Frustrations continue to mount at Canada’s airports as reports of lost and delayed luggage pile up, with some passengers spending weeks, or even months, waiting for missing checked bags to catch up with them.
Catherine Roberts and her husband, Bob Sales, had plans to celebrate her 70th birthday with a European cruise. They flew with WestJet and Aer Lingus from Winnipeg to Dublin via Toronto on May 15. But after their flight to Toronto was delayed, they had to be booked onto another connecting flight to Dublin.
Nearly 70 days later, Sales still hasn’t gotten his bag back.
And while they had a nice time on the cruise ship after buying new clothes and underwear for the trip, Sales said the lost luggage was “a black cloud” that appeared over his wife’s head.
“It was terrible. No amount of money will ever be able to replace it,” Sales said in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca on Tuesday.
For Surrey BC resident Simon Crimp, who flew with his son on Air Canada from Vancouver to London, UK via Halifax on June 3rd, his bag was also nowhere to be found after arriving at Heathrow Airport.
Like Sales, Crimp also had to spend the first day of the trip trying to hunt down his bag and buy replacement clothes, while losing a valuable day of sightseeing. He did not get his bag back until July 12 – more than a month after the flight.
“You know, it was very, very frustrating,” Crimp told CTVNews.ca by phone Wednesday. “The trip was initially messed up thanks to (Air Canada) losing our bag.”
LACK OF COMMUNICATION
Many passengers who shared stories of missing luggage told CTVNews.ca they had trouble getting answers from airline employees about where their luggage was and when to expect it to arrive.
On Canada Day, Dan MacLean and his daughter flew WestJet from Regina to Sydney, NS via Calgary and Toronto, only to find that his luggage and car seat were nowhere to be found at his final destination. When he asked when his luggage would arrive, he says there was “little to no direction” from the staff.
“On a scale of one to ten, I would give (WestJet customer service) a zero,” MacLean told CTVNews.ca by phone Tuesday. “The staff, they were polite, of course. But it was just a massive roundabout. You asked one person in customer service, you got one answer, and then you went and told someone else and the answer was completely wrong. It’s almost like right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.”
MacLean’s luggage finally arrived at his home in Saskatchewan, 21 days later.
Crimp said he grew frustrated being put on hold for hours while trying to reach Air Canada employees by phone.
“You’re basically waiting for maybe an hour and a half to two hours before you can connect with someone. And then when you do connect with someone, they can’t always tell you something you want to know,” Crimp said.
Sales said had a similar experience. In the days and weeks after the couple’s trip, he said WestJet employees repeatedly told him and his wife that their luggage would be delivered to them, even though it never arrived.
And for Yasmin Bhaloo, whose oversized luggage went missing after she flew on Swoop Airlines from Toronto to Orlando-Sanford on June 25, she said it was impossible to reach anyone by phone, or even social media.
“There are no people to answer your phone call. It’s all robocalls,” she told CTVNews.ca Wednesday in a phone interview. “I’ve sent them via Instagram, via Facebook, through their website. Nothing so far. Is there no one to talk to?”
THE STRUGGLE FOR COMPENSATION
Under the Montreal Convention, airlines worldwide are required by law to compensate travelers for all “reasonable” expenses incurred, such as temporary purchases to replace missing clothing and other necessities.
Passengers can claim up to 1,288 special drawing rights, which are units of account used by the International Monetary Fund. It corresponds to approx. 2300 CAD per passenger, per bag.
Salg estimates he and his wife lost about $3,500 between the two of them. Crimp says he also had to spend about $3,000 to buy replacement clothes for him and his son. Both Crimp and Sales have sent their expenses to the airlines and are waiting to hear back.
Crimp said that because it was a Sunday, the only shops they could buy clothes at were expensive souvenir shops. “Most of the normal shops were not open, except for example souvenir shops. So we had to pay tourist prices,” he said.
Bhaloo was also reunited with the luggage after almost two weeks. Her missing luggage was a box of snacks that she intended to give to her family in Florida.
Because her box had been lost, she could not deliver the snacks to her family and had to send them instead. She is now trying to get Swoop to refund her checked bag fees and shipping fees.
But for MacLean, he said he didn’t think it was worth the effort to try to seek compensation, given that he got his luggage back and he didn’t have to spend as much on replacement items.
“Luckily we didn’t have, you know, expensive things. Just clothes, things like that,” he said.
In an email to CTVNews.ca, WestJet said it is “committed to doing everything we can to deliver the WestJet experience our guests expect from us, and we are making every effort to connect affected guests with their missing bags.”
“We continue to work with our third-party service providers to mitigate baggage delays and have invested in additional WestJet oversight to support our partners responsible for processing and delivering our baggage services in a timely manner,” wrote WestJet spokesperson Madison Kruger.
Air Canada told CTVNews.ca that the global aviation industry continues to face issues with airport capacity, mechanical problems with baggage systems, as well as problems with “third-party providers of such services as passenger screening, customs and flight navigation.”
“All these and other events, such as a severe storm, can disrupt our schedule and the flow of not only passengers, but also their luggage, which moves in a parallel but more complicated flow than customers.” Air Canada spokesman Tim Fisher said in an email to CTVNews.ca on Thursday. “We are working hard with our aviation ecosystem partners and governments to address these issues.”
CTVNews.ca reached out to Swoop Airlines, but the company did not respond by press time.
If the airline has not responded to your claim, or if they deny your claim, airline consumer advocate Air Passenger Rights suggests suing the airline in small claims court.
That’s exactly what Sales and his wife plan to do if they don’t get a satisfactory response.
“I just hope that when we do have that day in court, that we get a fair hearing and that the airlines don’t send their Bay Street lawyers to fight a couple of 70-year-olds and beat us down,” Sales said. .