A month later and the bag is still missing.
Colleen Derkatch flew to Kelowna from Toronto with her family and daughter’s boyfriend on Dec. 27 for a vacation at Big White.
The boyfriend, 16, never got his bag and after missing for a month, WestJet doesn’t seem to have any idea where the bag is now.
The teen’s mom, Susan Sanei-Stamp, went to Toronto Pearson Airport just days after the bright blue MEC backpack went missing.
“I’ve heard that it was in Toronto while I was actually at Pearson, that they could tell it was there but they couldn’t take me to it. I’ve heard that they thought maybe it was in Calgary. I had a lovely person at the Kelowna airport who actually called me to say she’s going to keep an eye out, she was an airport employee, not a WestJet employee, but it never seemed to make it to Kelowna.
“I don’t get a straight answer. I’ve also just been told they don’t know where it is and I just need to understand that they’re overwhelmed.”
Inside the bag were brand new snow pants Sanei-Stamp bought for her son’s trip, a sweater that belonged to his grandfather, and several Christmas gifts he’d received just days before the flight.
“I’m feeling defeated. I’ve gone from worried about my son to upset to frustrated to just genuinely defeated. I’m tired of being told that I need to understand that they were dealing with an unprecedented event. So, I asked them what was unprecedented about snowfall in Canada in December with the fact that we got about two days notice that the storm was coming.”
WestJet continues to tell Black Press that no one is available for an interview, but has responded to emailed questions.
WestJet sited issues with baggage handling at the Greater Toronto Airport Authority as contributing to a number of bags being delayed.
WestJet also admitted to needing to improve its operations.
“Following the holiday season and substantial weather-related disruptions we have identified our responsibility to improve our baggage systems and our ability to deliver baggage to guests efficiently and reliably. We are currently undertaking a strategic review to improve our baggage services and are committed to working together with our third-party service partners to action changes across our operations to ensure we improve in this area.”
When travelling by air, however, each bag is assigned a number and each travel group has unique reservation code to track luggage in transit.
WestJet confirmed they recycle bag numbers.
The bag tag number on Sanei-Stamp’s son’s backpack has since been reused for a new traveller, making it even more difficult to track down the missing luggage.
“My mind is blown at the idea that the one thing you have that uniquely identifies someone’s property that you have taken responsibility for would be reused to become an identifier for someone else. You are looking at losing the one piece of connective tissue between my kid and his stuff.”
After many failed attempts to find the bag Sanei-Stamp is convinced it never left Toronto and was probably picked up by someone else.
“I’ve been at Pearson and seen bags out in the open for anyone to take. I’ve seen bags with tags with people’s personal cell phone numbers, their personal information just sitting there out in the open and I go, OK well whoever took my kid’s bag at this point I hope they’re enjoying the stuff that’s in it.”
The lost baggage policy on WestJet’s website says a customer is eligible for compensation after a bag has been missing more than 21 days, but is limited to 1,288 Special Drawing Rights, approximately $2,300 per passenger.
“I know I’m going to be in for a fight when they say ‘well you don’t have a receipt for all that stuff. How can we reimburse you?’ And even if I did they’d be like ‘well those pants cost you X a year ago, that’s what we’re going to compensate you.’ But that only gets me half a pair of pants today which I wouldn’t be replacing if you hadn’t of lost it.”
Other items are irreplaceable, like the sweater the teen received from his grandfather on Christmas day.
“I just want someone stepping in and going ‘you know what, we’re going acknowledge that not only is this not OK but here is our plan, this is what we’re actively doing’. I’ve just been told ‘you need to trust that we’re looking for it’, but I don’t trust that you’re looking for it, that’s the problem.”
There is one thing, however, that Sanei-Stamp is thankful for through the whole ordeal.
“Colleen and her husband and their daughter, they are lovely humans and they did everything to make sure that he was comfortable and that it didn’t ruin the trip, but it hung over everyone.”
Black Press continues to communicate with Derkatch and Sanei-Stamp for updates.