The detail examines the myriad of reasons that led to this – but they basically come down to a lack of staff.
“There’s a real problem right now with the amount of bags not getting to New Zealand,” says Savage.
“As far as we can tell from a union perspective, the problems are not happening at Auckland airport, but they are happening at airports overseas.
“Anecdotally, what I was told was that at one point one of the companies on the ground had about 900 bags that they were trying to collect with their passengers. So it became a common problem at the moment – mistakes abroad, bags arriving after the passenger, then a backlog of bags at the airport as they then try to track down the passengers and reunite them with their bags.”
He says the problems are mainly related to the shutdown of aviation during the lockdown and the resulting labor market problems as the industry begins to rebuild.
“There’s a real recruiting problem right now in the industry,” Savage says.
“Before, there was a queue of people waiting to join these companies. And there is no queue now.”
This has led to situations such as a recent flight from Hawaii arriving in Auckland where only one person was available to unload baggage from an A330. This person has since resigned and found a new job at the airport.
Airlines are in debt and many of those people who worked at the airport as check-in staff, cabin crew, loaders or ground support staff have been lured into better jobs with better pay and hours.
“So aviation employers have to raise their pay rates to try to entice people – they’re finding that increasingly difficult to do,” Savage said.
“In particular, they have an employment barrier because you can’t just pull someone off the street and stick them on a baggage belt. They have to go through pretty strict safety and security training to be an airport worker because you’re working at the border.”
Then there’s the current delay in obtaining security cards, for many of the same reasons.
In addition, airline employees are more often sick or have to self-isolate.
“Every part of the system is under pressure and that has a ripple effect. And for customers, that leads to travel delays and disruptions, and lost or missing luggage.”
Savage’s advice for travelers in the next six months?
“Pack light, make sure you have really good insurance just in case…and be patient with airport workers. I know it’s really frustrating when you’re traveling, but don’t blame the cabin crew and don’t take it out on ground staff, they often work under very tense conditions.
“Arrive early, be patient, make sure you label all your luggage correctly…or maybe don’t go overseas!
“Stay in New Zealand and enjoy the New Zealand summer.”