Friday, December 20, 2019 was not a great day for Seattle-based Alaska Airlines. While the carrier planned its observance of National Ugly Sweater Day by giving priority boarding privileges to passengers sporting holiday-themed apparel, it couldn’t have foreseen the nightmarish weekend that was to follow.
Alaska hadn’t counted on an unusual number of its baggage handlers calling in sick on December 20. The unexpected absence of so many staff members set off a devastating chain of events at its primary hub, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, including heavy flight delays that lasted throughout the weekend and the separation of many passengers from their checked baggage.
The airline said that the unanticipated volume of employees calling out sick at its home-base airport meant that there simply weren’t enough workers on hand to load and unload the bloated volume of checked baggage that accompanies holiday travel.
The next day, Alaska issued a public apology via its blog site in which the company took full responsibility for having created what it called, “an awful holiday travel experience, just when people rely on us the most.” Explaining that there simply hadn’t been enough baggage handlers or ramp workers, the post went on to say, “A backlog quickly took shape and that prevented many bags from being loaded on flights, ultimately causing our guests to arrive at their destinations without their checked bags.”
It also admitted that operations became inefficient and aircraft were kept waiting out on the tarmac for gate space to open up. Alaska summarized the measures that it’s taking to correct the problem. “We have called in many management employees from across the company to assist with the baggage backup and recovery,” the post reads. “Teams of people are working extended hours, and in some cases around the clock, to reunite guests and their bags.”
The post goes on to outline the procedures passengers should follow if they are among those whose bags did not meet them at their destination. It also promises discount off of a future flight for those whose bag(s) were delayed 24 hours or more, and have an open claim. Guests whose baggage was delayed are also entitled to reimbursement from the airline for, “reasonable and necessary expenses incurred while separated from their belongings (such as clothing and toiletries).”
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