A student whose flight home from Gatwick was delayed by an hour was outraged when she saw a member of the ground crew sitting down and looking at Instagram and TikTok on his phone instead of loading bags.
Rhiannon Hopcroft, 21, from Inverness, was on her way home to Scotland via a connecting flight from the troubled Sussex airport on Tuesday evening.
She told MailOnline: ‘Having just been told that we were being delayed because they were having trouble loading baggage to look out the window and see one of only two baggage handlers sitting down next to all the bags and blatantly scrolling on his phone was shocking.’
Ms Hopcroft, a student at Oxford Brookes University, had been on holiday with friends in the south of France and flew back to the UK from Marseilles on an easyJet flight that afternoon – which arrived on time for her flight on to Inverness.
She was encouraged that she and her fellow passengers were all boarded on time for the flight from Gatwick.
But once they were boarded the time for the scheduled departure, 7.45pm local time, came and went without them moving.
She said: ‘After a while the captain came on the tannoy to apologise and said that although the passengers were all boarded ok they were having issues getting all the check-in luggage on board and that was causing a delay.
‘It was frustrating as it was very hot and uncomfortable and everyone was itching to get going but with all the cancellations we’ve heard about I guess we were all thinking it could be much worse.
‘But then I looked out of the window and I saw that right below me was the loading ramp for bags.
‘There were two guys in hi-viz jackets and on of them was putting the suitcases on it – but the other guy was just sat there right next to the bags scrolling on his phone.
‘I definitely saw him scrolling on both Tiktok and Instagram – I was close enough to make out what was on his screen. His mate was doing all the work on his own.’
It comes as, on another day of airport chaos yesterday:
- Heathrow bosses introduced a 100,000 daily passenger limit until September and demanded airlines cancel 10,000 flights;
- Emirates revealed it would be ignoring Heathrow Airport’s request for it and other airlines to cancel flights to comply with its new cap on passenger numbers;
- BA started contacting customers asking if they are able to change their flights before July 25 so they can begin rescheduling to meet Heathrow’s requirements;
- Passengers were seen queueing at Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester airports;
- American firm Delta Air Lines flew a plane to Heathrow to pick up 1,000 lost bags that had been left at the west London airport following a luggage backlog;
- EasyJet Holidays chief Garry Wilson told the BBC that it had done ‘everything in its control’ to prevent flight cancellations and sure up its scheduling;
- Gatwick Airport ran out of water – leaving some passengers unable to use the toilets and some food outlets unable to serve meals and drinks.
Ms Hopcroft, a student at Oxford Brookes University, said when she looked out the window she saw a member of the baggage team scrolling on his mobile phone
Rhiannon Hopcroft, 21, from Inverness, was on her way home to Scotland via a connecting flight from the troubled Sussex airport on Tuesday evening.
Ms Hopcroft, a student at Oxford Brookes University, had been on holiday with friends in the south of France and flew back to the UK from Marseilles on an easyJet flight that afternoon – which arrived on time for her flight on to Inverness
A source at Gatwick (pictured: Queues at the airport check-in area yesterday) said the person seen on his phone may not have been responsible for or qualified to load bags and could have been unable to do so for safety reasons
A source at Gatwick said the person seen on his phone may not have been responsible for or qualified to load bags and could have been unable to do so for safety reasons.
But Ms Hopcroft said: ‘I can’t see how it would be any less safe for him to be there and not to help with the bags – but if he wasn’t then it was completely inappropriate to have him in full view of a whole plane full of frustrated passengers and messing about on his phone.’
She added: ‘To be fair the cabin crew seemed as frustrated as we were by the delay and one of the actually went down to the tarmac and started apparently remonstrating with them to hurry up.
‘Eventually we took off about an hour late. From what I could see this was largely avoidable.
‘It may not have been the only reason but it can’t have helped and it sent a terrible message to frustrated passengers who could see what he was doing.
‘Thankfully I had enough time that it didn’t cause me huge problems at the other end but I’m sure there must have been others who had problems resulting from being late.’
A spokesman for EasyJet said: ‘We would like to apologise to passengers for the delayed departure of flight EZY867 from London Gatwick to Inverness, which arrived 30 minutes later than scheduled in Inverness.
‘This was due to the late arrival of baggage handlers to the aircraft at Gatwick and we are looking into with our with our ground handling provider at the airport as this is not the level of service we expect for our customers.’
It comes as passengers ‘passed out’ at Gatwick Airport yesterday as hundreds of travellers were crammed into a small room ‘without ventilation or AC’ in the middle of one of the hottest heatwaves in years.
The fed-up flyers were reportedly given no information about their WestJet flight to Toronto, which was delayed for several hours as a result of an IT issue.
A number of customers took to social media to express their frustration, with one reporting that just two airport employees were made available to manage a group of 300.
One wrote: ‘There are Canadians passing out at Gatwick airport due to the lack of support and flight delays with Westjet today. People citing rude staff too. I had a rude experience with Westjet at Gatwick too. Please investigate this for news updates? I’m very curious.’
Another said: ‘Absolutely disgusting from @WestJet today. Have been at @Gatwick_Airport since 10:30 am stood in queue after queue. Now waiting in a room with no ventilation or AC. Whilst we are all kept in the dark about our flight to Toronto.’
A third added: ‘Hey @WestJet can we please get ANY info on flight WS41 from @Gatwick_Airport to YYZ? We are crammed into a small, hot waiting area with no ventilation and not one staff member can give us information. Please tell us what’s going on!’
A burst water main nearby has lead to low water pressure at the terminal, wreaking more havoc at the already under-pressure airport
The airport handed out bottles of water and brought water tankers on site, with only a limited number of toilets working
A spokesperson for the Canadian airline confirmed it had been impacted by an outage from communications infrastructure firm, Zayo – though said check-in services were restored before 5pm.
They added: ‘Across our network we have seen three cancellations and more than 100 flights have been delayed as a result of the outage. We continue to thank all guests for their patience and will reaccommodate on the first available flight to ensure they get to their destination as soon as possible.’
It came as a burst water main in nearby Crawley resulted in low water pressure at the airport and malfunctioning toilets – creating even more chaos for stricken holidaymakers already facing cancelled and delayed flights.
Gatwick staff handed out bottles of water and brought water tankers on site, with only a limited number of toilets working. While some restaurants had to close earlier, the airport said all had reopened by 5pm.
The airport apologised and said it was working closely with SES Water, who insisted just before 7pm that ‘the problem has been resolved’.
Raquel Rodrigues, 49, from Worthing, said ahead of her flight to Spain: ‘We had a flight cancelled already and now there are no toilets. There are only two working in the whole terminal and you can imagine what the queues are like.
‘Nobody wants the airport to close but there are heated exchanges between staff and people trying to travel with young families. Apparently, there is a tanker coming but it’s just a bit third world.’
A Gatwick spokesperson denied that there were just two toilets working at any one time, and told MailOnline: ‘Following an earlier issue with the supply of SES Water to Gatwick and the surrounding area, which led to lower water pressure than normal, water supplies have now been restored across the airport.
‘Our teams are working to ensure all facilities are restored to normal levels of service. We apologise for any inconvenience our passengers experienced today.’
A spokesman for SES Water said: ‘We are pleased to confirm that our teams are currently repairing the burst water main in Shipley Bridge, Horley, and we expect supplies to be restored to normal soon.
‘We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused today and thank you for your patience and understanding.’
Heathrow boss faces ultimatum over ‘airmageddon’: Government orders John Holland-Kaye to develop a ‘credible recovery plan’ as airlines clash with airport over flights cap
By James Robinson for MailOnline
The boss of Heathrow is facing a Government ultimatum to reveal his plan to end the continuing travel chaos – after an airline last night launched an open rebellion against the airport’s demands to axe flights.
Department for Transport (DfT) and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) chiefs have written a joint letter to Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye urging he provide a ‘credible’ recovery plan to get the airport back to operating ‘reliably’ at a ‘stable level of capacity’.
They have also demanded to know why the airport believes a cap on daily departing passengers ‘provides a safe and resilient airport with a positive passenger experience’.
It comes after Emirates – the world’s biggest international airline – yesterday said it was refusing to axe flights in order to comply with the airport’s new cap on passenger numbers.
In a bid to reduce the risk of delay and cancellations ahead of the school summer holidays, Heathrow has now introduced a 100,000 daily departing passenger limit.
The move is expected to result in the cancellation of around 1,000 flights this summer. But the Dubai-based airline yesterday said it was refusing to comply, describing Heathrow’s demands as ‘entirely unreasonable’.
It also took aim at the west London airport following months of long queues, numerous flight cancellations, missing baggage and frequent delays, a situation it described as ‘airmageddon’.
Virgin Atlantic also criticised Heathrow’s actions and claimed it was responsible for failures which are contributing to the chaos.
Last night, Heathrow attempted to hit back at the criticism, with the airport saying it had ‘no choice’ but to make the ‘difficult’ decision to implement a passenger cap.
A spokeswoman also took aim at airlines refusing to comply with its passenger cap, saying it would be ‘disappointing’ if any company was to put ‘profit ahead of a safe and reliable passenger journey’.
But now the DfT and CAA have turned the spotlight back on Heathrow. In its letter, by the DfT’s director general for aviation Dr Rannia Leontaridi and the CAA’s chief executive, has requested Mr Holland-Kaye’s assessment of why the airport’s cap.
The letter continued: ‘We need you to develop a credible and resilient capacity recovery plan for the next six months, that provides comfort that Heathrow can operate reliably at a stable level of capacity.’
According to The Telegraph, Mr Holland-Kaye has been given until noon on Friday to assure them that the airport has enough staff for security screening and to assist disabled passengers.
It comes as travellers shared pictures on social media of long queues at the airport overnight, including one queue appearing to stretch down a hallway of Terminal 3.
Yesterday, on another day of airport chaos:
The boss of Heathrow (pictured: Queues at the airport overnight shared by one user on Twitter) is facing a Government ultimatum to reveal his plan to end the continuing chaos – after an airline last night launched an open rebellion against the airport’s demands to cut the number of flights
It comes as travellers shared pictures on social media of long queues at the airport overnight, including one queue appearing to stretch down a hallway of Terminal 3
It comes as airline Emirates took aim at the west London airport (pictured: Queues overnight at Heathrow) over long queues, numerous flight cancellations, missing baggage and frequent delays, describing the situation as ‘airmageddon’
Department for Transport (DfT) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) chiefs last night wrote a joint letter to Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye (pictured) urging he provide a ‘credible’ recovery plan to get the airport back to operating ‘reliably’ at a ‘stable level of capacity
It comes as British Airways last night started contacting passengers asking them to reschedule their flights amid a row between Heathrow and airlines over the airport’s passenger cap.
Bosses at the west London travel hub sparked fury from travel chiefs on Tuesday after announcing an immediate 100,000 daily passenger limit.
Airport chiefs ordered UK airlines to, ‘stop selling summer tickets to limit the impact on passengers’ because Heathrow is already expecting an average of 104,000 daily outbound passengers in the coming months.
Carriers were yesterday said to be in intense discussions with the airport and flight schedulers in an attempt to cut capacity by up to 15 per cent at Terminals 3 and 5.
And BA has now started to contact passengers due to fly before July 25 if they are able to reschedule their flight. Industry insiders have suggested the company is filleting out flights in order to more easily make short-notice cancellations.
However MailOnline understands the UK flag carrier has made a ‘small number’ of short-haul and domestic cancellations over the next two weeks to fit in with Heathrow’s passenger cap. BA says it has moved passengers either onto trains or similar flights from Heathrow or City airports.
Yesterday, travel expert Paul Charles, who runs travel consultancy the PC Agency, shared an email from BA to customers asking passengers travelling in the next fortnight if they would like to reschedule their flights for free.
BA said passengers could change their flights to another BA operated flight to any date within the next 12 months, subject to availability.
Commenting on the email, in a post on Twitter, Mr Charles wrote: ‘I said it would be a summer of stress. BA among airlines operating from Heathrow now asking those travelling before 25th July to consider changing flights, so enabling them to more easily choose which flights to cancel at short notice.’
The new measures, which are due to remain in place until September 11, are part of Heathrow’s latest attempts to prevent a school summer holiday repeat of the chaotic scenes witnessed at airports up and down the UK over the Easter weekend.
British Airways (pictured: Library image) has started contacting passengers to ask if they are able to reschedule their flights amid a row between Heathrow and airlines over its decision to cap the number of passengers travelling through the airport
It comes after travel expert Paul Charles today shared an email from BA to customers asking passengers travelling in the next fortnight if they would like to reschedule their flights for free
Yesterday, in the latest update to the summer of airport chaos, BA began contacting customers by email asking if they are able to change their flights.
Delta Air Lines has to charter airbus to repatriate 1,000 lost bags from London Heathrow to Detroit – with no passengers onboard
A Delta airlines plane flew from Heathrow to Detroit filled with 1,000 lost suitcases as the baggage crisis at the airport continues – on another day of huge queues for holidaymakers.
The airline made the move after cancelling its regular service between London and the US city on Monday due to Heathrow’s decision to introduce of an unprecedented 100,000 limit on daily departing passengers until September.
Passengers were instead move onto alternative flights, allowing Delta to use an empty Airbus SE A330-200 to transport piles of luggage.
Discussing quarterly results yesterday, chief executive Ed Bastian said: ‘We’ve gone as far as recently we had a separate charter just to repatriate bags back to customers that have been stranded because of some of the operational issues.’
A spokesperson for Delta added: ‘Delta teams worked a creative solution to move delayed checked bags from London-Heathrow on July 11 after a regularly scheduled flight had to be cancelled given airport passenger volume restrictions at Heathrow. Delta flight 9888 from Heathrow to Delta’s Detroit hub flew 1,000 bags back to the US, where teams then forwarded the bags on to our customers.’
The flight comes after Heathrow ordered airlines to stop selling summer tickets as airports across the UK battle against a staffing crisis in the aviation sector, while apologising to customers over long queues and baggage issues that have plagued holidaymakers for weeks.
The dramatic move imposes a maximum limit on the number of passengers allowed to leave the airport until September 11.
And it will lead to more cancellations on top of the thousands of flights axed in recent months.
Affected passengers will not be entitled to compensation as the reason for the cancellations will be classified as being outside the control of airlines.
The airport was first plunged into chaos in March as bosses struggled to hire enough staff amid widespread labour shortages in the UK in the wake of the pandemic.
Staff shortages have subsequently led to piles of lost luggage beside baggage belts and passengers having to wait weeks to be reunited with clothing and other necessities.
The email said: ‘This week Heathrow Airport has set a passenger limit per day until September 2022. As a result, they have told us to adjust our flying schedule to reduce the number of customers using the airport this summer.
‘We understand that some customers may want to review their travel plans in light of current travel challenges. We want to be as flexible as possible so that you can move your flights if you wish.
‘If you are due to travel between now and July 25 and you wish to change your flights we have introduced a policy that will allow you to easily change your travel dates via our website.’
The airline insists the move is to help passengers who are concerned about flying amid the travel chaos and the current summer heatwave, and that it has already rescheduled in preparation for Heathrow’s announcement.
MailOnline understands around 80 flights have been cancelled across the next fortnight. However BA insists its schedule is line with Heathrow’s request and they are not expecting to make any short-notice cancellations, unless in the case of technical issues.
It comes as an American airline has sent an empty plane to the UK to repatriate hundreds of lost suitcases caught up in Britain’s travel chaos – as an easyJet chief pointed the finger of blame at airports.
Delta Air Lines sent the Airbus SE A330-200 to Heathrow Airport last night to bring back the bags, which have been following a baggage backlog at the west London travel hub.
The backlog stretches back from a technical glitch earlier this month which resulted in thousands of bags being stacked up outside Terminal 2, creating what some described as a ‘sea of luggage’.
A spokesperson for Delta added: ‘Delta teams worked a creative solution to move delayed checked bags from London-Heathrow on July 11 after a regularly scheduled flight had to be cancelled given airport passenger volume restrictions at Heathrow.
‘Delta flight 9888 from Heathrow to Delta’s Detroit hub flew 1,000 bags back to the US, where teams then forwarded the bags on to our customers.’
Yesterday, as the blame game continued, Garry Wilson, chief executive of EasyJet Holidays, easyJet’s holiday wing, said the airline had done ‘everything in its control’ to prevent flight cancellations and sure up the resilience in its scheduling.
The budget airline cancelled more than 4,000 flights in the three months to the end of June in a bid to prevent a repeat of the chaotic scenes witnessed at airports over the Easter Holidays.
Mr Wilson told the BBC: ‘We’ve done everything in our control to ensure there’s resilience in the system. There may be other things happening – like air traffic control delays, or with airport infrastructure.’
Travel firms have been blamed for the chaotic scenes at airports. Airlines and airports have been accused of failing to prepare for the return of international travel following the lifting of Covid restrictions earlier this year.
But airlines and airports have in turn blamed the Government, who they say left companies with no choice but to make job cuts by failing to extend the Covid furlough scheme for holiday firms until all travel restrictions had been lifted.
Mr Wilson rejected the suggestion EasyJet had failed to prepare for the summer. He said: ‘No, I think with the information we had at the time, we took all the steps that were necessary. As soon as we knew there was strain on the system, we built up that resilience, by taking flights out.’
MailOnline has contacted Heathrow Airport for a comment.