Edinburgh Airport suspends phone helpline after passengers abuse staff

Scotland’s busiest airport has suspended its phone helpline after staff were verbally abused by passengers and deluged with missing baggage queries for which airlines are responsible, The Scotsman has learned.

The move came as MSPs on Friday warned passengers not to abuse staff after hearing “multiple reports of passengers being rude and insulting to airport workers”.

One Edinburgh aviation source said some staff had been so traumatised by their treatment they had been forced to quit their shifts.

They said: “There has been a big rise in passenger anger but the abuse of staff is unacceptable”.

The abuse has been linked to delays caused by staff shortages and passengers arriving too early for flights, lengthening queues.

Thousands of mislaid bags, including transfer baggage, have also built up in and around the airport due to staffing problems with handling agents such as Swissport and Menzies Aviation.

Edinburgh Airport said its helpline was designed for queries about services for which it was responsible, such as car parks, wheelchair provision and shops – but not baggage.

A spokesperson said: "Our customer support team are currently seeing a large volume of queries, around 90 per cent of which are related to the baggage process which is under the control of airlines and handling agents, not the airport.

Baggage drop-off queues have lengthened due to passengers arriving too early for flights. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

"Unfortunately we have seen a rise in the amount of abuse our teams are facing from passengers.

"Although we appreciate the frustration they are facing, it is not acceptable and there is no excuse for abuse.

"To allow our teams to work through a backlog of airport queries, and to protect them from this verbal abuse, we have taken the decision to temporarily suspend the phone lines.

"Passengers can still get in touch by email or using the chatbot function on our website."

Airports are struggling to cope with post-pandemic demand because of staff shortages among airlines and handling agents. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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The Scottish Parliament's Cross Party Group on Aviation also issued a warning about abuse and passengers turning up too early for flights.

Co-convenors Graham Simpson and Paul McLennan said: "Scotland's airports are facing challenges but passengers are not suffering the problems that are being experienced elsewhere.

"The airports and airlines have been very clear that there is no need to turn up early because that only adds to queues.

"We've also heard that passengers have been abusing staff and that is completely unacceptable and it just adds to the pressure they are under.”

A joint statement from AGS Airports, owners of Aberdeen and Glasgow airports, and Edinburgh Airport, said: "Aviation is facing a global challenge as the industry experiences tremendous demand just a few months after the lifting of restrictions.

"While this has resulted in some issues, Scotland's airports are performing well in comparison to others.

"We know that some of our partners are facing difficulties in recruiting staff which has been a source of understandable frustration for some passengers.

“Unfortunately that is resulting in a rise in the number of incidents of abusive and disruptive behaviour towards staff.

"We cannot accept that as staff are working incredibly hard to get passengers to where they want to be and we thank the vast majority of passengers who have worked with us to ensure a smooth journey through our airports."