A B.C. family is among hundreds of Canadians who have been left stranded and frustrated in India without their luggage days after their Air Canada flight flew out of Vancouver.
Johnny Birk told Global News that he and his family have been in New Delhi since early Friday morning after departing Vancouver just after midnight on Thursday. He estimates that roughly 300 passengers were on the same flight, but only 30 pieces of luggage arrived at Indira Gandhi International Airport with them.
“Everyone was missing luggage,” he said. “It was literally like a riot in the airport.”
Birk said he travelled to New Delhi for a wedding along with his mother and other relatives, including two children. Out of their group’s 12 bags, only two arrived.
As frustration mounted and the entire group was only granted one Air Canada staff member to handle the angry customers, Birk started taking video on his cellphone.
The video shows that staff member attempting to fill out claim sheets for every customer involved in the flight and trying to answer their questions.
WATCH (Aired April 19, 2018): Sean O’Shea reports on another luggage mixup involving Sunwing Airlines
“They gave us one staff member to deal with 300 people, some of them elderly, some of them needing assistance,” Birk said. “It was a madhouse.”
Birk said that since they arrived in India, two other flights have also flown into New Delhi from Vancouver — both without their luggage.
“We have nothing,” he said. “I’m still wearing the same clothes, same underwear, same everything that I left Vancouver in three days ago. And everyone else on the flight is in the same situation.”
On Saturday, Birk said he called Air Canada and was told to be at the airport that afternoon to pick up the rest of his luggage. But after two hours of waiting there, along with other passengers from their flight, Birk was told the luggage wasn’t arriving.
“They said one bag was in London Heathrow Airport, two of them they don’t know where they are and the others are still in Vancouver,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. Why can’t they get our bags here?”
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In a statement to Global News, Air Canada blamed the issue on the renewed tensions between India and Pakistan, which has led to air travel restrictions.
Last month, Air Canada cancelled all flights to northern India because of the conflict, which was sparked after a bombing in the disputed region of Kashmir on Feb. 14 that killed 40 people. The airline resumed flights a day later.
WATCH (Aired Feb. 27): Aaron McArthur reports on the travel chaos in the immediate wake of the latest India-Pakistan conflict
“Due to the ongoing airspace closure over Pakistan, we fly a longer route, which requires more fuel, therefore restricting the weight the aircraft can safely carry,” the airline said.
“On occasion, this has resulted in some bags being delayed as we then co-ordinate the transport of bags over alternate routings. Our teams in India are reuniting bags with customers.”
Birk said that explanation has not been provided to them and that customers should have known about the issue ahead of time.
WATCH: A brief history of the Pakistan-India conflict
“What we don’t understand is why didn’t they tell us before we left Vancouver that your bags aren’t going to be there with you? Because no one would have come,” he said, adding that he’s been told by the airline that the luggage issue has been ongoing for over a week.
When asked what kind of compensation the airline is providing customers, a spokesperson for Air Canada said the company is dealing with customers on an individual basis.
In the video, the Air Canada staff member is seen offering customers $150 per person in compensation. Birk said requests for hotel and food vouchers have been denied and that attempts to be compensated for clothes they buy in New Delhi are futile.
Air Canada’s own rules on transportation and baggage say customers are entitled to as much as $2,100 CDN each for lost or destroyed baggage under the Carriage by Air Act.
That act includes the Montreal Convention, which does not require receipts as proof for compensation of purchases of clothing and other items in the wake of lost luggage.
As he and his family wait to be reunited with their belongings, Birk said what was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime has now become a nightmare.
“My mom moved to Canada in 1971,” he said. “This is the first time she’s been back to India since for a wedding that’s been planned for months, and now we have nothing.”