Qantas passenger waits three months for airline to return lost bag

<span>Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

When Emma Bradley landed in Perth on a visit to her parents from her home in Wales, she was approached by Qantas staff and told her bag had been left in Singapore.

She wouldn’t see it again for three months.

Bradley spent about $1,300 replacing her clothes and other items after the flight on 3 June, but said Qantas offered her just $120 in compensation.

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Bradley said she spent her holiday trying to recover her missing bag.

“It just never came,” she said. “My month at home was me calling Qantas every week, them telling me ‘you’ve called the wrong department’, me being like ‘this is the number they told me to call’.”

Bradley went back to Perth airport several times to see if she could speak to someone in person, but no one could tell her where her bag was.

On 24 August, two months after she got back to Wales, she received a call from Qantas saying the bag would be delivered to her parents’ place the next day.

“I was like ‘no, I’m in Cardiff’,” she said. “It got to me in 24 hours.”

Bradley lodged a claim for compensation for the clothes she had to buy, and after two months of calling the airline was offered $120. She told them that was not good enough and they closed her claim. To get any compensation, she now had to start the whole process again, she said.

“It’s just frustrating, I could use that money – gas and electricity is so expensive.”

The national carrier has been under fire for losing luggage since it outsourced about 1,700 ground staff jobs at the beginning of the pandemic.

Miner Ash Divakaran flies frequently for work within Australia, and said Qantas had lost his bag six times in the past six months.

“Most times it arrives on the next flight, but that usually means I miss the next day’s work,” Divakaran said.

“The worst was on a [Melbourne to Brisbane via Sydney] flight, where they lost one of my bags for a week. Apparently it was sitting at Sydney and wasn’t put on the conveyor belt.”

Divakaran said he was compensated $200 for the week he lost his bag.

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John Middendorf spent six weeks trying to locate a missing bag after flying with Qantas before it was finally returned – by Virgin.

Middendorf, who lives in Hobart, had been visiting relatives in the US. He booked his ticket through Qantas, which partners with American Airlines.

When he landed back in Hobart, he was told by Qantas his bag, which was carrying a set of valuable journals, had been lost on the way.

“For six weeks I tried to contact Qantas,” he said. “They wouldn’t acknowledge the file number, they would recommend I call customer service and set up a customer care request. This was all fruitless.”

He said every time he called he was asked to give all the information again, as no record was kept of his previous calls.

He ended up setting up three different requests before his bag was found in Dallas by United Airlines, whom he did not fly with, and sent home on a Virgin flight.

“Then I get these follow-up emails from Qantas, I’m trying to tell them it’s been found and I just get the email saying ‘your customer care email is invalid’. I can’t even tell them they found the bag.”

One New Zealand woman, who did not want to be named, said she had been waiting for her bag for almost a month and, despite calling numerous times, had been contacted by the airline only once.

She flew from Auckland to Abu Dhabi, transferring through Sydney on 25 August. When she landed she was told by the Abu Dhabi baggage service that one of her checked-in bags had not been scanned when she boarded the plane.

She said she had been calling the airline every week since but had received only one email saying it was being investigated.

Related: Dispirited Australia: after losing the trust of the nation, can the Qantas brand bounce back?

“Qantas’s number is so hard to get through,” she said. “The minimum wait time for the call is 40 to 60 minutes.

“Once you get through the staff aren’t able to give solutions, all they said was ‘it’s a different department, I have forwarded all the details to baggage team’ or ‘the baggage team will call you back within 15 minutes’ or ‘you have to reach baggage team through customer care portal’.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Qantas said the rates of lost baggage for the first half of September had fallen below pre-Covid levels.

“The rate of mishandled bags on Qantas is now five in 1,000 passengers for domestic and six in 1,000 passengers for our international services,” the spokesperson said. “Before Covid it was five in 1,000 passengers.”

They said they would apologise to the customers who had lost their bags, but in some of cases these were complex itineraries involving multiple airlines.

“In one case, the luggage was lost with another airline before they connected on to a Qantas flight. In the other case, there was a ticketing error that prevented the luggage from making its connecting flight,” the spokesperson said.

“We returned the luggage to Ms Bradley last month, and are continuing to work on the return of [the New Zealand woman’s] luggage.

“We will be contacting both customers to apologise for the inconvenience and discuss their claims.”