Exclusive undercover footage has revealed frustrated passengers crawling into restricted baggage areas and exhausted staff complaining about working conditions at Manchester Airport.

In a Channel 4 documentary, which airs tonight, viewers will get a glimpse at what goes on behind the scenes at one of the country’s biggest airports.

On the Dispatches investigation ‘Airport Chaos Undercover’, an undercover reporter working airside as a baggage handler for Swissport witnessed desperate passengers crawling through luggage conveyor belts in an attempt to get into the airside area to locate luggage they had been waiting on for hours.

Upon speaking to colleagues they discovered this is a regular occurrence, with workers claiming, “it happens all the time” and another saying, “people try coming though, start fights”.

The reporter also witnessed baggage handlers performing physically demanding work by themselves on long shifts over multiple days that would, pre-pandemic, typically be covered by two or more people.

Other baggage handlers describe how their team numbers had been slashed, commenting that the majority of people who were sacked were “experienced staff”.

Swissport, the baggage-handling company used by many airlines, sacked over half of its 6,000 baggage handling staff during the pandemic.

Commenting on their investigation, the undercover reporter said: “To be honest, I just don't know how people do these shifts and these kinds of hours starting at 3am. It’s absolutely brutal.

“No one gives them much credit. But without them no one's flights will be taking off. No one will be going on holiday.”

Commenting on the clips, a spokesperson for Swissport said: “We are sorry for our part in the disruption some people have experienced at Manchester Airport. 

"We are doing everything we can to mitigate delays for passengers, including hiring more than 4,100 people since January.”

A recent review commissioned by Home Secretary Priti Patel found the UK’s Border Force is operating in an “unsustainable and highly inefficient way”.

Dispatches hears from a whistleblower from UK Border Force who gives insight into the lengthy queues at passport control.

Speaking anonymously, the whistleblower says: We don’t have the staff, we don’t have the resources… when we start to get summer levels close to pre-pandemic summer levels with current staffing, you’re going to get queues significantly longer than three hours.”

Presenter Jane Moore meets a number of passengers who had been affected by flight cancellations – including a family who spent nearly £4,000 rearranging flights for a wedding, a passenger who was left stranded in Europe without critical heart medication, a passenger with accessibility needs who was abandoned on a plane and a single mother who had saved for years to take her son on his first holiday abroad, only to have it cancelled.

Almost all of these passengers were either denied compensation or did not receive a response when they made a compensation claim – however many did eventually receive compensation after Dispatches got in touch with the airline on their behalf.

Lancashire Telegraph: Passengers at the Manchester Airport baggage hatch. (Credit: Channel 4)Passengers at the Manchester Airport baggage hatch. (Credit: Channel 4)

In response to Dispatches’ investigation, Wizz Air said: “At Wizz Air, the safety and wellbeing of our passengers and crew is always our top priority.

“We ensure our experienced pilots and cabin crew keep our customers safe by operating an industry-leading fatigue management system.

"This is in line with the legal requirements applicable in the industry, and is regularly reviewed and monitored through a standard regulatory process by aviation regulators.

“Regardless of the challenges our business and the wider industry are currently facing, Wizz Air will never compromise on safety.”

Manchester is the UK’s third largest airport and has recruited more than 600 new staff since the start of the year in order to overcome some of the issues it faced earlier in the year, and to ensure it can operate all of its airlines’ planned schedules this summer.

It recently revealed that in July, 92 per cent of people have passed through security in under 30 minutes – a marked improvement on prior months.

This last week, more than 95 per cent of passengers got through security in under 30 minutes and more than three quarters of people in less than 15 minutes.

The airport continues to work closely with all the third parties across its site that are responsible for the other processes like baggage, check in, immigration etc to provide support where necessary.

Ian Costigan, Chief Operating Officer of Manchester Airport, said: “As we head into the school holidays and the peak of summer season, we wanted to provide an update to passengers to reassure them before they travel through Manchester Airport.

“We have made huge progress since April, having seen 600 people start work in security since the beginning of the year, with a further 280 waiting to clear background checks and start.

“And we are pleased to report that, as staff numbers have grown, the experience provided to the vast majority of our passengers has improved. 

“As our recruitment continues and more people join the operation, by the autumn we should be back to an improved experience that people are looking for from Manchester Airport, and in a much better place for summer 2023.

“I would like to thank all our passengers for choosing Manchester and wish them all a great summer holiday.

"I would also like to thank the entire staff that work across Manchester Airport who are playing their part in our recovery, and getting our passengers back to travelling, following the biggest crisis our industry has ever faced.”

You can watch Airport Chaos Undercover: Dispatches on Monday, August 1, on Channel 4 at 8pm.