Ministers battling to end chaos at airports have claimed safety tests for new employees are completed in record time to end a staff crisis as passengers complained about “disaster movie scenes” in departure lounges.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is trying to alleviate flight disruption this summer to avert the chaos over the Easter and anniversary holidays.
A shortage of staff to handle baggage and carry out security checks such as X-rays is causing long queues and delays at UK airports.
The government has instructed the control center to prioritize airport checks so that new recruits can help close the gaps more quickly.
The Department of Transport (DfT) said anti-terror checks for airline personnel are now processed in less than 10 days on average – in mid-March.
Accreditation checks are also accelerated, according to the department, to complete within five days on average.
But in the short term, the staff shortage seems to be hitting Heathrow airport.
Passenger Adam Kent, 59, said the baggage claim “looked like a scene from a disaster movie” after arriving at Terminal 3 from Orlando, Florida.
“(There was) lost luggage everywhere, stacked between baggage belts, everyone stepped over it and nobody did anything about it,” Mr Kent, from Worcestershire, told PA news agency.
“To be brutally honest, it seems like a serious health and safety issue.
“No one visible on the ground to explain the massacre or clean up the mess. It seems like a lot of luggage didn’t arrive with passengers and was just dumped.”
Mr Kent said there was “terrible customer service” at the airport, adding: “Staff (were) nowhere to be seen, everyone was quite shocked.
“The abandoned and abandoned luggage was left unsecured and could be easily stolen… No duty of care shown to passengers’ belongings.”
Mr Shapps, who has put in place a 22-point plan to help mitigate the disruption, welcomed the latest stats.
“People have made huge sacrifices during the pandemic and deserve that their flights fly on time, without complications and without being canceled at the last minute,” he said.
“While this is a challenging time for the industry, it is not acceptable for the current disruption to continue as we approach the summer peak.
“The public now deserves to know whether their flight will be in the summer or not, which is why I reiterate my appeal to the industry to commit to delivering the flights they have scheduled, or cancel them well in advance so that people can make other arrangements. †
“Building on our 22-point plan to help the industry minimize disruption, we will continue to do everything we can to ensure this summer is a huge success for the UK public.”
But Labor accused the government of “missing in action”.
Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said: “The part-time transport secretary has not held a single meeting to deal with the chaos between Easter and the anniversary weekend and is now desperately trying to catch up.
“These re-announced half-measures will do little to overcome the massive delays in security checks and tackle the chronically low wages that are holding the industry back.”
However, the DfT said Mr Shapps held an aviation roundtable on June 1 to discuss the disruption with airports, airlines and ground handling companies.