LONDON – The Australian national flag carrier Qantas was delivered yet another embarrassing body blow on the weekend, when footage emerged of Swissport baggage handlers deliberately mishandling passenger luggage.
The men concerned have now been identified and stood down by the operator pending an investigation.
The video footage, which went viral on social media over the weekend, depicted three baggage handlers deliberately throwing and slamming passenger luggage onto a conveyor belt as they unloaded a cargo container clearly marked with a Qantas logo.
The incident allegedly occurred in Melbourne, and shows the three men laughing and joking as they hurl multiple bags.
The men were identified as being Swissport employees – the company which was sub-contracted to handle Qantas ground services after the airline sacked its own baggage handling staff earlier this year.
According to the Australian national broadcaster, Swissport confirmed on the weekend that “the staff in question have been stood down pending an urgent investigation.”
The company’s Australasian CEO Brad Moore reportedly issued a memo to staff, confirming that the video in question showed Swissport staff behaving in “an unacceptable manner” and that “the behaviours in the video let all of us down.”
“Disrespectful behaviour to our customer luggage and personal effects will not be tolerated and will result in serious disciplinary action,” Moore stated.
“Rest assured this matter will be investigated with urgency with appropriate follow-up action. The unacceptable behaviour of a few individuals will not go unchecked nor be allowed to tarnish the quality work of our whole team.”
“Since the video was released, I have received many messages from team members across the network, sharing these concerns and equally voicing their commitment to our Safety and Service standards, he added.
“We cannot allow the actions of a very small minority to undermine the first class standards of the many.”
Swissport is a global cargo services operator, and is contracted at a wide range of airports internationally to provide ground handling support services.
The boxing kangaroo – on the ropes?
But perhaps the biggest blow-back coming from the weekend incident is to Qantas itself. The video has drawn intense criticism, with many on social media suggesting that that are not surprised by the malicious behaviour.
Qantas has been criticised by both customers and staff over the course of the year as they have seemingly lurched from incident to incident. It seems that these days, the Flying Kangaroo has become something of a boxing kangaroo; and a punch-drunk one at that.
Constantly on the back foot and defending their operations, the damning footage will do little to assuage aggrieved passengers, or restore public confidence in the national carrier.
According to the ABC, Stephen Thompson, Qantas’s executive manager of Australian sales, stated that he was “absolutely appalled” by the vision, adding: “And for us, those individuals will never touch a Qantas plane again.”
I suspect the problem for Qantas is rapidly becoming the fact that many members of the Australian public will never touch a Qantas plane again.
Qantas were contacted by AviationSource for comment over the weekend – the airline is yet to respond.