Delta Air Lines was recently forced to fly one of the Airbus A330 widebody jets from London’s Heathrow Airport to Detroit without any passengers onboard but filled to the brim with 1,000 lost bags that had been delayed in England after technical problems snarled Heathrow’s baggage handling system.
The airline confirmed on Wednesday that it made use of an aircraft that already happened to be in London but was going to fly back to the United States without passengers because of capacity constraints at Heathrow.
In recent weeks, Heathrow has been gripped by luggage chaos after a number of malfunctions with its automated baggage handling system. Most of the technical issues have been isolated to Terminal 2 and Terminal 3. Delta operates out of Heathrow’s Terminal 3.
Photos of what was described as a ‘carpet of luggage’ outside Terminal 2 went viral several weeks ago after Heathrow ran out of space to store delayed and lost bags. Delayed luggage has also been stored outside the front of Terminal 3 on several occasions.
The problems have been compounded by staffing shortages as well as capacity constraints within the cargo holds of aircraft flying out of Heathrow.
When an opportunity presented itself, Delta found a way to repatriate a large quantity of delayed luggage in one go.
“Delta teams worked a creative solution to move delayed checked bags from London-Heathrow on July 11 after a regularly scheduled flight had to be canceled given airport passenger volume restrictions at Heathrow,” a spokesperson for the Atlanta-based carrier said on Wednesday.
The spokesperson added that the bags were all stored in the cargo hold of the aircraft and none had to be placed in the passenger cabin like some airlines used for freight during the pandemic.
This isn’t the first time a major airline has needed to charter an aircraft just to transport delayed baggage. Australian flag carrier Qantas has been suffering its own high-profile luggage problems after outsourcing baggage handlers to outside ground handling companies.
Back in April, Qantas used one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners to transport delayed baggage from Melbourne to Sydney.
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.