Luggage bags are amassed in the bag claim area at Toronto Pearson International Airport, as a major winter storm disrupts flights in and out of the airport, in Toronto, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Luggage bags are amassed in the bag claim area at Toronto Pearson International Airport, as a major winter storm disrupts flights in and out of the airport, in Toronto, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Holiday passengers arriving without bags as Toronto Pearson airport luggage piles up

Passengers unsure how to reclaim bags as hundreds of pieces of luggage show up late to YYZ

Some passengers who have flown out of Toronto Pearson during the frantic holiday season say they’ve waited days for their bags to show up at their destinations, with little communication on the status of their luggage.

Images from Pearson airport show hundreds of lone bags piled up at the airport after major winter storms caused days of flight delays cancellations, leaving many holiday travellers stranded.

The Greater Toronto Airport Authority said Pearson is experiencing a baggage backlog caused those weather-related flight disruptions — as well as by frozen loading equipment.

Jason Long of St. Catharines, Ont., said he arrived in Halifax on Boxing Day after days of cancellations due to extreme weather, only to be told by airport staff that his luggage was never loaded onto the plane at Pearson.

“It’s a shorter trip now than originally planned, and I’m not even sure if my luggage is going to get here before I’m on my way back to Ontario,” said Long, who is visiting his mother in Amherst, N.S., and flies back in two days.

“I did have to buy new clothes, a toothpaste, toothbrush, all those personal items. I don’t know if I’m going to be reimbursed for any of that, so that’s all out of pocket,” he said, adding that he also went shopping to replace a Christmas gift for his mother.

Long said he’s been given little information from Toronto Pearson and his airline Swoop on the status of his bag and when or how it will be returned. “It’s very frustrating, the lack of transparency,” he said.

GTAA spokesperson Rachel Bertone said airport employees are helping airline staff to clear stranded baggage.

“This morning, a significant amount of the backlog has been reunited with passengers; we expect many more bags to be dispersed by end of day.”

The authority also said extreme weather events in Western Canada and parts of the U.S. have had a “cascading effect” on its operations.

“While conditions have improved in Toronto, the weather systems in connected cities impacts delays and departures of airlines at Pearson,” Bertone said.

“These effects cascade across multiple airlines and airports, which is why it can take days to recover from weather disruptions of any kind – especially at times of peak travel.”

Hamilton resident Angela McNamara said she arrived in Cuba on Christmas Eve without eight of her family’s ten checked bags, which they had filled with toys, presents and food for her husband’s family. Her family was among roughly 50 people on the flight who never received their luggage, she said.

“The frustrating part about it is our flight was so delayed because they kept saying they’re waiting for the last of the luggage,” she said, adding that Air Transat staff offered to check more of her family’s carry-on baggage for free since the flight was full, which they accepted.

McNamara said she’s been given little information on the status of their bags from Air Transat or Toronto Pearson airport, but an employee at the Cuban airport told her they were still in Canada.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Tyler Griffin, The Canadian Press

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