Mid-air flights being cancelled, lost luggage containing the groom’s suit, and long hours spent on hold — you’d be forgiven for thinking these are the tales of irate Qantas customers, but national airlines like British Airways and Air Canada are public enemy number one in their respective countries too.
Recently — after more than 100 Qantas passengers were left stranded in Dallas overnight — Australia’s national airline issued a statement pointing out that traveller chaos is reverberating industry-wide on an international scale.
“As challenging as the recent travel peaks in Australia have been, it’s worth looking overseas for comparisons,” a spokesperson said.
“Airlines and airports in Europe, the US and the UK are dealing with the same post-COVID hangover we are, but the impacts (measured in cancelled flights and long queues) are far worse.”
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This week, UK man Farhad Eton-Ehtesham and his bride-to-be had just landed in Rome ahead of their Tuscan wedding when he received an email from British Airways saying his bag was missing.
“Everything of mine was in that bag — honeymoon clothes, my wedding suit, my groomsmen’s suits, shoes, wedding bits and bobs like place cards,” he said.
He was told it would be on the next flight, so the pair cancelled a pre-wedding dinner with his guests in Tuscany to wait for the luggage to arrive on the next British Airways flight. It didn’t arrive.
“A groomsman suit may not sound like a big deal but it absolutely is because you have to match the others,” he explained.
“It’s a level of detail you picked out nine months in advance, tried on several times, fittings, everything.”
The worst part, he continued, was dealing with customer service at the national carrier. He says British Airways sent the couple one message during the saga that read, “we are trying our best”.
But luck was on Eton-Ehtesham’s side. The bag arrived mere hours before the ceremony, which he located in a “sea of luggage” at the airport by “complete accident”.
British Airways announced last week that they’d slashed 10,300 flights between August and October, and 1500 during the month of July, in addition to slashing 10% of all flights between April and October.
“As the entire aviation industry continues to face into the most challenging period in its history, regrettably it has become necessary to make some further reductions,” a British Airways spokesperson said.
And it seems cancellations can strike at any time — even mid-flight. This week three British Airways passengers flying from the US to Edinburgh received an email that their connecting flight was cancelled while they were already in the air.
“One of your flights was cancelled and we were unable to re-book your trip from LHR to EDI,” the email to the passengers read, which was viewed by Business Insider.
It did not give a reason for the cancellation.
“We’re sorry for the change to your travel plans.”
The trio ended up getting a train to Scotland, but none of their luggage had landed at Heathrow with them. So they went with the clothes on their back.
And they’re hardly the only ones. American airline Delta flew a plane to Heathrow to pick up more than 1000 lost bags that had been left at the west London airport following a luggage backlog this week.
In Canada, it’s dismally similar scenes. Air Canada has lost so much luggage that someone has dedicated a Twitter account to it, with the page retweeting hundreds of people trying to track down their belongings.
“It’s been 21 days since you’ve lost my luggage and still have not received any updates,” one passenger tweeted.
“I have over $6000 worth of items in my luggage and I’ve had to drop unnecessary money on replacement items since.
“What is going to be done about this?”
Among the retweets are two passengers who were each searching for lost car seats, one woman was looking for her wedding dress, and PGA Tour Canada participants trying to track down golf clubs.
Two dogs in carriers were spotted sitting unattended in a sea of Air Canada luggage at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport by a passenger, who questioned when they had last received water as North America’s heatwave continues.
Travellers have taken to attaching AirTags to their bags to ensure they can locate them in the chaotic baggage claim halls of Canadian airports. The Bluetooth trackers are hooked up to a person’s smart device and act as a homing signal.
A spokesperson for Air Canada acknowledged that “the global air transport industry is currently challenged due to issues with airports and third-party providers of such services as passenger screening, customs, and air navigation”.
“We are working hard with these partners and governments to resolve these issues as they are affecting the performance of airlines,” they added.
As of yesterday, just under a quarter of flights (23%) heading into Vancouver, in the country’s west, have been cancelled, while 15% cent of flights departing the airport have been cancelled, according to tracking service FlightAware.
About 48% of Air Canada flights are delayed.