Dublin Airport: 4,200 lost bags are now waiting to be reunited with their owners


A committee has been told there are nearly 4,200 pieces of luggage lost at Dublin Airport, and it’s ‘like trying to climb a sand dune’ to return all luggage to owners amid the busy summer period continues.

The Oireachtas transport committee has also heard that the Defense Force should not be needed to help the airport with Covid-related staff absences, which are lower than expected.

In recent months, passengers have complained of long queues at the airport, flight delays and cancellations, and lost luggage, particularly on connecting flights.

There have also been complaints about the cleanliness and poor catering facilities once passengers have passed through security, as international travel has rebounded faster than expected from the Covid-19 emergency.

Darren Moloney, managing director of Sky Handling Partner (SHP), told the committee that the ground handling company had 2,897 bags lost at Dublin Airport that needed to be reunited with their owners.

He said his company could process 350 bags a day and it would take two weeks to weed that number out and reunite them with their owners, but he was still getting 270 more every day.

Tony Tully, director of ground operations in the UK and Ireland for ground handler Swissport, told the committee there were “less than 100” passengers waiting to receive baggage from Dublin Airport, and the company expects the majority to be fired next week.

The committee heard that Swissport and SHP each handle around 10% of baggage at Dublin Airport, with Ryanair and Aer Lingus handling the remaining 80%.

Aer Lingus has around 1,200 lost bags at the airport, with the capacity to handle 700 bags a day and around 450 new bags arriving daily, the committee heard.

SHP’s Gerard Kenny said one of the reasons the number of lost bags is so high is staffing issues at European airports and airlines, causing some flights to arrive without “any luggage loaded… everything”.

“Some airlines even choose the flights on a daily basis that they are not going to load because they do not have the capacity to recharge either. Luckily we didn’t get that from Dublin, as far as I know, certainly not from ourselves.

“But that means it’s like trying to climb a sand dune right now in Dublin – as soon as we start making progress in baggage another plane could miss 60 bags or miss all of their bags, potentially.”

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Queues at Dublin Airport. Photo: PA

Queues at Dublin Airport. Photo: PA

Mr Moloney added that the DAA (Dublin Airports Authority) and SHP have found a secure location next to Terminals 1 and 2 where teams can process baggage for local delivery by courier or rerouting.

Representatives from Aer Lingus, DAA, Swissport and SHP appeared before the committee on Tuesday to answer questions about the problems experienced by passengers.

Mr Moloney told TDs and senators that the number of bags ‘dispatched at short notice’ from the international hubs that feed Dublin Airport, such as London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schipol, ‘has reached an unprecedented scale and continues to be extremely difficult”.

“Some European airports have imposed passenger or flight caps to minimize disruption for the remainder of the summer season. Similarly, there have also been reductions to some airline schedules and it is expected that this helps to mitigate, but not eliminate, instances of short-term baggage dispatch.

The committee heard there were no plans to impose a flight or passenger cap at Dublin Airport.

Both baggage handling companies said experienced employees leaving for “more stable employment” during the pandemic, along with new and improved background checks needed for staff, have led to retention and recruitment issues.

“Enhanced background checks newly introduced in January 2022 have resulted in a complete halt to the approval and issuance of airport identification passes, resulting in effectively no recruitment of employees over the past few years. first three months of the year,” Tully said in his opening statement.

Asked about the statement by Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell, Mr Tully said many staff voluntarily got involved in freight logistics “because there was a high demand” for it, with Swissport having lost 80% of its activity and SHP 75%.

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Lynne Embleton, Managing Director of Lingus


Lynne Embleton, Managing Director of Lingus

Lynne Embleton, Managing Director of Lingus

Responding to questions about flight cancellations, Aer Lingus chief executive Lynne Embleton told the committee it was operating one of the most “robust” schedules in Europe, with 98% of flights operating as scheduled. in June and almost 100% in May.

“So the vast majority of our customers and their luggage have been successfully delivered,” Ms Embleton said.

DAA chief executive Vincent Harrison said it was “largely” correct that it will be mid-August before the airport returns to normal, and that as Covid-related absences are below 10%, the Defense Forces should not be required to help.

“We are quite confident to maintain the level of service we are providing at this time,” he said.

“I think there is a common theme running through all of these statements that no one is happy with the overall level of service that has been provided and we are not happy with the overall level of service that is being provided in areas like cleanliness.

“But as we committed to in our previous session, we focused in particular on the highest priority areas which, at the start, was to ensure that people did not miss flights.

The committee also heard that “hundreds of thousands” of euros have been paid out so far to people who missed flights due to delays at Dublin Airport earlier this summer.

On Sunday 29 May, long queues at security screening areas caused by unusually high staff absences resulted in 1,400 people missing their flights and drawing criticism from government ministers, politicians and members of the public.

Dublin Airport is compensating those left behind.

TDs and Senators were told that more than 75% of claims have “either been closed or are in an advanced stage of processing.”

Louise Bannon, head of marketing at the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), told the committee the airport had received 702 complaints with an average of 1.9 people involved.

Ms Bannon said 44 per cent of complaints, or 313, have been closed and staff expect all complaints to be resolved by the end of August.

Asked about the overall cost of claims paid to date, Ms Bannon said it was roughly ‘hundreds of thousands’, adding: ‘I would say we would need to authorize a million, and we’ll see where we come from in relation to that.”

She said people were mainly complaining about flights if they hadn’t been booked by their airline for free, incidentals, food and drink.

“Sometimes it takes a bit of back and forth to process all the claims very quickly, and we actually found some very reasonable people and that helped expedite the resolution of claims,” ​​Ms Bannon said. said.

Aer Lingus chief executive Lynne Embleton said the airline was “incredibly frustrated” with operational disruptions at Dublin Airport this summer, and thanked its staff for overcoming the “many, many challenges “.

Among those challenges were staff shortages at airports and airlines across Europe, baggage system failures, staff absences due to Covid-19 and industrial action in parts of France, it said. she declared.

Ms Embleton added that levels of illness across the airline are around “four times higher” than in 2019, and “less than half” of Aer Lingus cancellations are caused by Covid-related issues.

“We have seen disease levels about four times higher than what we would have seen in 2019.

“Our disease follows quite consistently what we see in Covid cases in Ireland more generally.

“The majority of cancellations are not caused by this, they are caused by the restrictions put in place by other airports,” she told the committee.

When asked what percentage of canceled flights had been canceled due to Covid-19, Ms Embleton replied: “I would say less than half. And of course as the Covid wave goes down we expect what those cancellations are also decreasing.”

DAA chief executive Vincent Harrison said during the Omicron wave of Covid-19 the airport had “well over 25-30% staff no-shows, particularly in security checks” – but the current absence of personnel is “less than 10%”, which means that the Defense Forces should not be needed.

“This is a high level of absence, which we would have anticipated to be due to Covid. These levels of absence have not materialized to date,” he said.

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