'That's when my stomach dropped': Woman finds her own luggage after Air Canada leaves it behind

Kelly Laing shares her travel delay story after her luggage was stranded by Air Canada at Toronto International Pearson Airport. (Screenshot: https://www.tiktok.com/@kellyklaing)

In the wake of easing COVID-19 restrictions, airlines and airports were not ready for the headache to come. Many cancelled flights, lost luggage, and extensive waiting periods, have discouraged Canadians from reaching their final destination.

Kelly Laing, a marketing manager, was heading back home to Saint John, New Brunswick, from Toronto. It's an hour-and-a-half direct flight she's done many times before for work. When she got to the Toronto Pearson International Airport, she saw only one person working at the Air Canada customer service desk with a line of around 50 people.

"Lucky enough, I have a Nexus [card], so I was able to get into security pretty quickly, but the lineups were horrible, you just saw people standing everywhere, and you could tell that there's not enough staff."

From there, she knew something was wrong.

When Laing landed at the St. John's International Airport, waiting for her luggage at the baggage claim, not enough luggage came out on the carousel for the 30 travellers waiting.

Thankfully, Kelly added an Apple AirTag, a tracking device connected to the Find My app. When she checked her phone to locate her suitcase, it was still at the Toronto Pearson International Airport.

"That's when my stomach dropped," she told Yahoo News Canada. "We talked to the worker at the airport, and he said, 'Yep, about 30 bags didn't make this flight. I don't have an explanation for you, but we're hoping to get you your bag within the next 24 to 48 hours."

"Air Canada staff were like, 'Oh yeah, we'll reimburse you for stuff,' but I don't trust them. They have a three-hour wait time for their phone line. I don't know when you'd ever see the money for anything reimbursed."

The St. John's Airport is smaller in size than the Toronto airport. When the Air Canada employee was dealing with the 30 travellers with the lost luggage, he was by himself. Laing could tell he was flustered and overwhelmed.

"At the end of the day, it's not his fault. It's corporate for not hiring enough people and laying people off and then trying to get them to come back," she said. "I feel for the workers because they're just trying to do their job. They're just understaffed and underpaid."

Last Year, Air Canada announced a 25 percent reduction in service and at least 1,700 layoffs. Now they're playing catch up, but it wasn't enough. Last month, Air Canada announced it would reduce flights in July and August, but no one expected it to be this bad.

From home, Laing was watching her suitcase through the tracking system. After five days, it was still sitting at the Toronto Pearson International Airport, three days more than the 48 hours she was promised. She never bothered calling customer service because the wait time was over three hours.

"I had no updates from them. Not an email, not a phone call to let me know, 'okay, this is going to be more than 48 hours,' nothing. It was radio silence."

On day six, she picked up her luggage at the St. John’s Airport.

After Laing posted her experience on Tik Tok, the Apple AirTag method went viral.

"If you're travelling, try bringing a carry-on with you and pack as many things as possible. If you do bring a checked-in bag, get a tracking device because they do work. I'm so happy I thought of bringing mine."

Even with all the airport drama, Laing hopes it doesn't discourage Canadians from travelling.

"The pandemic really hit a lot of these smaller communities very hard, especially in Atlantic Canada. You know, most of their income is made from tourism, they need you to come and visit and spend money. These airlines are not helping them thrive after two hard years of this. So don't be scared to travel, just be patient."

"Be patient with the poor desk workers as well and the flight attendants because it's not their fault. Plan ahead and give yourself the extra time."