Travelers at Brussels Airport experienced severe delays on Thursday morning from 06:00 am after baggage handlers of Aviapartner started a spontaneous strike. At around 7:30 a.m., there were already delays of nearly two hours on some flights. According to VRT NWS, some passengers who had boarded a plane had to disembark. About 80% of Aviapartner’s staff was on strike.
The disruptions affected all ground operations, including baggage handling, pushback (towing) of aircraft and cleaning tasks in the aircraft. Check-in was not affected. At 9 a.m., Aviapartner employees returned to work, tweeted trade unionist Kurt Callaerts of ACV-Transcom. “Measures to reduce the workload are under consideration (planning of breaks, for instance). Additional negotiations are planned next week,” he said.
“Activities have resumed after three hours of the strike action,” said a Brussels Airport spokesperson. “However, the effects of this action will likely be felt for several hours as the backlog needs to be cleared.”
Aviapartner is responsible for baggage handling for half of Brussels Airport’s flights. Thus, 115 flights from Brussels Airport are scheduled to be handled by Aviapartner. On the Brussels Airlines side, no disruption was noted on Thursday morning as the airline is not linked to Aviapartner, a spokesperson confirmed to Belga.
The spontaneous strike affected about 40 flights (about 20 departures and 20 arrivals). Some of these flights were delayed and others left without luggage. The luggage remaining at Zaventem will be forwarded to the planned destinations at a later date. For further information, passengers can contact the airlines, says the airport.
The delays at Brussels Airport is one more in a series of disruptions observed across Europe. After the lifting of travel restrictions, many airports and airlines are facing difficulties coping with the surge in the number of passengers. Scenes of chaos experienced at several British airports during the Easter break, as well as the warnings coming from the tourism sector in the Netherlands, foreshadow a summer with serious problems.
According to Airport Council International (ACI) Europe, airports and ground handlers are coming out of the Covid-19 crisis with depleted resources as they have been forced to lay off staff in those areas due to the collapse in air traffic in 2020 and 2021. Security and ground handling jobs have for many years stood at the lower end of pay scales and also involve working in shifts 7-days a week is a clear handicap in attracting people in the current inflationary environment.
Carriers are being asked to adapt their schedules to reduce traffic peaks and return unused slots as early as possible. Notifying airports at least three weeks before scheduled flights will help managers to maintain appropriate staffing levels.