Travel is usually such a thrill for me; the adventure of it all truly fuels my soul, but this last trip took the wind out of my travel wings so drastically that I don’t want to go near an airport for a long, long while.
Let’s start here: It’s been since June that we checked our bags at the Ottawa International Airport for our trip overseas, and we haven’t seen them since.
It all started in Ottawa, where our flight to Toronto was delayed due to “mechanical issues”, which made us miss our connecting flight to Dublin, Ireland on June 25th.
(Look at us, smiling and excited for our travels having NO idea what the airlines were about to put us through.)
After 3+ hours of delays in Ottawa, we finally got to Toronto, and unfortunately we had now missed our departing flight to Dublin and there were no other flights available that night. We were told that we were re-booked on a flight to Dublin the next day, exactly 24 hours later on June 26th. We had booked a hotel for that night in Dublin which we were unable to cancel (there goes €250 down the toilet), forced to sleep in a dirty, rundown motel overnight, no airport food vendor would take our food vouchers except Subway, (I love Subway, but not for 4 meals in a row) and - here’s where we believe our bag saga went horribly wrong: The Toronto Pearson Airport refused to let us pick up our bags for the 24 hours we were delayed because “there were too many bags to sift through and it would take at least 3-4 hours”. It was already 1AM at that point, so we left to our motel and slept in our dirty clothes, went to a movie, and finally back to the airport for our flight to Dublin the next night.
Next curveball ——
22 hours into our delay, stuck in Toronto with no bags, our re-booked flight to Dublin on June 26th was cancelled due to "Short staff".
We waited in the giant line at WestJet customer service with all the other aggravated guests, only to be told we we’re once again re-booked on a new flight to Dublin 2 days later, on June 28th… are you KIDDING ME!? They were serious. We were just supposed to stay in the Toronto Pearson airport for a total of 72 hours with no bags? Because that’s normal? We didn’t accept this solution so Westjet scrambled together a plan to get us on a flight to Glasgow, Scotland that evening (which was also of course, delayed), and finally to Dublin, Ireland on an Aer Lingus flight on June 27th.
When we finally arrived in Dublin, we were exhausted (obviously), only to wait almost an hour at the baggage carousel to go round and round,
… round and round some more…
and then it stopped.
You have GOT to be kidding me.
We reported our bags “missing” with the Aer Lingus reporting system in the Dublin Airport on June 27th, and we still do not have our bags to this day.
Do we think they ever left Toronto Pearson? Nope.
We have confirmation that they were in fact re-tagged to go to Dublin on the June 26th flight, but that flight was cancelled. So where did they go after that exactly!? We asked almost every airport representative we could find, from gate agents to security staff to maintenance employees.... No one seemed to have answers.
And here’s the most frustrating part; Westjet - who was responsible for booking us on these diverted flights- will not take ownership or help us find our bags because “the last airline carrier is responsible for finding your baggage”. Like I said, I can almost guarantee the our bags NEVER made it on to that final Aer Lingus flight (that Westjet booked for us), so this should NOT be Aer Lingus’ issue.
Therein lies the problem: Westjet believes Aer Lingus is responsible to find our bags; Aer Lingus never even received our bags, therefore - no one is looking for our bags and we may have to accept that we may never get them back.
Clothes and shoes and bathing suits are one thing, but there are things in my bag that are simply irreplaceable. It absolutely crushes me knowing they may be gone forever.
So now what? Well, this leads you down a rabbit hole of attempting to contact airlines via phone, email, and social media messaging; which you will be shocked to learn they are all automated systems (not). We tried calling both Westjet and Aer Lingus multiple times, only to sit on hold for 2 to 3 hours each time and never get a real person.
These airlines also have automated chat bots on their websites, Facebook pages and twitter pages and will only tell you to “check the lost baggage reference page for updates”, and that’s it. The bot purposely takes you around in a circle so you cannot ever speak with a real person. I did eventually contact someone on Westjet’s Twitter page, only to be told they “cannot help me” because they are no longer responsible for our bags.
So - We did what we had to do - we spent half our days of our vacation shopping for the basics; undies, bras, leggings, a rain jacket, toothbrush, hairbrushes, deodorant, shorts, shirts, pants etc. Unfortunately, our insurance would only cover us for $100 CAD each to replace our clothing that was misplaced (which we clearly blew the budget on especially with the conversion from Canadian dollars to Euro). We got through our Ireland travels with just the clothes on our back and a few outfits in our backpacks, but we were flying to Ibiza next, and had no “warm weather clothes” or even bathing suits for that matter.
So a few days later, when we were flying out of the Dublin airport, heading to Spain, we decided to see if our bags potentially arrived in Dublin and possibly just being stored in the baggage terminal. We befriended a few airport staff members who led us back through security and into the baggage claim area to physically look for our bags, but - you guessed it - they were still no where to be found. (To reiterate, we don’t think our bags ever left Toronto Pearson or Westjet’s care, but so many of the representatives dismissed us saying there is nothing we can do but wait.)
After waiting in one of the most CHAOTIC security lines I've ever seen in the Dublin airport, we finally made it to Ibiza, Spain. We then spent more time and money wasted on our travels needing to buy bathing suits, flip flops, sunscreen, sunglasses etc. knowing that none of this would be reimbursed.
In total, we paid over $1500 CAD out of pocket to buy clothing and accessories for our travels in Europe (Ireland, Spain, Italy, England), not to mention the €250 euro we lost on hotel rooms that we couldn’t stay in because we were stuck in airports, our checked baggage fees (which are ridiculous in Europe, at least another €200 each), and our seat upgrade charges (another $100 each). This trip ended up costing us so much money, but mostly - our time and mental energy. It’s hard to stay positive and enjoy your trip when you're constantly dealing with one hurdle after another.
Everyone keeps telling us the same thing: “At least the airlines will have to pay for you to buy clothes and other essentials!”... but that hasn’t exactly been the case for us. Our travel disaster began on June 25, 2022, and no airline or insurance company has given us a dime, despite our efforts. To say we are “in the hole” is an understatement. We’ve lost so much money (not to mention our minds) because of this fiasco, and I'm overtly drained trying to pick up the pieces now that we’ve returned home.
Here's another thing: I’m a “Westjet Loyalty Member”; I even have their credit card! But
clearly their loyalty to you ends when they have your money.
They’ll leave you stranded in airports and delay you for days, lose your bags, and won’t have the time of day to speak to you or help fix any of it. Perhaps I was naive to trust that the airlines would take care of us, or maybe I was just stupid enough to travel during this time. But my issue is that the airlines are STILL selling tickets when they KNOW they can’t support the demand.
We filed a report to get compensated by Westjet for this absolute dumpster fire of travel mishaps, only to receive a letter 30 days later saying
“they are not responsible due to necessary maintenance of the aircraft which was out of their control”,
therefore: they don’t owe us a cent.
We filed an appeal for the flight they cancelled on us the following day, and we are still waiting to hear whether they will accept the accountability or not.
Needless to say, this wasn't exactly the trip we thought it would be.
If you ARE planning to travel right now, here’s a few things you should definitely consider:
If you can, carry-on! Take one big backpack, and one carry-on luggage. And don’t be afraid to wash yo’ undies in the sink 😅
If you do choose to check your luggage, pack all of your essentials and at least 2 changes of clothes in your carry-on.
Keep all of your airline tickets, receipts, and bag tags! I can’t stress this enough. If anything happens, this is the only way to get compensated.
Take inventory of everything in your bag, in case it does go missing. The airlines and insurance companies will ask you for this info if your bag does get found, they’ll be able to match it to you.
Have your name on your luggage! This was one mistake I made. I forgot to transfer my luggage tag with my info to the bag I ended up checking.
Consider putting an Air Tag in your luggage; also something I regret not doing. People are finding their bags with the help of GPS devices they’ve stored in their bags, and I only wish I had thought of this before we left.
despite the chaos, of course we still had incredible experiences.
This series of unfortunate events did take away from our enjoyment on this trip, but we still ate the most delicious food, met wonderful people from far and wide, and managed to have a great time despite looking a little scrubby and way over-spending our travel budget. Travel fills my cup; I work my buns off to afford these experiences and broaden my perspective on life, but sometimes it comes with a side of sour-lemons. Needless to say, when life gives you lemons and you're on vacation; take shots of Limonciello (especially in Italy) and make the best of it.