Bag woes blamed on staff

Human error caused about 500 stoppages to the baggage handling system at the airport opening, it was claimed yesterday.

But the Commission of Inquiry on the New Airport heard the system itself was 99.9 per cent operational.

'Disciplinary problems' among airport staff caused the stoppages which continued for four days after the July 6 opening, said the Airport Authority's baggage handling consultant, Ben Reijers.

Departing passengers' bags failed to turn up at their destinations, while arriving passengers lost luggage or had to wait hours for it.

Testifying on day 34 of the inquiry, Mr Reijers said the system had been installed and tested for about a year before the opening, and was 99.9 per cent operational on opening day.

Mr Reijers, who has 30 years experience in baggage systems, denied claims the system had broken down, saying it was being constantly reset due to congestion and misuse, despite staff training.

'It was problems caused by others and the combined effect which made the system clog up - if it gets congested it comes to a standstill,' Mr Reijers said. 'We had about 500 stoppages because of discipline problems.' He said about 12 to 13 incidents 'snowballed' to cause the high number of stoppages. Staff had pushed emergency stop buttons unnecessarily, Mr Reijers said.