Swissport airport ground staff members working at Brisbane Airport. Picture Jen Dainer
Swissport airport ground staff members working at Brisbane Airport. Picture Jen Dainer

Baggage handlers face the axe unless funds flow

STAFF at the baggage handling firm which manages luggage for Sunshine Coast Airport carriers are in limbo as pandemic effects continue to rock the nation's aviation industry.

Swissport Asia-Pacific Vice President Glenn Rutherford was yesterday calling on the Federal Government to broaden its financial support in the sector, as the company prepared to axe more than 80 per cent of its workers.

About 1000 jobs were identified as at-risk, including 61 on the Coast, by the company.


It provides ground services and cargo handling for the aviation industry at 32 airports in Australia and New Zealand.

"Without experienced ground handlers, terrorist threats and organised crime will grow stronger once air travel restrictions are progressively lifted from this year," Mr Rutherford told News Corp Australia on Wednesday.

"If our workers are made redundant, it will take years to relearn the security skills needed to adequately assess whether check-in passengers are a possible terrorist threat, and whether unaccompanied bags have mistakenly been loaded onto aircraft.

"More importantly, ground operators are the essential human infrastructure that airport operations and airlines depend on."

The Sunshine Coast Airport runway is almost complete.
The Sunshine Coast Airport runway is almost complete.

Mr Rutherford said "hundreds of millions of dollars" of equipment at airports around the state would be sold off to other markets in the coming months if the situation continued and their operations had to be mothballed.

Sunshine Coast Airport head of corporate relations Ayllie White said Swissport provided baggage handling services under contract to airlines at the airport, and those airlines would consider baggage handling in their plans to ramp up operations when travel restrictions were lifted.

Ms White said the company's thoughts were with staff of Swissport and Virgin Australia, which entered voluntary administration this week, having transported 400,000 passengers to and from the Coast last year.

"Aviation is key to the economic recovery of the region, particularly for the tourism and hospitality industries, and we are working with all our airlines to bring aviation capacity back to Sunshine Coast in the near future," Ms White said.