As the aviation industry groans under the weight of growing travel demand and rampant staff shortages, a video chronicling the suspenseful journey of misplaced luggage has captivated TikTok viewers.
TikTok user @jackatyou captured the biting incident at a Delta Air Lines lounge at Nashville International Airport in which a suitcase fell from a vehicle en route to the plane, causing a lot of anxiety to the spectators.
The clip shows at least three airport staff in vehicles driving past the pink suitcase on the tarmac, examining it occasionally before dumping it and driving off. When a “hero” finally retrieves the forgotten luggage, the lounge passengers cheer, bringing the saga to its triumphant conclusion.
The video, viewed more than 6.3 million times, highlights how an industry collapsing under today’s booming travel demand may be more vulnerable to such oversights.
The level of mishandled baggage increased by 24% worldwide in 2021, according to a recent report by aviation technology company SITA.
The resumption of international and long-haul flights has contributed to a significant increase in delayed, lost and damaged baggage, according to the report’s findings.
The study also noted that airline and airport downsizing is impacting the resources and quality of baggage handling, which if left unaddressed, could see the level of mishandling continue to rise.
“The industry now needs to do more with less. As we emerge from the pandemic, our customers’ focus remains on safely managing the end-to-end transport of passenger baggage, but now they also need to reduce the total cost and the training required,” said David Lavorel, CEO of SITA.
“There is significant pressure to increase operational efficiency, which is accelerating digitization.”
Qantas this week apologized to customers affected by baggage delays over the Queen’s Birthday weekend, with some travelers waiting nearly a week for baggage to arrive.
A Qantas spokesperson noted the role of airports in the mess: “Over the long weekend we saw a number of baggage delays caused by breakdowns in baggage systems, which are maintained by airports of Sydney and Brisbane.”
Transport Workers Union of Australia national secretary Michael Kaine said the recent chaos at airports is a consequence of the mass exodus of experienced workers from aviation over the past two years.
“Security guards and ground workers were stripped of JobKeeper in an eleventh-hour Morrison government amendment, forcing many out of the industry,” he said.
Kaine added that the problem was caused by the layoff of thousands of ground workers during the pandemic. Qantas recently lost an appeal against a Federal Court ruling which found the airline’s outsourcing of 2,000 ground staff was unlawful, although the airline plans to challenge the decision in the High Court.
“The shortage of full-time, permanent jobs in favor of low-paying, casual or part-time jobs leads to a chronic understaffing,” Kaine said.
“Workers are tired, forced to rush and in these conditions delays, mistakes and injuries are inevitable.”
The union is calling on the federal government to set up a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to regulate working conditions and attract quality candidates.
Meanwhile, Australian airports are ramping up recruitment efforts ahead of the July travel peak; Melbourne and Sydney airports have turned to hosting job fairs to fill thousands of remaining vacancies, while Brisbane airport is also scrambling to recruit more frontline staff.
Australian airports advise travelers to arrive at least three hours in advance for an international departure and to be prepared for long waits at check-in and security.