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Passengers wait six days and counting for lost luggage following ‘baggage chaos’

Passengers wait six days and counting for lost luggage following ‘baggage chaos’
Exclusive: Some customers are still waiting for an update on baggage lost on Saturday

Passengers who flew into London Heathrow last weekend have reported waiting six days to be reunited with lost luggage following “baggage chaos” on arrival.

Customers endured hours-long waits at baggage reclaim on Saturday and Sunday, as airlines struggled to rebalance in the wake of multiple flight delays and cancellations.

Some reported waits of between one and three hours for baggage to arrive, while others did not receive their luggage at all – with British Airways staff reportedly telling passengers to leave and make a claim later.

Travellers took to social media to rant about their lengthy waits at baggage claim.

“Baggage chaos at Heathrow. Baggage can’t be delivered after flights have arrived. Hundreds of passengers being asked to complete forms and hope luggage will be delivered later,” wrote Twitter user Tony Brown on Sunday.

“Shameful scene at Heathrow Terminal 5! No bags for over three hours with no update, no staff, no compensation!” tweeted @AGhelp7 the same day, posting a photo of passengers camped out on the floor with their hand luggage.

Into Tuesday afternoon, customers pleaded with the airline to help them track bags misplaced over the weekend amid disruption from the storm.

“My baggage is lost for 36 hours, now your system is suddenly saying they have no record of it, and your Czech lost baggage office is not answering the phone. GPS says it’s still in Heathrow T3. What do I need to do to speak to someone?!” tweeted travel blogger Kate McCulley.

Airlines are responsible for delivering travellers’ bags after a flight; they should also provide a “property irregularity report” at the airport for any customers who don’t receive their luggage.

One passenger experienced a nightmare British Airways journey that involved lost baggage, two cancelled connecting flights, minimal assistance when stranded at Heathrow, and no lost baggage reference number.

Laura Crompton told The Independent she had left Los Angeles at 8.50pm on Friday, headed for London Heathrow for an onward connection to Manchester.

Even though her BA flight landed on time, Ms Crompton says she and fellow passengers “spent nearly two hours waiting to disembark the plane due to ‘staffing shortages’”. BA staff said nobody was able to operate the bridge.

After her suitcase was one of the many not to appear that day, Ms Crompton was concerned about catching her connecting Manchester flight at 6.25pm. As BA was cancelling several domestic flights that day, she says, the queue for customer service was incredibly long.

Eventually her flight was cancelled too, and BA staff told her and other waiting passengers that they could not be booked into a hotel. They were instructed to make arrangements themselves, and claim the costs back later.

“Around 9pm we’re told they’ve run out of hotel rooms and they can’t get our bags back for us. We’re told to just leave the airport, find our own accommodation and claim it back later. There are only three people (none of which have computer access) speaking to hundreds of passengers,” says Ms Crompton.

Ms Crompton booked herself into a local hotel, at which point BA notified her by email that she had been rebooked onto a flight the following evening – 26 hours after her original flight. This was then cancelled, too.

In the end, she decided to travel back to Manchester by train, at her own expense, without her luggage.

The issues didn’t stop there: she found that BA had not provided her with a valid baggage reclaim reference number.

“When I logged in to track my lost luggage, the space where the claim number should be was blank. I was therefore unable to log in and keep track of any updates. I was also unable to reregister it as I was told that I’d already logged a claim and I should use my reference number or call BA,” she told The Independent.

After several calls to the airline, she was finally provided with a reference number on Monday – only to receive a notification on Tuesday that the number was invalid and she needed to call BA.

“I am one of maybe thousands who were told we had to leave without our bags, and who has heard nothing of them since,” she estimates.

“I’m unable to even get a reference number for my missing bag, due to what seems like a series of unconnected errors from BA.”

Ms Crompton has now been waiting six days for her suitcase. In that time she has received only automated texts and emails from the airline, with an update on Tuesday saying her luggage has been found and with a courier.

Since then, she has been unable to find out a timeframe for getting it back, or when it might be transferred to Manchester Airport. “I’d just go and collect it myself at this point!” she says.

Stephen Walsh’s bag also went missing after a BA flight on Saturday. After arriving from Dublin in the afternoon, Mr Walsh and his family of four waited for several hours at baggage claim where their flight ultimately disappeared from the screens.

“They read out about 10 flights, and said ‘these are the only flights for which baggage will be processed’. If not you need to fill in these forms and go home to make a claim,” he told The Independent.

From there, it was “the absolute lack of updates and communication, the lack of joined up thinking across [BA’s] customer service platforms” that disappointed him.

“They actually switched off the phone in baggage reclaim area – they took down the phone numbers. The police had to request that [BA] send someone out to speak to people.”

He says that Heathrow Airport staff, rather than BA’s, were handing out yellow forms to customers and putting them into a box, in what seemed like an archaic and confusing system.

“You could see how this would be a nightmare afterwards.”

Mr Walsh’s journey from Dublin to his house in London ultimately took 12 hours door to door, with the whole family now left luggage-less for six days and counting.

Despite his bags – which contain his wife’s heart medication among other essentials – yesterday being marked as “found” on the BA system, he has no idea when they might be delivered. He has tried contacting the courier itself, but to no avail.

Both customers say they feel let down by British Airways’ customer service over the past week.

“I haven’t had a response in two or three days. I did get through on the phone lines, but you’re waiting three quarters of an hour to talk to someone, and then they’re just repeating back what I can already see on the system,” says Mr Walsh.

“The [text] messages are pretty cryptic and the links don’t really tell me anything,” says Ms Crompton.

A British Airways spokesperson said: “We are extremely sorry to all our customers who have been disrupted during the extreme weather conditions in the last few days. We know we have let people down and that isn’t good enough, but can reassure our customers that we are doing absolutely everything we can to improve the situation.

“We are sorry that some customers who were able to travel have had their bags delayed, and our teams are working round the clock to reunite them with their luggage as quickly as possible.”