Birmingham Airport delays: Bank Holiday bedlam as passengers vent their anger
A computer breakdown and staffing crisis combined to trigger Bank Holiday bedlam at Birmingham International Airport on one of its busiest weekends of the year.
The Monarch check-in system – run by Aviator – went down on Saturday, meaning staff had to fill in boarding cards and other details by hand, creating four-hour long delays.
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The situation was made even more chaotic by a shortage of baggage handlers – a problem that has plagued the airport for some time.
It continued to cause frustration for some travellers today while the check-in problem was solved by Aviator, who are also in charge of baggage handling, using a back up system.
The double trouble could not have come at a worse time with a total of 163,547 – 11 per cent more than last year – people expected to fly in or out of the airport over the three day bank holiday break.
Passengers took to Twitter to express their anger:
"We recognise that this is not an acceptable situation, but we are doing everything in our power to mitigate and improve the current situation as a matter of urgency. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to passengers."
Laura Aitken a 22-year-old teacher from Netherton who returned with partner Connor Franklin, also 22, from a holiday in Bulgaria on Saturday suffered delays on both the outward and home legs.
She said: "On the way out we were one hour 10 minutes late taking off because the team manager had printed off the wrong paperwork and they refused to put the bags on the plane until the mistake had been corrected. In the meantime the luggage just sat on the Tarmac.
"When we touched down on the way back at 6am on Saturday there were no stairs for us to use to disembark from the plane. We could see them but there was nobody to wheel them over. We had to wait for half an hour before they could find anybody to do it. Then we had to wait for a further 40 minutes for our bags."
Andy Mackey, from Solihull who flew in from Mallorca yesterday, said: "We were told they were 23 staff down among the baggage handlers. The baggage reclaim area had abandoned bags and bikes with everything piled up but our bags seemed to have been prioritised. There are lots of carousels with very little coming off them and its a big bottleneck getting through the exit. The baggage area was absolutely jam-packed."
Dave Simpson, aged 68, and his wife Elizabeth, from Bridgnorth, who flew out to Faro in Portugal from Birmingham on Saturday said: "Booking in was horrendous. We spent one hour 40 minutes in the queue before reaching the check in desk. The flight should have left at 2.50pm. First it was delayed to 5.10pm and then 6.30pm. Apparently it had taken three hours to get the baggage off the plane that had arrived to take us to Portugal. We finally took off at 9.40pm and got to our apartment at 1.40am. It was a nightmare. The worst start imaginable to a holiday."
Around 250 passengers on a flight back to Birmingham from Faro were still waiting to take off after a near 24-hour delay last night. The plane due to take them home had been delayed by Saturday's disruption at Birmingham. When it finally came to prepare for take off on the return leg five hours late the crew discovered a technical fault. Several of the passengers had to wait for two hours on the Tarmac while they tried to fix it. Selina Ralph, from Wordsley, a 48-year-old nurse at Russells Hall Hospital, was also among those on the delayed flight. She said: "We were told there was a delay due to computers 'going down' at Birmingham. We were given a six euro voucher for a snack and sat for several hours before boarded the plane, which is where we found out there was a technical fault.
We sat on the plane for nearly two hours while they tried to rectify the fault. Then we were then taken back to the airport terminal. At 1.50am we were informed that the flight was cancelled. We were taken by coach to a hotel arriving at 4.25am, picked up at 1.30pm and returned to the airport for a flight at 4pm that did not take off."
A spokesman for Birmingham Airport said: "We are aware that the baggage handling agent, Aviator, is experiencing manpower shortages that are impacting on the operation, in particular baggage delivery.
"Our management team has met with Aviator to understand the extent of the problem and we have a number of contingencies in place to support its operation and minimise disruption to our customers. Handling Agents are directly employed by airlines, not the airport, however the entire airport community contributes to the overall passenger experience and we will be working closely with Aviator to monitor its performance."
It comes after the airport announced that the last 12 months were the busiest in its 77-year history, welcoming 11 million passengers in August.
Last Friday, the airport also posted its busiest single day to date, helping 44,767 passengers take to the skies.
During the past 12 months, the frequency of low-cost flights has grown by 11.5 per cent at the airport, while the number of scheduled and charter services has risen by 6.9 per cent and 2.4 per cent, respectively. Long-haul flights have increased by 26 per cent, with services to the Middle East witnessing a 34.1 per cent surge.