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Sydney braces for baggage nightmare

By MELISSA FYFE SYDNEY Monday 22 May 2000

Planeloads of international guests - one every minute - will hit Sydney airport during the peak Olympic build-up and the visitors' first impression of Australia threatens to be one of frustration.

International airlines based at Sydney airport have revealed their concern that visitors and Olympic athletes will be dogged by problems with the international terminal's baggage system.

"The airlines are nervous that it won't necessarily operate effectively at the time of the Olympics and there is some risk there will be a breakdown in the system and delays will ensue," Warren Bennett, executive director of the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia, told The Age.

"It will be especially frustrating if you are an athlete with lots of equipment," he said.

Last week, the new $43million baggage system reversed, delivering bags to passengers who had not yet boarded their aircraft.

On Friday, a suitcase that had fallen off the system was found stuck in the ceiling of the airport. It had been there for two days.

Baggage workers also complained that eight bags a day were missing flights.

The airlines are concerned the baggage problem will get worse with the installation of high-tech X-ray equipment, required by the Federal Government by the end of this month.

"The integration of another computer control system, that is where the real problems are going to start," Mr Bennett said.

The new baggage system has also been troubled by industrial action, with workers wary of heavy bags falling off elevated conveyor belts.

Sydney Airport Corporation's aviation director Greg Russell said the Transport Workers Union's concerns would be addressed and he was confident the baggage system would be working smoothly by the Olympics.

Also troubled is the new airport railway, opened yesterday. The line has been dogged by technical and ticketing problems that may not be resolved before the Olympics.

But the airport's other renovations are running smoothly.

-- Martin Thompson (, May 21, 2000

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