This can’t be our “new normal.”
It’s being called “Airmageddon” on the internet–this colossal mayhem of flight disruptions, lost luggage, hours-long airport queues, and massive labor shortages. Europe and the U.S. are buckling under the weight of summer travelers and the cracks are showing.
According to Spanish insurer Mapfre SA, the reports of lost luggage have jumped 30% from 2019. The problem has become so unresolvable that Delta recently sent a plane to London’s Heathrow with zero passengers to retrieve stuck bags, and Icelandair has started flying its own baggage handlers to Amsterdam.
A professional tennis player, Dan Evans, shared on Instagram that he has no idea where his rackets are after an Aer Lingus flight from Manchester to Orlando. Comedian Aisling Bea appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live in her hotel dressing gown and slippers after British Airways lost her baggage last month.
These stories are everywhere you look. Some are more horrifying than others, but all involve desperate, frustrated, and unhappy travelers who expected better from the industry.
Can You Come Back?
Take this flier from the U.S., for example. On his way back from Portugal, Jamie O’Grady had a layover in London. He reached North Carolina only to discover that his luggage hadn’t made it on the American Airlines flight. The next day, someone texted that his two bags were at Heathrow, and upon sharing the message with the airline, he was told to “head down to the airport to have it sorted out ASAP.” The problem was that he was 4,000 miles away. One bag made it home after two days, and the second took five more days to arrive.
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But people are going to great lengths to find their luggage. A passenger arrived in Dublin from his trip to Brisbane sans luggage. He spent an entire day at the airport to find his belongings, and when that proved unsuccessful, he bought a ticket worth $18 that gave him access to the restricted luggage claim area. The next day, he spent more hours at the airport and finally got his bag back.
There’s No Answer
The complaint is that airlines aren’t responding quickly. An American tourist, who lost her parents’ ashes when her bag didn’t arrive from Chicago to Dublin, tried to contact Air Canada multiple times without any luck. “I filed a claim form with Sky Handlers [the third-party contractor that handles luggage], which was mobbed, and they said, ‘We’ll put it in the queue and we’ll give you a call’, and that was it,” she told The Irish Independent.
Ireland’s broadcaster RTE detailed the problems at Dublin airport, where travelers weren’t able to get answers from airlines or luggage handling agents. A source told the broadcaster that around 300 bags every day are arriving on wrong flights—this number was a measly 30 before the pandemic.
In a really frustrating incident, an Air Canada passenger made 76 calls to the airline in 10 days and got through just three times, he told Business Insider. He was put on hold for an hour every time before the call disconnected, and when he did talk to someone, they had no idea about the whereabouts of his bag.
Airtags or No Airtags
Travelers are tracing their own luggage using Airtags and other tracking devices. So many are sharing locations with airlines (sometimes, even on Twitter) to speed along the process. A passenger even made a PowerPoint presentation with the location of their bags to get the airline to act quickly—the ingenious approach, of course, got media attention.
Another passenger was able to track the location of her luggage in the baggage claim using the same technology, even after the staff said it wasn’t there.
But many others are not so lucky. A recently-retired Florida resident flew to the U.K. to play golf with his friends. On arriving, he discovered from his Airtags that his bags hadn’t left Newark, where they stayed for two days before getting a flight to Edinburgh. They were then sent to a warehouse in Edinburgh, followed by a trip to Aberdeen, and they finally ended up in the West Midlands–the path he tracked through Airtags. Two months later, he still hadn’t received his clubs back.
In Canada, a family arrived from Nepal after a long journey to spend the summer with their daughter, who they hadn’t met since she moved to the country four years ago. It turned into a nightmare when they realized that their bags were lost, along with her father’s diabetes, heart, and blood pressure medicines. The couple had packed five days’ worth of medicines in their handbag, but they had to see a doctor to get new prescriptions. It took 24 days for the bags to finally reach their owners.
Another family went through a similar ordeal. An Australian mother-son duo arrived in Copenhagen, so the 13-year-old could compete in the 25th World Games for frame running, which was hosted by Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association. But the worst happened—Singapore Airlines lost all their luggage that contained his medication, his frame, as well as his walker. Thomas was born premature and suffered a brain injury, and also has epilepsy and type 1 diabetes, his mother, Rebecca Mattinson, shared.
The frame was eventually returned in time for the event, and they had medication for five days, but his mom visited hospitals for nine days and went back to the airport eight times to search for her son’s life-saving medication. From the last report, the airline had located the luggage and was in process of sending it to the family.
Dogs Are Getting Lost
Even dogs are having a hard time being reunited with their humans. At Toronto Pearson International Airport, a dog was abandoned for 21 hours and was later found in a pile of lost luggage. Another passenger tweeted a photo of a different dog in its crate at the same airport, explaining that she found it stranded, and asked if she could take it for a walk. The request was refused.