GENEVA: A plane flying from Zurich to Spain this weekend arrived without a single piece of luggage onboard, unbeknownst to the passengers, media reported on Sunday, as the airline blamed ground staff shortages.

Passengers on the Swiss airlines flight to the northern Spanish city of Bilbao on Saturday evening waited by the conveyor belt for their luggage to appear for over two hours, in vain, the Blick daily reported.

Swiss airlines spokesman Kavin Ampalam confirmed that the plane, which Swiss had operated on behalf of Edelweiss airlines, had taken off with 111 passengers but no baggage onboard.

“There was a shortage of ground staff,” he said, adding that the crew had waited for the situation to be rectified. But after “one hour and 16 minutes, the situation was still unchanged, and for operational reasons we decided to fly to Bilbao without the baggage”.

The reason, he explained, was the need to pick up passengers in Bilbao and get the plane back to Zurich before the airport closed for the night.

“We understand the situation is not favourable for the people involved, and of course we regret the inconvenience,” he said.

Blick meanwhile cited passengers saying the pilot had apologised for the delayed takeoff in Zurich, blaming “a lack of qualified personnel”, but said no mention was made of the decision to leave the baggage behind.

Passengers told the paper that no Swiss staff had been on the ground in Bilbao, and that they had then waited for over two hours for their luggage before staff from Spanish airline Iberia informed them that the plane had landed with no baggage onboard. “Our vacation is ruined,” passenger Carsten Redlich told Blick.

Ampalam said he could not confirm that passengers had not been informed about the decision to leave the baggage behind in Zurich.

“We are still analysing the situation to find out what happened exactly and how we can improve,” he said. “This shouldn’t happen.”

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2023

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