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'Complete chaos': 2,500 bags unclaimed at YVR in wake of snowstorms

Since few immediate measures were put in place to ensure the security of mounting bag buildup amid last week’s snowstorm, some passengers worry their stuff has been stolen.
Hundreds of pieces of unclaimed luggage that need to be reunited with the owners sit at YVR on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. JASON PAYNE, PNG

VANCOUVER — Close to 2,500 pieces of luggage sit unclaimed behind a newly built enclosure on Vancouver airport’s second floor.

Since few immediate measures were put in place to ensure the security of the mounting bag buildup amid last week’s snowstorms, some passengers worry their stuff has been stolen.

Toronto’s Kim Tanczos landed at YVR the night of Dec. 23 to a sea of suitcases being looked after by a single baggage claim worker. Her Air Canada flight was among the many that arrived late.

Tanczos’ carry-on luggage, which held her 14-year-old daughter’s insulin and her husband’s sleep apnea machine, was nowhere to be found.

“It was complete chaos. I witnessed a parent crying, saying their children have no clothes,” said the 49-year-old, who said she was told by the baggage attendant the whereabouts of her family’s luggage was unknown.

While returning to the airport a few times during her holiday vacation proved successful for Tanczos, who located her suitcases on Monday, she has concerns for other passengers still searching for theirs.

“My biggest worry was that my bags were stolen. The way the area was set up on Boxing Day, you could walk right in and out with them.”

YVR spokesperson Alyssa Smith said that while the airport put up white walls a few days ago and employed staff to guard the overflow baggage, security may have been an issue in the days prior.

“We are doing the best we can now,” Smith said Thursday.

Passengers seeking to retrieve their luggage must speak to an airline or airport representative and confirm their identity before staff escort them into the overflow enclosure.

“We are suggesting passengers in this situation start a claim with their airline,” Smith said in an email. “The airline will provide details on when and where they can pick up their bags at the airport or will make arrangements to send bags to you.”

YVR currently has a baggage customer support team stationed at both domestic and international arrivals.

Brooklyn composer Darcy James Argue took things into his own hands this week after submitting a lost baggage claim with Air Canada that received no immediate response.

The 47-year-old, who landed at the airport on a delayed flight on Dec. 22, resorted to opening the “Find My” application on his phone and pinpointing the location of an Apple AirTag in his luggage.

While Air Canada’s digital tracking system, WorldTracer, offered no indication as to Argue’s luggage location, his personal tracking device confirmed the bags were at YVR.

On Wednesday, airport staff escorted him into the overflow baggage claim areas where he found his luggage, which contained Christmas gifts he had meant to give to his parents in Vancouver.

“If I didn’t have the AirTag, I would have no idea that my bag actually arrived here and how to find it,” Argue said. “There were hundreds and hundreds of suitcases, sectioned off by days, some from more than a week ago. It still boggles my mind.”