Baggage Handler Shortage Takes A Toll At Alaska Airlines

After a torrent of negative backlash on Twitter, Alaska Airlines has publically apologized for a recent baggage handler shortage. The airline openly admitted to its shortcomings and it offered solutions for passengers who had been caught up in the holiday travel mayhem on 21st December 2019.

Alaska Airlines aircraft at Sea Tac
Alaska Airlines has apologized to holiday travelers at Seattle Tacoma. Photo: Getty Images

An un-merry travel experience

Those were the latest words from Alaska Airlines as it proffered its apologies to passengers as Sea-Tac Airport who may have had “an un-merry travel experience”. On Saturday 21st December 2019, passengers who had journeyed through Sea-Tac Airport experienced severe delays and lost baggage when they arrived at their destination. Needless to say, it was a frustrating incident considering the short amount of time until Christmas but Alaska Airlines wasted no time in meeting its customers’ needs.

In its latest blog post, the airline composed a particularly candid statement in which it addressed the reason behind its shortcomings at the airport. It said numerous baggage operations staff fell ill around the same time as bad weather hit resulting in a shortage of employees. This meant that those individuals charged with the smooth operation of back-end airline operations were out of the office. And their disappearance was noticeable.

Empty baggage carousel
Customers were left without valuable personal items. Photo: Craig via Wikimedia Commons

The staff shortage took Alaska Airlines by surprise and the airline was unable to keep up with normal operations. If Alaska Airlines had a contingency plan, it failed on this occasion. However, the carrier was open in admitting its mistake. In a blog post, the airline laments:

“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….we did not have enough ramp workers in place to successfully handle the holiday volume of baggage…We simply did not have enough people to do all the work.”

Keeping the ball rolling

Alaska airlines flihgt
Not everyone is happy with the apology. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

Alaska Airlines’ latest PR statement makes for a refreshing read. We seldom find airlines pubically belittling themselves but the release has garnered a warm reception. Many are pleased with Alaska Airlines’ apology making the lost baggage issue just a little less sour.

But Alaska Airlines is not offering empty promises either. It didn’t make the statement for the sake of it. The airline is making good on its word to reunite passengers with their luggage as quickly as possible.

Alaska Airlines has drafted in extra staff to manage the backlog and has also provided a short guide for passengers awaiting luggage. The carrier is encouraging customers to fill in lost baggage claims. But it will reimburse necessary expenses, such as clothing and toiletries until baggage has been returned. With all the additional staff it’s unlikely that baggage redelivery will take longer than 24 hours. However, if that is the case Alaska Airlines is giving customers a discount off a future flight.

The other side of the coin

But the best intentions don’t always lead to the most receptive responses. In contrast to those objectively reading Alaska Airlines’ apology, for those who are still affected by the baggage issues, delays, and lack of information it’s a different story. Many are frustrated and threaten never to fly with Alaska Airlines again. And that’s not going to sit well in terms of customer sentiment.

But who can fault the airline? It’s trying its hardest to remedy a problematic situation around one of the busiest periods in the year.

Were you affected by the baggage shortages at Sea-Tac? Do you like Alaska Airlines’ response to the issue? Let us know in the comments below!