Chaos at Heathrow seems to be calming as the weekend has passed, with a British Airways spokesperson confirming to City A.M. this morning that the airline is loading all bags on its planes after a temporary stop on Thursday evening.
British Airways reportedly stopped loading luggage on numerous European flights as it struggled to cope with the overwhelming Easter weekend demand.
On Thursday evening, for a short period, BA reportedly instructed baggage handlers at Heathrow airport to stop loading bags on short-haul flights and told them to prioritise long-haul services today, tomorrow and on Monday, which are expected to be this year’s busiest days.
With luggage sitting in the belly hold of planes, BA management made the decision to cancel or delay a range of flights until the bags had been unloaded, according to various reports this weekend, including B2B aviation and travel publication Paddle Your Own Kanoo.
The move prompted an outcry on social media, with hundreds of angry travellers taking to Twitter demanding to find out where their luggage is.
British Airways was seen replying to many customers, telling them to report their luggage and wait for their bags to be delivered “in the coming days.”
The problems have led to frustration within the airline. In a recent memo, BA chief executive Sean Doyle reportedly admitted that customers and staff were “rightly fed up” about the ongoing operational issues and pledged to make changes to slow the disruption.
One of the measures taken so far is a slimmed down Spring schedule as the airline scaled back its schedule until the end of May.
BA, as well as other UK airlines, have faced disruption for weeks.
Travel chaos and disruption is expected to continue for weeks after BA and easyJet cancelled hundreds of flights in recent weeks, leaving tens of thousands of Brits stranded at airports across the UK.
The airlines blamed the problems on high levels of sickness among employees caused by Covid, with at least 200 trips axed since Friday.
It said it had made efforts to offset staff shortages by “rostering” additional standby crew on the weekend but was forced to make “additional cancellations for today and tomorrow”.
Some holidaymakers reported being stuck abroad with no explanation or alternative route home offered by airlines.
Simon Rudkins, 50, said he was due to return from a ski trip in the Alps with his family when easyJet contacted him with less than 10 hours notice saying their flight was cancelled.
He said that his mother, who is 85 and has dementia, had joined them for the journey back.
“She gets very confused and she doesn’t need stress,” Rudkins said.
The freelance landscape gardener has had to call customers who were expecting him on Monday to explain the delay and will lose out on money for the jobs, he said.
“We called easyJet asking for alternatives. We basically got told ‘no, there’s nothing, no flights at all. The best you can do is fly tomorrow,” Rudkins added.
“Not because of the fact they’ve had to cancel a flight, but because they don’t care and there was no explanation given.”
It comes after passengers were stuck in long queues at Heathrow Airport on Friday as the Easter holidays kicked off.
The airport attributed the congestion to Covid checks required by destination countries and “high passenger volumes”.
But there were also reports of staff shortages and problems with the e-gate passport checkpoints as travellers took to social media to air their frustrations, with some saying they had waited hours to take off.
Other travellers said several of the automatic e-gates, staffed by Border Force and used to process passengers, were not operating properly.