Passengers flying into London Heathrow airport have reported waiting three days – and counting – to be reunited with lost luggage following “baggage chaos” caused by Storm Eunice.
Meanwhile, others have endured hours-long waits at baggage reclaim since the weekend, as airlines struggle to rebalance in the wake of flight delays and cancellations.
Customers reported waits of between one and three hours for baggage to arrive on Saturday and Sunday, while others did not receive their luggage at all after landing – with British Airways staff reportedly telling passengers to leave and make a claim later.
Travellers took to social media from Friday to Tuesday 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.
“Shambles in baggage reclaim T5 – huge piles of unclaimed bags lying around as for BA188 no sign of our bags.. it’s been a while,” wrote Carolyn Ramsamy on Tuesday morning.
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.
“Hey British Airways, any updates on baggage chaos at Heathrow from weekend please? Still no sign of our bags and our online claim now seems to now be inaccessible. Not impressed by customer service on this so far,” tweeted @Milquetoast1.
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 even reported a British Airways nightmare journey that involved lost baggage, two cancelled connecting flights, a refusal of 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 – 3pm on Saturday – 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, Laura 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 Laura 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 Laura.
Laura booked herself into a local hotel, at which point BA notified her by email that she had been re-booked 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 re-register 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 was 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.”
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’re operating the vast majority of our flights as planned but due to operational issues resulting from the continuing bad weather conditions across the UK and Europe, we’re still experiencing some disruption and have had to cancel and delay a number of flights.
“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.”