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Thu, Feb 17, 2005

Detroit Baggage Handlers Overwhelmed

Airline Blames TSA

Northwest Airlines baggage handlers blame poor planning on management's part. Northwest blames the TSA's screening system. Whichever is true, passengers flying from Detroit's Metro were separated from their belongings as the bags either didn't make their flights or ended up on the wrong planes over the weekend.

"This was an unusual event, driven by an unusual combination of circumstances," airline spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch told the Detroit Free Press. "Northwest is working together with all interested parties to prevent this from happening again."

Passengers and ticket agents said the luggage piled up behind ticket counters until it reached the ceiling, as lines of frustrated passengers stretched out of the building and down the sidewalk.

"It was chaos," passenger Donna Satterfield of Grosse Pointe Park told the Free Press. Her luggage was finally delivered Sunday night in Lake Tahoe, NV, more than a day after she departed Metro. "The luggage was piled up and people were really angry."

To hear Stephen Gordon tell it, the problem was Northwest's lack of planning for so many passengers. Gordon, president of Local 141 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents baggage handlers, skycaps and gate agents at Metro, told the Detroit newspaper, "Everyone wants to run really lean on staff, and this is the price you pay."

Gordon warned the same thing could happen next weekend, when many of those travelers head home.

Northwest tells a different story. The airline blames the TSA's screening process and a bomb detection machine that broke down.

Whatever the cause, all parties seemed to agree on one thing: There was no sign of a worker slow-down of the type that was suspected in causing major problems throughout US Airways' system over the Christmas holidays.



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