RICHMOND, B.C. — Robyn Fant and her family found their final missing suitcase among a sea of unclaimed bags at Vancouver International Airport on Tuesday, just as they were to board a flight home to North Carolina after an annual ski trip to Whistler, B.C.
Their bag was one of 1,500 that officials said remained at the airport following winter storms that wreaked havoc on holiday travel last month. Hundreds of flights were cancelled in and out of the airport as heavy snow, then freezing rain, covered Metro Vancouver, leaving many people to sleep on the airport floor for days.
Walking through the airport, Fant said she, her husband and three sons checked eight bags for their Air Canada flight and arrived in Vancouver on Christmas Day, but the luggage with all of their ski gear went missing for the next four days.
The lost bags cost the family "thousands of dollars" because they had to rent ski gear and buy clothing, including winter boots, gloves, a jacket and pants, she said.
Fant said a woman working at an Air Canada counter at the airport in Charlotte, N.C., had her preteen son working with her, and the family watched as the boy grabbed one of their bags, which had not been tagged, and threw it down a chute.
The boy and two other people were "hurling" people's luggage, "giggling at how loud they could make the bags slam down," she said.
Air Canada said in a statement that it couldn't confirm the family's story.
"However, if correct, it would not be in compliance with our operating procedures."
The family found their final missing bag in a partitioned-off area full of unclaimed luggage belonging to people who were flying with Air Canada.
Homeira Shojaei and her husband managed to find two of their three missing bags in that same area on Tuesday, three days after moving to Vancouver from Iran.
She said she was relieved, because the bags contain belongings she needs to start her post-secondary studies next week.
Shojaei said she had contacted Air Canada about the lost luggage and received a confirmation email from the airline, but no further communication, so the couple went to the airport to begin their own investigation.
She said they presented their baggage tags to an attendant, who told them their luggage was not there.
Shojaei said they insisted on searching and found the two bags.
They plan to come back to search for their final bag later this week, as Shojaei said she thinks it's still in Toronto, where they caught a connecting flight to Vancouver.
A statement from the airport said the number of unclaimed bags fluctuates as luggage arrives, is picked up or is sent for delivery to the owners.
"While we anticipate it will take us and our airline partners more time to complete this reunification process, steady progress is being made," it said in a statement.
There's a 99 per cent success rate for luggage leaving Vancouver's airport, it added, meaning nearly all checked bags are being processed and leaving on time.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 3, 2023.
Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press