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Canadian aviation expert breaks down cause of recent lost luggage, offers travel tips


At Vancouver International Airport, roughly 1,500 lost or unclaimed checked bags remained behind a partition Tuesday. That is down from around 4,000 just a week ago.

"Certainly, weather in other areas of the country and other operations at those airports meant that luggage wasn’t being loaded onto planes with the passenger," said Alyssa Smith with the Vancouver Airport Authority on Tuesday.

Not to mention there was a blast of winter here on the West Coast in late December.

"Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Canadians' travel trips were disrupted," said Dr. John Gradek, faculty lecturer at McGill University Aviation.

Gradek says this story began in September.

"That’s typically when airlines figure out, 'How much demand should we have in the Christmas period?'" said Gradek.

It's a time when decisions are made on how many flights will be put out, how many seats will be sold and how much to charge for those flights.

This year, Gradek says airlines likely knew demand was going to be strong.

"A very opportunistic time for the Canadian carriers to basically have a lot of seats available and high prices," said the aviation expert.

As a winter storm swept across the country there was no backup plan. All the flights that were still able to get out were already full and spoken for.

"It was not a very acceptable operation and so bags were mislaid, passengers were waiting to get protection on other flights, and some people had their trips totally cancelled," said Gradek.

At the Victoria International Airport, there were delays and flight cancellations, but not a lot of stories of lost luggage. In fact, YYJ acted as a temporary space to hold luggage for airlines until their rightful destination could be found.

People at the Victoria International Airport retrieve their bags after a flight. (CTV News)Passenger rights advocates are advising those with lost luggage to take the following steps:

  • Report your missing baggage with the airline at the airport or online and record interactions with airline agents.
  • Make reasonable interim purchases and keep itemized receipts.
  • Complain in writing within 21 days of receiving your baggage and, if necessary, initiate legal action against the airline within two years.

"You need patience to fly these days," said Gradek. "Airlines are still going to be fractured over the next few months."

Gradek expects it will take airlines another week to reunite all lost luggage with their owners and says if you do have a trip planned, purchase cancellation insurance. Also give yourself enough time in case the flight you’ve booked gets delayed. Top Stories

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