A Swiss International Air Lines plane left 111 passengers upset when it arrived at its destination with zero luggage.
On 9 September, the aircraft touched down in Bilbao, Spain, without a single checked bag. According to Swiss’s spokesperson, Kavin Ampalan, who spoke to AFP, a French news agency, all suitcases were left in Zurich, Switzerland, where the plane had departed from.
Passengers eagerly waited for their luggage at baggage claim, only to be disappointed when nothing came around the conveyor belt, per The Blick’s report. Ampalan credited the unfortunate incident to “a shortage of ground staff” and “operational reasons”.
The representative explained how the aircraft was meant to fly more passengers back from Bilbao to Zurich right after. However, before the initial flight, crew members supposedly waited “one hour and 16 minutes” for the bags to be loaded before deciding to depart without them.
According to The Blick, ticketed passengers recalled the pilot apologising for the delay in their departure but never specified the reason for their lag or that their luggage did not make it on with them. And, when their flight finally landed at their destination, members of the airline reportedly did not notify them where their bags were. Instead, the crew from the Spanish airline Iberia did.
In conversation with AFP, Ampalan noted: “We understand the situation is not favourable for the people involved, and of course we regret the inconvenience.”
Despite the apologies from Swiss Air Lines staff, people on board the aircraft were fiercely upset. Carsten Redlich spoke out about his frustrations to The Blick, where he claimed his vacation was seemingly “ruined” after finding out his bags were left behind in Zurich. Though Ampalan allegedly told all 111 passengers their luggage was on its way to Bilbao, he never gave them tentative dates for their arrival.
Swiss Air Lines told The Independent: “SWISS and the crew did everything possible to solve the problem. The crew initially postponed the departure, thereby accepting a delay, in the hope that the issue could be resolved. Since the situation with the baggage handling staff did not improve after more than 1 hour, the operational decision was made to depart without baggage.”
“This was to ensure that the subsequent return flight from Bilbao to Zurich would be able to land before the night flight ban at 23:00 (CEST) in Zurich,” they continued. “For SWISS, the situation is anything but satisfactory. That’s why we are currently reviewing our processes to prevent such cases from happening again. We are also in close contact with the company responsible for loading the aircraft and handling the baggage.”
Last year marked the highest rate for a decade of lost luggage, per the SITA 2023 Baggage IT Insights Report. Twenty-six million bags were misplaced in 2022, and more recently, passengers have taken to the internet to share their experiences of landing at their destinations without their suitcases. Like Ampalan, the insight report pointed out the fault of this increased rate as having a shortage of staff members on the ground.
Congestion at airports has “made it challenging to manage bags and ensure their smooth handling at airports, particularly during peak travel periods,” SITA added.
As more people struggle with lost or misplaced suitcases traveling within the country and outside of it, precautions are being taken to help ensure their items are accounted for. Individuals are opting to purchase Apple Air Tags to place in their luggage as well as using the tracking function through airline apps like United.