The luggage sortation system at OR Tambo International Airport has broken down.

OR Tambo International Airport is grappling with an operational nightmare on Saturday, during one of the busiest travel periods of the year. The airport’s luggage sortation system has broken down, causing a delay in baggage handling and delivery, just as holiday travellers were gearing up for festive celebrations.

Passengers have been left in the lurch, finding themselves without their luggage and essential personal belongings as the airport rushes to address the issue.

Kirby Gordon, chief marketing officer of FlySafair, said that around 3 000 bags needed to be returned to its customers. He estimated that twice that number of passengers will be affected across other airlines.

The fallout from this operational disaster extends beyond inconvenience, translating into financial implications. Ground handling companies have had to deploy extra staff and allocate overtime.

Airlines are now facing hefty courier bills for shipping luggage to reunite them with passengers. The incident prompted MSC Cruises to delay the departure of a ship from Durban harbour, incurring substantial costs.

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As the chaos unfolds, questions about compensation have surfaced among affected parties. Discussions are currently underway with Airport Company South Africa (Acsa) to address these concerns.

Around noon on Saturday, Acsa said: “Please note that we are still experiencing intermittent technical challenges with baggage sortation system which is resulting in the delay of departure flights. We encourage passengers to come to the airport early to allow sufficient time for passenger processing.”

“This is not just an inconvenience for travellers; it has significant financial repercussions for both passengers and airlines alike. The sheer scale of affected luggage and passengers demands a swift and comprehensive resolution,” said Gordon.

The baggage chaos at the airport might have been coming for a few days. One person, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Citizen she experienced a delay when flying last week when the conveyer belts were not working. This meant she could not check in her family’s luggage.


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