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Vancouver Island boxer's luggage lost for three weeks after flight

A North Saanich boxer is finally getting answers from a Canadian airline after trying to reclaim her lost luggage and voicing concerns about poor customer service in the process.

“I have the biggest smile on my face right now,” says amateur boxer Terris Smith. “I still think the customer service to date was unacceptable and there should be changes to the airport system, but I’m relieved to know all my stuff will be returned to me.”

The Olympic hopeful had been borrowing other people’s training equipment for the last three weeks since hers disappeared with her luggage on a flight home with Lynx Air on July 14.

She flew direct from Montreal to Vancouver after taking part in a training camp with Team Canada. When she landed, her bag wasn’t there, causing her to spend weeks going back-and-forth with the airline.

“I spent three hours the first day on hold and then had to hang up to go do something else. Then I went back on hold for another three hours. And then I had to fill out more baggage claims,” says Smith.

She’s also entitled to compensation under Canadian airline passenger rights legislation, but she says those protections fall short.

“When you start adding up every single thing that’s in your bag and you have to itemize everything that’s in your bag, it’s a lot more than $2,300 if you’ve been somewhere for 10 days,” she says.

When CTV News started asking questions to the airline about their search for Smith’s bag, she received an email notifying her the suitcase had been found.

Lynx Air is apologizing for the delay and says the airline will be expediting the luggage to Smith.

“Like many airlines, we work closely with third parties to support baggage handling, and we are working hard as an industry to improve processes in this area,” said Lynx in a statement.

Air passenger complaints to Canada’s transport regulator have soared to unprecedented highs.

“They’re operating under a lot of constraints, so I do want to give them a little bit of grace and latitude," says BCIT’s associate dean of marketing management, Morgan Westcott. "But overall I do think the frustration is being felt all around."

Business experts recognize the hardship the industry has faced amid labour shortages and pandemic restrictions, especially. But some say airlines could be doing more to help themselves.

“I’m not seeing them step up and say, from a communication standpoint, 'This is what we’re doing to improve the experience' or 'These are the complaints that we’ve heard and these are the concrete steps we’re taking to address them,'” says Westcott.

A Victoria-based professor who’s expertise is in service excellence and coaching says it’s often not the problem (such as a lost bag) that’s the issue, it’s about how it gets handled.

“Customers want information so they feel like they’re in control,” says Mark Colgate with the UVic Gustavson School of Business.

He says providing explanations and updates to what’s going on are among three key steps to maintain good customer relations, along with making the complaint process easy and providing a fair outcome.

“It all depends on word of mouth. If airlines get a terrible reputation for losing luggage but also how they handle that luggage, people won’t fly with them again," Colgate says.

Smith says she was repeatedly told her claim was a priority, but could never get confirmation on whether a staff member had looked for her bag in Montreal.

Smith is thrilled her boxing equipment will be returned ahead of her next competition in Ireland, but her confidence in the overall flight service is rattled. She plans on travelling using carry-on whenever she can from here on out. Top Stories

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