SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): An increasing number of travellers flying into Singapore are reporting lost or damaged luggage as a result of issues at their airport of departure amid a global manpower crunch, said Changi Airport's main ground handler Sats.
Some travellers also have to wait longer to collect their luggage after arrival, but service targets have otherwise been met for most incoming flights, Sats told The Straits Times.
Several airports worldwide - London's Heathrow among them - have been struggling with snaking queues and luggage issues as air travel strongly rebounds.
But while Singapore and Asia have largely avoided chaotic airport scenes, industry experts have warned that the region could face similar issues as air travel volumes pick up.
The Sats spokesman said: "Issues at origin airports are causing a ripple effect on us and our passengers.
"We have noticed an increase in enquiries on missing and damaged luggage from travellers arriving in Singapore."
The spokesman did not provide specific figures. But he said the increased number of damaged luggage is also likely caused by the luggage being in need of repair after being unused for an extended period of time.
Regarding the time needed to check-in and collect luggage, he said that Sats has been monitoring the range of service quality metrics.
"Passengers on some flights may experience a longer waiting time for their checked baggage due to a number of reasons, including bad weather conditions and surge in arrivals," said the spokesman.
"For departures, we encourage travellers to factor in two hours at the minimum for check-ins, due to enhanced travel health measures as well as strict border entry requirements."
Sats is working with airport and airlines on the allocation of flights and flight timings, said the spokesman. This serves to spread out flights such that the number of travellers at any one time is at a manageable level.
Sats is also harnessing technology and deploying resources in a more efficient manner to cope with growing air traffic.
Changi Airport's other ground handler, dnata, declined to comment on how it was coping with the situation.
The aviation sector here lost about a third of its 35,000-strong workforce in the last two years. It aims to restore the workforce to about 85 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year.
Changi Airport said last month that about 6,600 jobs were available across the airport. Several firms, such as Sats and security firm Certis, have hired hundreds of workers in recent months.
A Changi Airport Group (CAG) spokesman did not provide specific figures about waiting times at check-in counters and luggage collection, but said the airport will seek to maintain the standards that travellers expect of it.
She said that check-in is expected to take longer than in pre-pandemic days owing to airport staff having to verify Covid-19 documents required by other countries.
Travellers should thus ensure they have prepared the necessary documents and submissions before heading to the airport.
Incoming Singaporeans and local residents should also submit their SG Arrival Card with electronic health declaration online ahead of their arrival, so as to facilitate smoother immigration clearance.
Singapore Airlines (SIA), the anchor airline at Changi Airport, said it encourages all customers to arrive early at the airport to avoid any unnecessary disruptions to their travel.
A spokesman said SIA works with ground handlers and service partners to ensure there are sufficient resources to support its operations. The carrier shares schedule and load information in advance with the various airport operations teams and makes necessary preparations to minimise any potential disruptions, she added.
The spokesman did not provide details as to whether SIA has received more complaints about baggage issues, but said it is committed to providing the necessary help to affected passengers.
Industry executives have said that the manpower crunch at airports worldwide is expected to persist in the near future.
Subhas Menon, director-general of the Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines, told ST in an interview last month: "It is going to be a few months before you get everybody back on board again.
"We hope that people have not lost their love for the industry... we will continue to keep up with the times and bring the shine back to aviation."