Holidaymakers should travel with only a rucksack to avoid their luggage being lost in transit, industry experts have said, as airlines cancelled dozens more flights.
Passengers are facing widespread travel disruption while trying to go abroad, with many having to return to the destination airport days after arrival to retrieve their baggage. Others have had their items diverted to another airport or lost altogether.
Andy Prendergast, the GMB union’s national secretary, said that passengers should consider travelling without any checked baggage to avoid lengthy delays at the airport and eliminate the risk of possessions going missing.
“It is one less thing to worry about,” he said. “If people can check in online and do not take bags, that limits the disruption. It’s not a magic bullet but it does reduce the chance of there being problems.”
Airlines typically allow passengers to bring a small cabin bag and handbag on board. However, many reduced their size allowances during the pandemic, meaning some customers have been caught out at the gate.
Holidaymakers can save on space by buying toiletries and clothing in the airport after passing security.
Mr Prendergast’s comments were echoed by Paul Charles, chief executive of the travel consultancy The PC Agency. Mr Charles said that where possible “passengers should consider packing lightly and travelling with a small bag they can take on board the aircraft”.
It comes as holidaymakers endured another day of travel chaos at Britain’s major airports.
Some waited for almost three hours to get through check-in and security. More than 150 UK flights were cancelled on Wednesday, with easyJet scrapping at least 31 flights at Gatwick.
British Airways axed 124 short-haul flights at Heathrow, but the airline said passengers were given advance notice. Tui is cancelling six daily flights at Manchester Airport, which represents a quarter of its schedule.
As many as 377 flights from UK airports were cancelled in the seven days up to and including Tuesday, according to the aviation data firm Cirium. Gatwick was the worst performing airport with 151 cancellations, followed by Manchester with 41, Heathrow with 36 and Bristol with 27.
Airlines are suffering with an acute shortage of baggage-handling contractors, as many left the industry after being laid-off during the pandemic. Employers are struggling to lure them back into a job that unions described as “low paid and with poor conditions.”
The GMB union said that baggage handlers were working in teams of as little as half the usual size. It said that “an accident is waiting to happen” in the air travel industry, with exhausted workers coming under extreme pressure to meet demand.
Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister, accused airlines of a lack of preparation. "I don't think the airline operators have done the recruitment that they should have done," he told Sky News.