Airport authorities in Rome were racing Wednesday to deal with a wildcat baggage handlers strike that has delayed summer holiday passengers and left thousands of people without their luggage.
Baggage handlers and maintenance staff walked out of Fiumicino airport on Monday at one of the busiest periods of the year in protest over negotiations to downsize Italy's flagship airline Alitalia as part of a planned merger with Emirates carrier Etihad.
By Wednesday, the disruption had left an estimated 14,000 suitcases stranded, including hundreds that could be seen piled high on carts near runways.
"The strike -- enforced while we are trying to save the company -- is a scandal. It's incomprehensible," Italy's Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi told journalists.
The National Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) said the strike "is affecting both those passengers arriving at Fiumicino and those forced to take off without their luggage," and said it was "taking action to support and facilitate ground handling services".
Some 200 extra employees were drafted in Wednesday to help tackle the backlog and move the first 1,000 suitcases.
"Unfortunately it is not the employer that gets affected but the passengers," consumer association Adusbef said.
The strike did not stop Etihad chief executive James Hogan arriving in the capital Tuesday, with the aim of closing the deal with Alitalia by the end of the week.
The Abu Dhabi carrier is expected to invest 560 million euros ($750 million) for 49 percent of the indebted Italian airline.