A Perfect Storm of Problems cause MAJOR delays at Sea-Tac Airport

For the past two days, a bit of travel “hunger games” has been going on at Seattle’s Sea-Tac airport. Seattle has been experiencing ridiculous amounts of rain and combined with a quasi baggage “strike” and holiday travel overloads, the travel experience has been a disaster. 

Flooding has been rampant all over the city and with fog and low ceilings, airport operations are limited or slowed.

An extraordinary number of baggage workers called out “sick” over the past two days, causing Alaska Airlines to call in management to actually work the ramp and load luggage.

Even that wasn’t enough, as a large number of flights taking off without the luggage for their guests. Lines at the baggage claim area stretched the entire length of the terminal, and wait times were in the multiples of hours.

Our friend Derek took this panorama shot of the customer service line stretching all the way through the C gates to give you an idea of the delays and impacted fliers.

Alaska Airlines issued a statement to those affected with instructions on what happened and what to do if your luggage didn’t make it with you.

What to do about lost luggage?

It’s important to note that Alaska Airlines encourages you to wait in the airport to file a claim. This may not be possible, especially considering that most people arrive at the airport with he intention to get themselves OUT of the airport. 

If your luggage is lost and you don’t have the time or patience to wait hours in the airport, you can call baggage services for the airline and report your items lost. 

Also, your credit card may offer certain advantages for lost and delayed baggage. Wait, you did book with your CREDIT card, not your DEBIT card, right?

Compensation?

Depending on the time and cause of the delay, the airline might not be forced to get you anything. Calling the airline and pleading your case might get you somewhere. Nonetheless, if you do incur costs for your delay, especially baggage delay, keep your receipts. 

The airline should reimburse you for necessary costs, and each time our luggage has been delayed, we have never been told that what we bought was not necessary.

Here’s the full letter for your reading pleasure:

First off, we sincerely apologize to our guests who endured considerable inconvenience and understandable frustration at Sea-Tac Airport over the past two days. With many different factors working against us, we dropped the ball, and by doing that, created an awful holiday travel experience just when people rely on us the most.
 
Put simply: a severe staffing shortage during a very heavy travel period, as well as difficult weather conditions, unleashed a cascade of problems for us, and – unfairly – for our guests. A large number of workers who support our baggage operation had called out sick.
 
Starting Friday morning, we did not have enough ramp workers in place to successfully handle the holiday volume of baggage. 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. We simply did not have enough people to do all the work. This caused us not to operate our gates efficiently and kept our aircraft out on the tarmac waiting until gate space opened up. We have called in many management employees from across the company to assist with the baggage backup and recovery.
 
What to do if your bag didn’t arrive
 
In the past 24 hours many guests arrived at their destinations without their checked bag(s). We’re terribly sorry for the inconvenience! Teams of people are working extended hours, and in some cases around the clock, to reunite guests and their bags.
 
Here’s what to do if your bag is missing
 
1. Don’t leave the airport.
 
If your bag did not make it on your flight, it’s critically important to file a claim before you leave the airport. Lines at our Airport Baggage Offices are long, but we’ve staffed up to process as many claims as possible. Filing a claim at the airport is the fastest way for us to collect your information and get your bag to you.
 
The faster we get a claim into the system, the faster we can get you reunited with your bag.
 
2. We’ll reimburse guests with delayed bags for reasonable and necessary expenses incurred while separated from their belongings (such as clothing and toiletries). Please keep a copy of any receipts for purchased items and mail them to the address below.
 
3. If you have already filed a claim with us, we will reach out to you as soon as we have more information. If not, please reach out to your arrival baggage office (see link below).
 
4. After your bag has been delivered to the right airport, we’ll call you and ask where you’d like us to deliver your bag: to your home, your hotel or other location. 5. If you left the airport without filing a claim, you’ll need to call our Central Baggage Office at 1-877-815-8253. Thank you in advance for your patience as we’re experiencing long hold times.
 
6. If your bag is delayed 24 hours or more, we will be providing you with a discount off a future flight as long as you have a claim open. We’ll reach out to you.
 
Related information

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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