31 Dec 2022

NZ travellers face luggage delays in US storm aftermath

6:29 am on 31 December 2022

By Bill Hickman

Suitcase on luggage conveyor belt in the baggage claim at airport

Air New Zealand is seeking approval to facilitate the use of new technology such as Apple Airtags to help passengers locate missing bags. Photo: 123RF

Delayed luggage is causing a headache for travellers arriving in the country as the effects of a deadly storm in the US continue.

Authorities in the American state of New York were dealing with the aftermath of a blizzard which claimed lives, caused power outages and disrupted holiday travel for millions of people.

In Auckland Airport, passengers were waiting in long lines to report lost luggage and extra workers had been brought in to clear the backlog.

Air New Zealand chief operating officer Alex Marren said the the issue was "a significant global issue" and would continue for several months.

"It has been made more difficult with complex international connections into New Zealand, severe weather in North America, busy airports and Covid sickness," he said.

The airline was bringing in additional staff to answer queries and handle lost bags and was seeking Civil Aviation Authority approval to facilitate the use of new technology such as Apple Airtags to help passengers locate missing bags, Marren said.

This year's holiday season was one of the busiest ever and the industry was still recovering after grinding to a halt during the pandemic, Marren said.

"We simply can't get enough people to fill roles," he said.

Board of Airlines Representatives executive director Cath O'Brien said the weather in the United States was affecting passengers arriving from many locations.

"New Zealand faces a particular challenge around mishandled baggage as we are at the end of long international routes, with relatively less international connectivity. This means that mishandled baggage tends to arrive in large amounts, from multiple different misconnections."

The problem was compounded by people quickly moving on from their point of arrival, she said.

"People often arrive into Auckland or Christchurch and then they'll make an onward domestic journey. So by the time their bag arrives they're well gone. The bag has to be identified, be screened by security and then make its way, on the domestic network, to the person.

A spokesperson from Auckland Airport said more misplaced bags were arriving daily.

They said it was up to the airlines to ensure bags reached the right destination, but the airport was working with them to see what could be done to resolve the issue.

Passengers were advised to pack any critical items such as medications, high value or irreplaceable items in their carry-on hand luggage instead than placing it in check in luggage and to make sure their bags were distinctive and easy to identify.

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