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Bungling Baggage System Hits New Low

Date: 19/05/2000


SIDNEY MORNING HERALD - Sydney Airport's troubled new $43 million baggage system was reduced to a farce yesterday when it began returning baggage to airline passengers - before they had left on their flights.

The flawed system, which has caused 400 baggage handlers to threaten a complete shutdown next week, is so bad that baggage services at the airport are now three times worse than acceptable international standards.

Workers say an average eight bags a day are missing flights, even though the technology, which will underpin peak Olympic demand, promised a perfect delivery service.

Airport managers blame computer software problems and insist they will commission the system by the end of the month.

Despite assurances from airport officials, airlines say they are worried that the $600 million airport upgrade will not be ready and working properly for the Olympics.

The executive director of the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia, Mr Warren Bennett, revealed yesterday that "doubts are beginning to emerge", particularly over the baggage system, broken lifts and the "construction zone" at the terminal.

A spokesman for the Transport Workers Union, Mr Richard Olsen, said last night that the Sydney Airport Corporation (SACL) had been given until next Thursday to "finalise problems".

"We have issued a warning to SACL that if they don't meet us then we will take industrial action," Mr Olsen said. "We are simply not prepared to work with this system in its current condition.

"We had another breakdown today when bags were everywhere, and the belt actually reversed direction."

Mr Bennett has written an article for a tourism magazine to be published next month in which he says: "A year ago airlines were reasonably confident the airport would be ready [but] as the Games get closer, however, some doubts are beginning to emerge.

"Most of the airlines' concern about the airport's capacity centres on its notorious baggage handling system. Its breakdowns are legendary among airline station managers.

"The lifts in the international terminal building are also a problem. Maintenance shutdowns and breakdowns have been and continue to be far too frequent.

"The car park and forecourt area of the international terminal is still a construction zone."

Sydney Airport's aviation director, Mr Greg Russell, was adamant yesterday that all construction and upgrading at the airport would be completed in time for the Olympics.

Mr Russell said the troubled baggage handling was not in danger of falling behind deadlines, but was "in a process of commissioning which will be completed by the end of the month".

Domestic Express, Sydney Airport's new domestic terminal, will be operational, but not complete, when Australia's third domestic carrier begins its Sydney-Melbourne services on June 5. The terminal will cater for Impulse and Virgin Blue.


-- (, May 19, 2000

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