Passengers on the nearly 14,000 km flight from Darwin in Australia’s Nothern Territory to London were left without any of their luggage for up to six days last week because of a patch of crumbling runway.
Qantas currently operates its longest direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London via Darwin for a short stopover to top up the fuel tanks of the Boeing 787 Dreamliners that operate the 17 and a half-hour flights.
Unfortunately, recent torrential rain caused damage to a section of the runway at Darwin International Airport which started to crumble and needed urgent repairs.
As a result, the Qantas pilots weren’t able to use the entire length of the runway as normal so had to reduce the aircraft weight to get the plane airborne in a shorter distance.
There are two main ways to achieve this: Either offload passengers or take all the passengers but not all of their bags.
Qantas chose the second option but the airline was given just a few day’s notice of the impending urgent repair work and the message didn’t get passed onto passengers. Or, at least, not until 20 minutes before arrival in London when an announcement was made in the cabin.
On arrival in London, passengers were made to wait at the luggage carousel just in case their bag had been loaded on the flight and when they didn’t show up, they could make a lost baggage claim.
Some of the passengers say Qantas promised to get the bags to them within two or three days but in some cases, it took nearly a week for their luggage to arrive.
Due to the length of the flights, non-stop Qantas flights to Europe are already weight restricted, which meant it took several days to clear the back log.
A Qantas spokesperson confirmed the problems saying a statement that “an issue with the runway pavement at Darwin Airport resulted in temporary additional weight restrictions on our flights to London last week and unfortunately that meant we weren’t able to carry some passengers’ bags on their flight”.
“Bags were reaccommodated on later flights and are couriered directly to customers as soon as we’re able to confirm the correct address. We apologise for the inconvenience this has caused our passengers and thank them for their understanding.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.