'heartbroken' | 

US tourist spent a week looking for her parent’s ashes in lost luggage in ‘chaotic’ Dublin airport

Donna O’Connor said she is “heartbroken” as she travelled with many items of sentimental value including her parents’ ashes, which she intended to spread on a family farm in Mayo.

Donna O'Connor. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Donna O'Connor



Seoirse MulgrewIndependent.ie

An American tourist has described the “chaotic” experience of trying to locate her lost baggage at Dublin Airport.

Donna O’Connor (67), who is from Chicago, arrived in Dublin on an Air Canada flight on June 30 and has spent the last seven days at Dublin Airport in a desperate effort to track down her belongings.

Ms O’Connor said she is “heartbroken” as she travelled with many items of sentimental value including her parents’ ashes, which she intended to spread on a family farm in Ballina, Co Mayo.

She said she now feels “trapped” in the capital and cannot travel west until she is reunited with her luggage.

In recent weeks, the issue of unclaimed baggage has impacted many airports internationally with hundreds of lost bags piling up.

Airlines have also been forced to cancel a number of flights as a result of staff shortages due to Covid-19.

The responsibility for lost luggage lies with individual airlines, not Dublin Airport operator, daa.

The daa said passengers experiencing issues regarding their baggage should make direct contact with their airline or airline ground handling company, in order to “retrieve their luggage through the appropriate channels”.

It said the contact numbers for the individual airlines can be found on its website.

Aer Lingus and Ryanair look after their own baggage handling, while other airlines use handling companies, such as Swissport and Sky Handling.

“I waited for three hours with many other people for baggage to come out and then finally after three hours we all agreed we were just seeing the same baggage rotate through the carousel,” Ms O’Connor told Independent.ie.

“The most information that I’ve gotten is from passengers who have been living the experience. I filed a claim form with Sky Handlers, which was mobbed, and when I handed it to them, they said ‘we’ll put it in the queue and we’ll give you a call’, and that was it.

“Air Canada had already delayed our flight, I came from Chicago through Toronto, and we were already almost nine hours overdue. We were held up at the gate for so long in Toronto for intermittent baggage loading and now I don’t know if mine is in Dublin or Toronto.

“If you go into arrivals where the baggage carousels are, the day I was there the luggage is so discombobulated, I don’t know if it’s coming out so late that people finally give up but then the baggage handlers just start stacking it.

“So, I walked through all of those to see if my bag had gotten put at a different carousel number, I literally saw over a thousand cases just sitting in the middle.

“No one leaves because they’re afraid to go, they want their luggage so much that they won’t go get food or drink because you don’t want to miss your chance. I’ve contacted Air Canada multiple times, been put on hold and no one ever comes back.”

Ms O’Connor has travelled to Ireland many times over the years and said nothing like this has ever happened before.

She said the ordeal has also been “financially overwhelming” as she has had to make several international calls, causing her phone bill to “skyrocket” as well as purchasing new clothes and essentials.

“My plan was to be here for a year, my grandparents are from Ireland, so I’ve applied for the Irish passport to stay and instead I feel like I moved here with the clothes on my back,” she said.

“My plan was to stay in Dublin for a bit and then go west but now I feel trapped in Dublin because I’m afraid I’ll never see my luggage again.

“The reason I brought my parents ashes is because I’m of Irish heritage and my cousin has a farm in Mayo, and I was going to put some ashes there for them.

“I’m 67, I’ve travelled a fair amount and I’ve never had an experience like this.”

A spokesperson for Sky Handling said it is “mindful and conscious” of the impact that current travel disruptions are having on passengers.

It said the current baggage delays are caused “primarily by resource and infrastructure issues at overseas hub airports”.

“Sky Handling Partner has more than doubled our staff numbers at Dublin Airport in recent months to further assist incoming passengers in collecting their bags,” a spokesperson said.

“This has resulted in a significant increase in passengers and their bags being separated on original flights into Dublin, with bags arriving on later flights over the course of several days.

“We have invested in technology enhancements to speed up the process of notifying passengers when delayed bags arrive and delivering bags to them.

“We are unable to comment on an individual passenger but we are making every effort to reunite passengers with belongings that have arrived on later flights as quickly as possible.”

Independent.ie has contacted Air Canada and Swissport and is awaiting a response.

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