Heathrow airport: 15,000 passengers face cancelled flights on Monday amid baggage handling meltdown

Exclusive: Exhausted transatlantic passengers endure waits of many hours for baggage to be unloaded

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Monday 20 June 2022 11:14 BST
Heathrow: 15,000 passengers hit by ‘baggage cancellations’

In the latest meltdown at a major UK airport, Heathrow has asked airlines flying from Terminals 2 and 3 to cancel 10 per cent of their schedules for Monday due to mounting problems with its baggage handling.

An estimated 15,000 passengers on 90 flights will be affected. The grounded departures range from a Loganair ATR72 commuter aircraft serving the Isle of Man to an Emirates Airbus A380 seating almost 500 passengers to Dubai.

Virgin Atlantic has cancelled at least three transatlantic flights, including departures to New York and Los Angeles.

British Airways, which operates some flights from Terminal 3 as well as its main hub at Terminal 5, said it had made “a small number of cancellations”.

All three departures that BA had originally planned to Toulouse are grounded, along with two of the four Marseille flights.

A spokesperson for the airline said: “We’re in contact with affected customers to apologise, advise them of their consumer rights and offer them alternative options, including a refund or rebooking.”

Other cancellations identified by The Independent include:

  • Aegean: Athens
  • Aer Lingus: Dublin
  • Air Canada: Toronto
  • Air France: Paris
  • Air India: Ahmedabad
  • Eurowings: Cologne
  • ITA: Rome
  • KLM: Amsterdam
  • Lufthansa: Frankfurt
  • SAS: Copenhagen
  • Swiss: Zurich
  • TAP Portugal: Lisbon

The request came at the end of weekend in which the airport was beset with baggage problems.

The complex baggage system at Terminal 2 failed on Friday, leading to a build-up of what became known as a “baggage mountain” outside the building.

The collection of hundreds of pieces of luggage was finally dismantled on Sunday evening, with a team of workers loading the bags into vehicles. It is understood that some of the luggage may be sent by truck to Europe to be distributed with its owners.

Heaps of luggage piled up pending collection at London Heathrow airport

Many arriving passengers face long waits for their baggage after exhausting long haul flights. Chelsea Alison, who had arrived from San Francisco husband and 10 month old baby had waited for hours for the bags to be unloaded and taken to the package.

She told The Independent: “Our flight from San Francisco was delayed by nearly two hours because of problems in London [affecting the outbound flight].

“Getting off the plane was delayed because of staff issues. We’ve been sitting in the luggage hall for three-and-a-half hours.”

Virgin Atlantic told her she could have the bags delivered to her home in Essex, but warned it could take up to a week.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We apologise unreservedly for the disruption passengers have faced over the course of this weekend.

“The technical issues affecting baggage systems have led to us making the decision to request airlines operating in Terminals 2 and 3 to consolidate their schedules on Monday 20 June.

“This will enable us to minimise ongoing impact and we ask that all passengers check with their airlines for the latest information.”

The cause of the cancellations is regarded as an “extraordinary circumstance” – meaning that passengers are not entitled to cash compensation from their airline. But carriers must get travellers to their destination as soon as possible, even if that means paying for them to fly on a rival airline.

Hotels and meals must also be provided.

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