London Gatwick Airport said staff shortages at ground-handling firm Swissport International AG are to blame for delays at luggage carousels affecting thousands of incoming passengers with carriers including British Airways.

Gatwick, Britain’s second-busiest hub, is seeking to ease the situation by directing its own workers to transport luggage to terminals and on to belts in the reclaim area, though they’re not permitted to unload planes, it said in a statement today. People who can’t wait are being offered free home-delivery.

“This has been frustrating for passengers and we are disappointed with the recent arrival-baggage service,” the airport said. “Swissport has committed to getting this right, and we are working closely with them to help.”

Swissport, owned by French private-equity firm PAI Partners SAS, said on its website that delays began over the weekend, traditionally the busiest of the year, when resources proved insufficient to cope with unscheduled aircraft arrivals. Bags are still being delivered to carousels within the targeted timeframe on 95 percent of flights, according to Gatwick.

The airport aims to deliver all bags to carousels within 35 minutes of landing for small and mid-size planes and 55 minutes for larger jets, according to a June performance report from the hub, which is controlled by Global Infrastructure Partners.

Companies using Swissport for baggage handling at Gatwick’s two terminals include TUI Travel Plc’s Thomson Airways, Thomas Cook Group Plc and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., as well as British Airways, according to the June report.

Swissport declined to comment on BBC reports that Monarch Airlines Ltd. terminated a contract with the company following the delays. Monarch said it’s working to improve service levels, without saying if it has switched handling providers.

Gatwick’s biggest carrier EasyJet Plc, served by Swissport rival John Menzies Plc, said it’s working with the airport to ensure operations run smoothly with no knock-on effects.

With assistance from Kari Lundgren in London. To contact the reporter on this story: Alexa Liautaud in London at To contact the editors responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at

Photo Credit: Gatwick passengers during a previous break down in services in December. Sang Tan / Associated Press