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‘I am heartbroken’ – Tourist spends week at Dublin Airport trying to find lost luggage containing parents’ ashes

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Donna O'Connor. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Donna O'Connor. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Patricia and Robert Emmett O’Connor

Patricia and Robert Emmett O’Connor

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Donna O'Connor. Picture: Gerry Mooney

American tourist Donna O’Connor travelled to Ireland to spread some of her parents’ ashes on a family farm.

But now she has described the chaotic experience of trying to locate her lost baggage at Dublin Airport, baggage that includes the remains of her parents, Patricia and Robert Emmett O’Connor.

Ms O’Connor (67), who is from Chicago, arrived in Dublin on an Air Canada flight on June 30 and has spent the last seven days going back and forth to Dublin Airport in a desperate effort to track down her belongings.

Ms O’Connor said she was now “heartbroken” because she had travelled with many items of sentimental value including her parents’ ashes, which she intended to spread in Ballina, Co Mayo.

She now feels “trapped” in the capital and cannot travel west until she is reunited with her luggage.

In recent weeks, the issue of unclaimed baggage has affected many airports globally with thousands of lost belongings piling up.

Airlines have also been forced to cancel flights as a result of staff shortages due to Covid-19.

“I waited for three hours with many other people for baggage to come out and then finally after three hours we all agreed we were just seeing the same baggage rotate through the carousel,” Ms O’Connor told the Irish Independent.

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Patricia and Robert Emmett O’Connor

Patricia and Robert Emmett O’Connor

Patricia and Robert Emmett O’Connor

“The most information that I’ve gotten is from passengers who have been living the experience. I filed a claim form with (baggage handling firm) Sky Handlers, which was mobbed, and they said, ‘We’ll put it in the queue and we’ll give you a call’, and that was it.

“Air Canada had already delayed our flight, I came from Chicago through Toronto, and we were already almost nine hours overdue. We were held up at the gate for so long in Toronto for intermittent baggage loading and now I don’t know if mine is in Dublin or Toronto.

“If you go into arrivals where the baggage carousels are, the day I was there the luggage is so discombobulated, I don’t know if it’s coming out so late that people finally give up but then the baggage handlers just start stacking it.

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“So, I walked through all of those to see if my bag had gotten put at a different carousel number, I literally saw over a thousand cases just sitting in the middle.

“No one leaves, because they’re afraid to go, they want their luggage so much that they won’t go get food or drink because you don’t want to miss your chance.

“I’ve contacted Air
Canada multiple times, been put on hold and no one ever comes back.”

The responsibility for lost luggage lies with individual airlines, not Dublin Airport operator, DAA.

DAA said passengers who cannot locate their baggage should make direct contact with their airline or airline ground handling company, with numbers available on the DAA website.

Aer Lingus and Ryanair look after their own baggage handling, while other airlines use handling companies, such as Sky Handling.

Ms O’Connor has travelled to Ireland many times over the years and said nothing like this had ever happened before.

She said the ordeal had also been “financially overwhelming” because she had had to make several international calls, causing her phone bill to “skyrocket”, and she has also had to buy new clothes and essentials.

“My plan was to be here for a year, my grandparents are from Ireland, so I’ve applied for the Irish passport to stay – and instead I feel like I moved here with the clothes on my back,” she said.

“My plan was to stay in Dublin for a bit and then go west, but now I feel trapped in Dublin because I’m afraid I’ll never see my luggage again.

“The reason I brought my parents’ ashes is because I’m of Irish heritage, and my cousin has a farm in Mayo, and I was going to put some ashes there for them.

“I’m 67, I’ve travelled a fair amount and I’ve never had an experience like this.”

A spokesperson for Air Canada told the Irish Independent: “We deal with our customers directly, but we can tell you this customer’s delayed bag is en route.”

“The vast majority of customers arrive at their destinations with their bags.

“However, recently there have been more instances of delayed bags, and this and other challenges for the industry are a phenomenon being seen around the world as the air transport system reawakens after Covid.

“One reason is there are more people travelling and more bags. Second, the operating environment globally has changed from what it was prior to the pandemic, notably the well-documented issues such as security and customs lines, aircraft being held at gates unable to unload at airports, and limitations on the number of flights by air traffic control.

“All these can disrupt airport operations, particularly baggage handling and baggage connections.”

A spokesperson for Sky Handling said it was “mindful and conscious” of the impact that current travel disruptions were having on passengers.

It said the current baggage delays were caused “primarily by resource and infrastructure issues at overseas hub airports”.

“Sky Handling Partner has more than doubled our staff numbers at Dublin Airport in recent months to further assist incoming passengers in collecting their bags,” the spokesperson said.

“This has resulted in a significant increase in passengers and their bags being separated on original flights into Dublin, with bags arriving on later flights over the course of several days.

“We have invested in technology enhancements to speed up the process of notifying passengers when delayed bags arrive and delivering bags to them.

“We are unable to comment on an individual passenger but we are making every effort to reunite passengers with belongings that have arrived on later flights as quickly as possible.”


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