British Airways apologises after lost luggage nightmare at Heathrow during storms

Airline blamed high winds caused by storms for the chaos

British Airways said high winds had caused disruption to ground-handling at Heathrow Airport, resulting in customers' bags being lost. PA
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British Airways customers have hit out at the company's “appalling” handling of disruption during Storm Eunice, during which thousands of passengers left airports without their luggage after it was lost.

The airline said high winds had caused its ground-handling operation at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 to disintegrate, but furious passengers ridiculed the reasoning. Some questioned why other airlines had not been hit by mass luggage losses during the same period of bad weather.

BA said it was “extremely sorry” for “letting people down” and reassured customers that staff were working to return baggage to travellers.

The apology came after a week of travel disruption caused by three storms in the UK, which led to hundreds of flights being cancelled, delayed or diverted. Dudley, Eunice and Storm Franklin came in quick succession over the past week, preventing many from undertaking road, rail, air and sea journeys due to flooding, high winds and downpours.

Ben Graham, a businessman from North London, waited for his wife and two children outside Heathrow for two hours on Sunday after their flight from Germany had landed.

His wife was told she could either wait for a few hours for their two suitcases or go home and have them delivered later.

BA contacted the family on Tuesday to say they had retrieved one of their suitcases – but the other remains missing.

“It’s appalling,” Mr Graham told The National. “I was waiting outside the airport for them and after about two hours I started looking on Twitter and saw that there were lots of people who had left without their luggage.

“It’s a start, but it’s been 36 hours since they landed and there are medical items in the luggage that we need for one of our children who has a health condition.

“We have not needed them but if we did then God knows what we would do. They are emergency items.

“It is not so much the baggage being lost, the issue is the customer service. It’s appalling. It’s impossible to speak to someone.

“I have been a loyal customer for a long time and I am bitterly disappointed with it. It’s so bad. I am in the business world and you cannot run a business like that.”

He refused to accept BA’s reasoning that the high winds caused the upheaval and questioned why other airlines were not similarly affected.

Other passengers described chaotic scenes at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, with hundreds of bags loaded on to trolleys in collection areas with no one to pick them up. Carousels were lined with passengers waiting for bags that failed to appear.

The number of customers affected is estimated to be in the thousands.

Unhappy BA customers took to Twitter to vent their anger.

A woman with the Twitter handle @jackiehagland posted a video on Sunday showing trolleys laden with luggage next to carousels at Heathrow. She captioned the post: “This is Heathrow Airport absolute chaos British Airways sending people home without their luggage.”

Katharine said it took the airline 25 hours to contact her to say they had found her luggage after a flight from Zurich to Heathrow on Saturday.

On Monday she tweeted: “One bag located other one is being traced … not impressed.”

Another man said he still had no idea where his luggage was after three days. And a man called Duncan was among those who expressed scepticism over BA’s reason for the chaos.

“Can you explain how not having enough airport transport or baggage handlers is the fault of the wind!? If I was cynical, I might say you’re using the wind as an excuse for truly terrible service,” he said.

British Airways has apologised to customers for losing their baggage during a period of bad weather in the UK. Bloomberg

BA said extra volunteers had been drafted in and it aims to have all bags returned to their owners in the next 72 hours.

In a statement issued to The National, BA said it was “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.”

The airline on Tuesday said the vast majority of its flights were in operation but some had been cancelled or delayed due to the “continuing bad weather conditions across the UK and Europe”.

“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.”

Updated: February 22, 2022, 10:48 AM
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