Northwest Eyes Luggage Improvements

Thursday, July 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Northwest Airlines has sent a team of baggage handlers to the Netherlands and is taking other steps to help stem a flood of complaints from transatlantic passengers arriving in North America without their bags.

The company has dispatched 50 expert baggage handlers to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, where many of the problems are believed to have originated.

The loss rate is 90 bags per 1,000 carried, or about 20 times the normal loss rate for the airline, said Dirk McMahon, senior vice president of ground operations.

Northwest has also added 40 full-time workers at its domestic gateway airports to bolster luggage handling and tracing, McMahon said.

In addition, 20 Northwest reservation agents have been assigned exclusively to handle lost-bag complaints, alleviating the crush on personnel in the various international gateway airports operated by Northwest/KLM.

``Too many passengers are getting to America without their luggage,'' McMahon said. ``I would really characterize this as a wart on an operation that has run very well over the past 18 months. We've taken pretty aggressive steps.''

The luggage system in Amsterdam has a peak handling capacity of 4,500 bags per hour. With heavy passenger loads this summer, Northwest and KLM have exceeded the capacity by 1,500 bags per hour during peak departure times. The main problem is with bags on outbound, transatlantic flights from Amsterdam, McMahon said.

KLM has invested $100 million to upgrade its Schiphol luggage-handling system to 9,000 bags per hour, but the new machinery won't be in place until late 2001, McMahon said.