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Why is delayed baggage such an intractable problem for AC?

Why is delayed baggage such an intractable problem for AC?

Old Jul 12, 2023, 3:18 pm
  #1  
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Why is delayed baggage such an intractable problem for AC?

2022 was a disastrous year for AC in terms of delayed baggage (see e.g. Tracing and locating missing baggage (2022)). Whatever the cause, I can understand it spiralled out of control and it took months to get back to "normal".

2023 doesn't seem to be such a mess overall yet, but AC's "normal" is still not up to snuff.

I rarely check baggage, but I've had to a couple of times last year. A week ago, Austrian Airlines left my bag behind in Vienna during a delay-shortened tight connection. I got a text message at touchdown saying it was still in Vienna, expressing regrets, inviting me to specify address online. I got further updates that it was on the next flight, and a phone call 40 mins after it arrived. Since I was at destination only one day, I chose to hold at airport for pickup (in PRG) in my onward journey, which went without a hitch in 5 minutes. A regrettable incident handled well.

Two days ago, AC left my bag behind in YUL in an exactly analogous situation (shortened cnx to YOW). No proactive notification. Long line at YOW to process all of us with luggage problems, which seemed like more than 1/2 the flight. Though it was clear where my bag was, it took nearly 24 hours in processing limbo with no-one doing anything until - as a SE100K 1MM - I got concierges involved. They found it, tagged it for next flight, made sure it got on, picked it off the belt in YOW, and made sure it got immediately to the delivery company. All's well that ends well, but all of those are steps that shouldn't need at concierge overseeing them, and I'm sure if I wasn't high status my baggage would be languishing somewhere for days or weeks more.

What's the underlying reason AC can't get it right? Are they just understaffing baggage handling? Is there a responsibility delimitation vs airport ground staff that gets in the way, that Austrian (and others) don't have? Something else? As a pax, I get annoyed when it fails. Putting that feeling aside, as a business decisionmaker it seems like something which should be easy to fix, and so stave off quite a bit of reputational damage, with just some targeted resourcing. So I'm curious why this is (apparently) not getting done.
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Old Jul 12, 2023, 3:44 pm
  #2  
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Originally Posted by montrealer
What's the underlying reason AC can't get it right?
If you want the true underlying reason, I think the answer is that they don't care. I don't mean that any individual employee doesn't care, but AC corporately just doesn't seem to think their poor performance in this area, like their OTP, is impacting profitability - at least not enough to spend the money on fixing the issue.

I'll point out that somewhere in recent months, AC was advertising its baggage delivery rate as 98%. Around the same time, DL's was 99.8%. Those don't sound terribly different until you realize that AC's 2% rate of delayed/lost bags is 10x DL's 0.2% rate.

One of those airlines has a customer baggage delivery guarantee of 20 minutes (if your bag isn't delivered in that time, you get some points as compensation). The other has no published service standard, as far as I can tell.

The fact that DL isn't bleeding huge amounts from this bag guarantee compensation suggests that senior management identified this as an issue, developed a metric that they felt was meaningful to hold themselves accountable to their customers, and presumably made whatever investments/process adjustments were necessary internally to achieve it.

I'm sure that someone at AC would talk about how terrible certain Canadian airports are for baggage, but I'm also sure many of the same issues exist at US airports, and AC and DL fly to many of the same airports.

AC undoubtedly has a Director or VP of Baggage Services or something like that who has KPIs to meet, but without a push from the top and allocation of sufficient resources (both human and financial), I doubt that we'll see much change.

That doesn't mean AC has to introduce a customer guarantee the way DL did, but having a big public target like that does wonders to keep everyone focused.

Beyond that, though, does it really matter whether AC hires too few baggage handlers, or the baggage systems at Canadian airports are badly designed, or whatever? Sure, it would be easier for AC to fix its own issues if it were in a place like Australia that seems to generally treat this as important, but DL accomplished huge improvements even in a much less favourable locale. If AC truly wanted to solve it, they probably could.

Last edited by Adam Smith; Jul 12, 2023 at 3:50 pm
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Old Jul 12, 2023, 3:47 pm
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Originally Posted by montrealer
I rarely check baggage, but I've had to a couple of times last year. A week ago, Austrian Airlines left my bag behind in Vienna during a delay-shortened tight connection. I got a text message at touchdown saying it was still in Vienna, expressing regrets, inviting me to specify address online. I got further updates that it was on the next flight, and a phone call 40 mins after it arrived. Since I was at destination only one day, I chose to hold at airport for pickup (in PRG) in my onward journey, which went without a hitch in 5 minutes. A regrettable incident handled well.
I do not have any answers for you, but I wante to point out this is not unque to Austrian... e.g. with United, I can see where and when my bag gets scanned, right in their app, in real time. With AC, it is a black void.
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Old Jul 12, 2023, 4:13 pm
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Originally Posted by Adam Smith
If you want the true underlying reason, I think the answer is that they don't care.
This. Planes are full, why should AC care?

I dont have answer to how or if AC can fix this or anything, but I do have a solution on how you wont be subjected to it, that is, change your travel/job/lifestyle so that you dont need to fly AC.
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Old Jul 12, 2023, 4:13 pm
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It is the same answer over and over again for "why does AC suck at bags/OTP/website/phone/..." - because a) they obviously don't think they spend the money to not suck and figure they can leave a long trail of pissed off people as long as the planes are still full and b) they have no operational culture whatsoever - the number of employees I interact with who could obviously could not give two ....s about whatever the problem du jour is ... is a reflection of a company that simply does not care about these things.

No money to fix problems and a IDGAF culture about fixing the things that don't cost money and here you are.
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Old Jul 12, 2023, 4:24 pm
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While I fear this will turn into another I hate AC/AC Sucks/Don't fly AC pile on, I will none the less toss in my 2 cents.

OP is asking more a question of real tracking rather than luggage handling KPI, though yes. both are valid points

If I recall a few years back, AC's IT system consissted of a dozen or so different systems. I suspect their luggage tracking software cannot speak well with their main system and thus, we do not get the luggage tracking like AA (and others) where you can see where your bag is on the app.

And full disclosure, I'm one of those who believe carry on luggage should be banned and everyone forced to check a bag for every flight. They are dangerous (I am a victim of more than 1 bag falling on/near me in climb) and they slow down the boarding and disembarking process leading to more delays and more missed connections. So I would like to see improvement on this point. But its not a deal breaker for me.
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Old Jul 12, 2023, 5:16 pm
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I will first recount a story from some 20+ years ago. Back then I was probably SE (or high E at least):
Flying YYZ-YHZ on the last flight of the day. Delayed, not obscenely, but probably the last flight to arrive at YHZ that night. We get to the luggage hall in YHZ. 2-3 bags come out (none of them with priority tags)... and then the belt stops. Guess what. The luggage handlers stopped what they were doing and went home. I could literally see the container full of luggage parked in the sterile area at the other end of the belt. So could the lonely security guard... but there was nothing we could do. Why? Because the folks in charge of unloading our luggage on to the belt ran out of f..ks to give. Were they justified in doing so? I don't know. Do I think 20+ years made a big difference in union and employee relations? I doubt it.
As far as tracking and notifications... AC unfortunately has a poor record in passenger-affecting IT initiatives. Ability to see in your mobile app where your bag is at any given moment (last point scanned) is pretty much table stakes for major US airlines. Not on AC.

So, like anything else it boils down to People, Process and Technology. In this case:
1) People need to give a f..k. This is a function of having the right people, but also of having productive labour relations, incentives etc.
2) Technology needs to support people and off-load / automate the effort.
3) Better process will be great, but first the current processes will need to be bolstered by 1 & 2 above.
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Old Jul 12, 2023, 7:27 pm
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Originally Posted by blue2002
I will first recount a story from some 20+ years ago. Back then I was probably SE (or high E at least):
Flying YYZ-YHZ on the last flight of the day. Delayed, not obscenely, but probably the last flight to arrive at YHZ that night. We get to the luggage hall in YHZ. 2-3 bags come out (none of them with priority tags)... and then the belt stops. Guess what. The luggage handlers stopped what they were doing and went home. I could literally see the container full of luggage parked in the sterile area at the other end of the belt. So could the lonely security guard... but there was nothing we could do. Why? Because the folks in charge of unloading our luggage on to the belt ran out of f..ks to give. Were they justified in doing so? I don't know. Do I think 20+ years made a big difference in union and employee relations? I doubt it.
I am not surprised. I have talked to a few AC employees, overheard their conversations, and one of my friends from high school worked as a baggage handler at YYZ one summer. Just let me say that AC treats some of their employees much worse than how AC treats passengers Many airport employees rely on public transit to get to home. If they need to work late, the extra pay likely wont cover the taxi fare. If they think a flight delayed because their employer doesnt give an F, they of course wont give an F to their employers customers.

We can all discuss why this is happening and how to fix this, but trust me, many people at AC know more than us and have more feasible solutions. We dont see any improvement because, AC doesnt give an F.

IMO we all need to remind ourselves that our job is not to fix AC, we need make sure we have pleasant travel experience, because at the end of the day, we are responsible for our own happiness. Sometime, we can do certain things to improve our travel experience with AC, sometime, we need to find an alternative, and sometime, we really shouldnt be travelling at all.
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Old Jul 12, 2023, 7:29 pm
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Originally Posted by blue2002
Ability to see in your mobile app where your bag is at any given moment (last point scanned) is pretty much table stakes for major US airlines. Not on AC.
I have it on pretty good authority that they're working on it, and it's almost done.
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Old Jul 12, 2023, 7:38 pm
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Originally Posted by canadiancow
I have it on pretty good authority that they're working on it, and it's almost done.
Thats very welcome news I only wish on some such initiatives they were leaders, not just followers.
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Old Jul 12, 2023, 9:31 pm
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Originally Posted by montrealer
2022 was a disastrous year for AC in terms of delayed baggage (see e.g. Tracing and locating missing baggage (2022)). Whatever the cause, I can understand it spiralled out of control and it took months to get back to "normal".

2023 doesn't seem to be such a mess overall yet, but AC's "normal" is still not up to snuff.

I rarely check baggage, but I've had to a couple of times last year. A week ago, Austrian Airlines left my bag behind in Vienna during a delay-shortened tight connection. I got a text message at touchdown saying it was still in Vienna, expressing regrets, inviting me to specify address online. I got further updates that it was on the next flight, and a phone call 40 mins after it arrived. Since I was at destination only one day, I chose to hold at airport for pickup (in PRG) in my onward journey, which went without a hitch in 5 minutes. A regrettable incident handled well.

Two days ago, AC left my bag behind in YUL in an exactly analogous situation (shortened cnx to YOW). No proactive notification. Long line at YOW to process all of us with luggage problems, which seemed like more than 1/2 the flight. Though it was clear where my bag was, it took nearly 24 hours in processing limbo with no-one doing anything until - as a SE100K 1MM - I got concierges involved. They found it, tagged it for next flight, made sure it got on, picked it off the belt in YOW, and made sure it got immediately to the delivery company. All's well that ends well, but all of those are steps that shouldn't need at concierge overseeing them, and I'm sure if I wasn't high status my baggage would be languishing somewhere for days or weeks more.

What's the underlying reason AC can't get it right? Are they just understaffing baggage handling? Is there a responsibility delimitation vs airport ground staff that gets in the way, that Austrian (and others) don't have? Something else? As a pax, I get annoyed when it fails. Putting that feeling aside, as a business decisionmaker it seems like something which should be easy to fix, and so stave off quite a bit of reputational damage, with just some targeted resourcing. So I'm curious why this is (apparently) not getting done.
One major reason are our airports. They mostly have old outdated baggage systems, that dont scan the baggage. Im thankful my home airport is YYC, where bags are scan within the airport baggage system.

Originally Posted by Adam Smith
If you want the true underlying reason, I think the answer is that they don't care. I don't mean that any individual employee doesn't care, but AC corporately just doesn't seem to think their poor performance in this area, like their OTP, is impacting profitability - at least not enough to spend the money on fixing the issue.
.
I think AC does care is some form, but a lot of employees dont. AC policy is for all bags to be scanned as they are loading onto a aircraft, but a lot of employee dont follow these rules. In YVR, 40 percent of my flights, the baggage handlers dont scan.

Last edited by Adam Smith; Jul 12, 2023 at 10:38 pm Reason: Merge consecutive posts by same user
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Old Jul 13, 2023, 12:32 am
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Originally Posted by foothills county flier
I think AC does care is some form, but a lot of employees dont. AC policy is for all bags to be scanned as they are loading onto a aircraft, but a lot of employee dont follow these rules. In YVR, 40 percent of my flights, the baggage handlers dont scan.
Yeah... I remember one time I was waiting for a bag in YYZ (I know, I know), and I had dinner plans with an AC employee. They asked for my bag tag number, as I believe the employee app has had bag tracking for... a very long time.

There was no record of it ever being scanned on the aircraft.

Luckily I, and many other people waiting for bags, had AirTags, so we knew the bags were still at/on/near the aircraft.

But according to "the system", it was still in SFO.
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Old Jul 13, 2023, 1:16 am
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Originally Posted by canadiancow
I have it on pretty good authority that they're working on it, and it's almost done.
Sounds great, in theory...

But do you have faith in AC IT being able to implement it accurately and effectively via the current app?
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Old Jul 13, 2023, 1:31 am
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Originally Posted by CanadianMike
Sounds great, in theory...

But do you have faith in AC IT being able to implement it accurately and effectively via the current app?
I have complete faith in their software teams to do this.

But if baggage handlers don't scan the bags, it doesn't matter how good the tech is.
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Old Jul 13, 2023, 1:50 am
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Originally Posted by CanadianMike
Sounds great, in theory...

But do you have faith in AC IT being able to implement it accurately and effectively via the current app?
I mean, they did manage to remove the reasons for delays from the app rather quickly 😉 so anything is possible.

It's crazy that 2% of bags get misplaced by AC when the global average is 0.76%
https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...ed-after-covid
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