the £110million Skybridge at Gatwick Airport after getting off his flight when he was left on an EasyJet plane.
The man had been waiting for assistance to disembark from his flight as he travelled with his wife and son on Wednesday when he decided to leave the aircraft.
His partner is understood to have already been taken off the jet by Wilson – a private firm contracted with helping disabled passengers.
He was left on the plane and was due to be collected when he left on foot with other people filing off who had been on the flight.
The tragedy unfolded on an escalator going up from the runway level to a tunnel that goes into the north terminal known as the Skybridge.
EasyJet staff battled to try and save his life after being first on the scene as the disaster happened as he tumbled on the moving staircase at around 12.50pm.
A source said: ‘A member of staff came to take [a] woman into the airport but the man was left on the plane. He must not have wanted to wait for the staff member to come back so made his own way into the terminal.
‘While on the escalator the passenger fell down and suffered serious injuries as a result and died. This is a tragic incident which should never have happened. Someone should have been helping him.’
The Skybridge – which opened in 2005 – and cost more than £100million to build.
Its 194-metre length meant 55,000 transfer-bus journeys a year were no longer needed to get people from their planes to the airport building.
The source added to The Sun: ‘Normal airport staff have had to be reminded not to help disabled passengers if they’re not qualified to, even if it means passengers waiting for hours.’
Travel expert Paul Charles, from The PC Agency, said: ‘Questions will be asked about the lack of staff available to assist in the middle of the day when this flight arrived. It shows the increasing frustration of some passengers who can’t wait on aircraft for long periods hoping help may eventually arrive.’
Gatwick is one of many airports that have witnessed huge queues and flight chaos caused by staff shortages this month.