Monday 26 August 2019

'They had no idea where my wheelchair was' - Aer Lingus customers slam airline amid complaints over lost luggage

Aer Lingus flights face threat of disruption as Stobart Air staff back industrial action
Aer Lingus flights face threat of disruption as Stobart Air staff back industrial action

Aoife Walsh

Aer Lingus passengers have slammed the airline as complaints flood in over lost luggage, leaving one woman without a wheelchair and another without medication.

Terri McGee (57), from Waterford, flew from Dublin to Newcastle earlier this month and discovered her luggage was missing when she arrived in the UK.

Ms McGee suffers from stomach ulcers, and needs to take medication, which she had packed in her suitcase.

She has gone 11 days without her luggage, and does not know when it will be returned.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Ms McGee said: "I flew from Dublin to Newcastle to meet family on August 3. My suitcase wasn’t there, I reported it immediately at NCL (Newcastle Airport) and was given a reference number and a phone number.

"I rang from son’s house in Newcastle and was told they would get it back. At this stage, I was hopeful. On August, 7 we left for Zakynthos in Greece. I checked the online system and it said it had been sent to Gatwick and then to Porto in Portugal.

"I have telephoned the lost baggage line at least 20 times since then.

"On another call I asked them where their call centre was based. They refused to answer. I asked if they were in Dublin to which the gentleman call handler kept saying 'Excuse me? Where? I don’t understand' I asked him if he knew where Dublin was and he said 'I am sorry - I don’t understand. What is this?', I am totally disgusted,” she said.

"I have medication in my luggage. I have a history of stomach problems including bleeding ulcers since I was 18, it runs in the family. So I cannot eat too much without medication. I had a small amount in my hand luggage but ran out on August 8 so am quite uncomfortable. I rang Dublin arrivals twice.

"They said all they could do was email Porto and hope someone would see the email. I have had no contact from Aer Lingus whatsoever apart from the same standard tweet they send to everyone," she said.

Another passenger, Mari Ness (48), from Florida, United States said she boarded a flight from Orlando to Dublin in August. When she arrived in Dublin, the airline returned her manual wheelchair. However, Ms Ness, who suffers with positional tachycardia and frequent vertigo, noticed the seat of the chair was broken.

She told Independent.ie: "When I boarded my flight from Orlando to Dublin, my manual wheelchair was fine. When I arrived in Dublin, the seat was broken. I spent an hour of my Dublin layover trying to report the damage.

"Aer Lingus then sent me to the wheelchair assistance people at the airport, who told me I had to pay a €100 deposit plus €25 per day rental for the chair. I refused, so I went back to talk to Aer Lingus again. That meant staying on the single Aer Lingus phone where passengers can talk to Aer Lingus Lost and Found for a good 45 minutes, with other passengers waiting behind me.

"Aer Lingus finally agreed to cover the costs of the rental chair. I was flying to Berlin, so the chair went with me. When I arrived in Berlin, we found out that the rental chair was also broken. Still usable, but two screws were missing from the armrest so the flaps kept hitting the wheel and making me turn a bit. Plus, the chair was designed for a taller person so I had problems getting around Berlin.

"I came back to Dublin last night and went to talk to Aer Lingus about my chair. The first representative I talked to was extremely rude. The second one was polite, but confirmed that my wheelchair was not in the airport and that they had no idea where my wheelchair actually was.

"The wheelchair people at the Dublin airport put me in the only unbroken wheelchair they could quickly find and then put me in a taxi. This rental wheelchair is a bit wide for me."

Bríd Curran (49), from Donegal, flew from Dublin airport to the south of France in late July. Ms Curran claims she checked in two bags with Aer Lingus, but when she arrived in Nice, France, her bag was no where to be seen. 14 days on, her bag has still not been returned and she does not know where it is.

"I take one holiday a year. I’m self-employed, I’m really really busy so the one holiday a year, I really look forward to it. I left for Nice airport on Aer Lingus on flight E144 on the 31st of July. Checked in two bags, mine and my daughters. Arrived in Nice and no bag for me on the carousel. Reported it straight away to Nice airport," she told Independent.ie.

"I tweeted Aer Lingus and said, ‘listen, my luggage has gone missing,’ and they said ‘give us the reference number and we’ll come back to you.’ Then it started. I sat in the south of France for six days with not so much as a pair of underwear or a toothbrush and I had to buy everything.

"I spent over €2,000 on buying things because it's not like I could just walk into Dunnes or Penneys, this is the south of France. It's peak season. I had reservations in really nice restaurants and I was rocking up in a t-shirt and a pair of jeans that I bought in Nice. I was contacting, contacting, contacting constantly Aer Lingus.

"In the end, if you follow me on Twitter you can see, I have been hounding them for the last 14 days.

"On Saturday when I rang the guy said to me 'oh we've found your bag I must update it, it's in Dublin,' and I got really excited. I didn't believe it, so I rang back a second time and the second guy also confirmed 'yeah we've found your bag, we just have to get it out to a courier.'

"I sent a tweet to Aer Lingus and said 'it appears you've found it', and they gave a sort of fluffy reply and said 'yeah once it's found', and I said well has it been found. And now they just refuse to acknowledge me at all on Twitter because I've hounded them so much."

A spokesperson for Aer Lingus told Independent.ie: "At Aer Lingus we seek to reunite guests with any delay or misdirected baggage as speedily and efficiently as possible. As is the case with all airlines, and particularly during peak travel times, baggage can be misplaced or misdirected on occasion, however thankfully this happens to a very small portion of our travelling guests. Aer Lingus continues to have one of the lowest baggage misconnect rates of European network carriers.

"We sincerely apologise to Ms Curran that her baggage has been misplaced. While we are operating in the busy peak summer season,  we recognise the inconvenience this has caused and wish to reassure her that our teams on the ground are continuing to locate the bag. Our Guest Relations team will ensure that Ms Curran is reimbursed for any reasonable expenses she may have incurred during this time.

"We sincerely apologise to Ms Ness for any damage caused to her wheelchair during travel. We can confirm the wheelchair is now repaired and we are currently in contact with her to arrange delivery today. Our Guest Relations team will ensure that Ms Ness is reimbursed for the rental expenses she incurred while her wheelchair was sent for repair.

"We sincerely apologise to Ms Shabila for the delay in receiving her bag and recognise the inconvenience this has caused. During peak travel periods bags can, on occasion, be misdirected. Our team on the ground is continuing to with all the relevant handling agents to retrieve the baggage as quickly as we can."

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