Wednesday 21 August 2019

'I've never experienced anything this bad - Aer Lingus passenger travelling to scatter ashes in Ireland slams airline over lost luggage

John Murray pictured with his wife Sheila and their son
John Murray pictured with his wife Sheila and their son

Aoife Walsh

An Aer Lingus passenger has told of his frustration after the airline lost his luggage during an important journey to Ireland where his family planned to inter his mother-in-law's ashes.

John Murray, who grew up in Ireland but moved with his wife and three children to Minneapolis, United States ten years ago, has slammed the airline after they charged him for rescheduling a flight to Ireland which Aer Lingus had cancelled, and then for losing his luggage once he finally made it to Dublin.

John (51), planned to fly directly from Minneapolis to Dublin in July to scatter his mother-in-law's ashes and to attend a friend's wedding.

He told Independent.ie: "We were very excited to hear that Aer Lingus were starting a direct flight from Minneapolis to Dublin in July. A journey that was 12-17 hours because of a stop would now be down to seven-and-a-half hours direct.

"We booked to fly home on August 8 and return on August 20, direct. My wife's family planned to inter my mother in law's ashes on August 10 because this was the first time since her death, the previous September, that her full family would be in Ireland.

"We were also lucky enough to have an old friend getting married and we could get together with friends.  The stars were aligned for my wife's family and we were excited with the shorter journey," he explained.

However, John's journey was thrown off course when he received notice from Aer Lingus that his flight was not going ahead due to technical difficuluties. He claims that the airline advised him to rebook his flight online, but for another $100 per person.

"The flight on August  8 was at 7pm. On that day I received a text and email at 9:30am to tell me the flight had been delayed. At noon I was told the flight was cancelled due to technical difficulties. I was also told to contact Aer Lingus customer care or go to the website to reschedule my flight. 

"When I went to the website Aer Lingus was charging me $100 per person to re-book so I called customer care, I was on hold for 50 minutes before my call was answered.

"Aer Lingus could only offer me a flight through Chicago. The direct flight on Friday was fully booked and I needed to be in Galway on Saturday morning. 

"My only option was 6:30 am from Minneapolis to Chicago, landing at 8:00am and a 3:50pm flight to Dublin, I changed my flight. 

"Later, I found some flights to Chicago at a later time, I rang customer care again and was waiting 50 minutes to be cut off five minutes into my conversation. I rang again and another 50 minutes waiting by this time the later flights from Minneapolis to Chicago were gone," he said.

When John and his family arrived in Dublin, their luggage was nowhere to be found. Five days on, the family are still without their belongings and do not know when they will get their bags back.

"We arrived in Dublin to no luggage. The Aer Lingus ground team were very helpful but no luggage. We logged at lost baggage report with Aer Lingus. The lady said this happens, the cases will probably arrive in on the next flight and we will have them in Galway by 5pm.

"The system sends you text messages as the file is updated with your baggage status. By Saturday night there was no text message and no contact from Aer Lingus. I rang the call center and was answered by a service from a call center in India. They told me the same information that I got from the web site. 

"I heard nothing on Sunday morning and called again with no new information. I have called the lost baggage department every day since I arrived and some days twice. I then decided to tweet Aer Lingus. I have received these lovely sympathetic replies but no action. On my third tweet they asked me to message them privately with my delayed baggage claim number. They told me what the website said - no update."

He continued: "I have emailed the CEO Sean Doyle, his email address is on the web site - no reply. I have tweeted twice a day and no reply other than the sympathetic comments. My wife has reached out on Facebook. No luck. Today, we rang Chicago airport and were transferred to United Airlines Baggage. They could tell me that the cases were put on the plane in Minneapolis, they came off in Chicago and were not in the United baggage office. I rang the Aer Lingus number for tracing my luggage and the only update I have received is that Aer Lingus say they never received the luggage in Chicago."

A frustrated John spent today shopping for clothes for him and his family. He said he is unsure if Aer Lingus will reimburse him for the costs.

"Today I had to go shopping for clothes. Aer Lingus tells you to keep your receipts and send them to customer relations but they don't say they will refund anything. That is another argument," he said.

Now, John said he has to file a complaint about his flight to get a refund, file a second complaint for lost luggage, and thirdly, file a complaint for the items purchased in Ireland to get his family through their trip.

He said: "I am five days into my holidays. I have lost a full day of vacation because of the delay and I have spent half of my time making phone calls and chasing my luggage. At no time did Aer Lingus contact me about any of this. They caused the problem and I have to do all of the work. I fly a lot for work and have never experienced anything this bad."

An Aer Lingus spokesperson told Independent.ie: "As is the case with all airlines, and particularly during peak summer travel, there are occasions when flights can be delayed or cancelled for operational reasons. When this occurs the Aer Lingus Guest relations team seeks to re-accommodate guests on the next available flight whether it be an alternative Aer Lingus service or via our partner airlines.

"Regrettably the arrival of Mr Murray’s bag into Dublin has been delayed. Our team on the ground in Dublin is continuing to liaise with the relevant teams in Chicago to retrieve the baggage. We sincerely apologise to Mr Murray for the inconvenience this has caused.

"To retrieve delayed baggage Aer Lingus uses WorldTracer, which is a baggage matching and tracing system used by airlines worldwide. This is supported by a dedicated call centre that liaises with guests and handles all guests’ baggage-related queries."

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