Airport baggage issues? This is why luggage is piling up at Canada's airports

·5 min read

The chaos continues at some of Canada’s largest airports, with stories of hours-long waits and mountains of lost luggage.

Many are taking to social media to document their experiences at the luggage carousel, with photos showing mounds of suitcases piled up high.

The challenges airports like Toronto Pearson have been facing are now stretching into its third month, getting to such a dire point that Air Canada announced on Wednesday that it would be cancelling hundreds of flights in the coming summer months. A spokesperson for Air Canada said this will impact 77 round trips (or 154 flights) per day in total for July and August. Prior to this, Air Canada operated on average about 1,000 flights a day. Four routes will be temporarily suspended, between Montreal and the cities of Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Kelowna, and one between Toronto and Fort McMurray.

Most of the flights affected are to-and-from Toronto and Montreal airports. International flights are unaffected, with a few timing changes.

Customers will be notified automatically when flights are cancelled and offered options if available. If they wish, customers can request a refund.

Why are there so many baggage issues?

In regards to baggage issues, the statement from the airline pointed at the resumption of travel post-pandemic that has led to more instances of delayed bags. One reason for this is that there are more people travelling and thus, more bags. It noted that Air Canada now often carries 120,000 or more people per day, versus 23,000 a year ago.

Additionally, the operating environment globally has changed from what it was before to the pandemic, notably with security and customs lines, aircraft being held at gates unable to unload passengers at airports, and limitations on the number of flights by air traffic control that force airlines to make last minute cancellations.

A spokesperson for Toronto Pearson says the responsibility for baggage at the airport is shared amongst several different groups. Baggage handling, including removal from the aircraft, induction into the baggage system and the rate at which bags are loaded onto a baggage carousel is the responsibility of the airline and their contracted ground handling company. The baggage infrastructure and maintenance of the system is the responsibility of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA).

A number of issues over the past several days have led to challenges with baggage. This includes flight delays and cancellations, staff shortages with our airline partners and temporary mechanical disruptions with the baggage system.Tori Gass, Greater Toronto Airport Authority

She adds that they’ve worked with the airlines to make sure unclaimed bags are removed from the carousels and staged in the baggage hall to make room for bags from other flights.

Duncan Dee, the former Chief Operating Officer of Air Canada, says the situation in Canada is a confluence of events that have created a shortage of staff and aircraft.

“If the federal government delays weren’t taking place at customs and security, you’d have enough staff,” he says. “Because they’re not doing well, then you don’t have enough staff, because you have staff spending time running around trying to catch up with delayed flights.”

He says comparing the situation to other European airports like Heathrow and Amsterdam is pointless.

“Heathrow’s been bad but it hasn’t been bad for 90 days,” he says. “If Heathrow was bad for 90 days, the world would be shutting down.

He says if people are going to make international comparisons, we should use the U.S. as an example, as they have similar school years and travel patterns.

“They’re not seeing anywhere near the disasters we’re seeing in Canada,” he says.