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An airline was sick and tired of airport luggage chaos. Its solution was brilliant

You can complain and put up with it. Or you can do something about it. This airline chose the latter.
chris-matyszczyk
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer on
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Clever. very clever. And very good business.

(A screenshot from an Icelandair ad.)

A screenshot from an Icelandair ad

Things aren't as they should be.

Yes, of course I'm talking about the whole world, but I'm specifically talking about airports and the airlines that fly into them.

Please consider just two headlines from last week.

How about this one: "Cases of lost luggage skyrocketing at airports, leaving travelers in the dark." Clever use of cases, that. And a story heard in so many places. 

Then there was this tragic tale: "A passenger bought an airline ticket just to look for his lost luggage at Dublin Airport." Did you ever think you'd see a time when such a thing was necessary?

Welcome, then, to a time when airlines don't have enough staff, yet apparently still create schedules they know are unworkable. And a time when airports don't have enough staff to process even the passengers that airlines do manage to get to their destinations.

Amid all this, I'd still like to bring you a thimbleful of hope.

One airline realized that it might try to do something itself, rather than let passengers buy new tickets so that they could look for their luggage at the airport.

Icelandair executives must have sat down, thought deeply, then had a fine idea: they could put their own baggage handlers on the flight.

What marvelous, magical thinking. You don't have to wait for the local, overworked baggage handlers. You simply bring your own.

Passengers on many airlines have been thinking this way for years. You never know what the food will be like on your plane, so you bring your own ham sandwich.

Iceland's national TV station, RUV, reported that Icelandair took this drastic, and entirely sane, action specifically on flights to Amsterdam's Schipol airport, where, at one point, 16,000 pieces of unclaimed luggage had been left.

I understand the airport may have reached for the universally admired phrase "operational issues."

Icelandair's baggage handlers, two to a flight, took it upon themselves to load and unload the airline's flights.

Ásdís Ýr Pétursdóttir, Icelandair's information officer, told RUV that the whole idea was to minimize delays. Even crewmembers had joined in the baggage duties.

It is, of course, a lovely way of telling your passengers that you do actually care about their experience with the airline, something too many airlines only say they do.

Pétursdóttir added: "We will have to see how it develops and whether we carry this on, and even maybe to other destinations. As I say, we are trying to find ways to reduce the effects of these delays and minimise disruption to the journeys of our passengers."

Many airlines tell their passengers they're trying to minimize disruption. Many airline employees suggest this isn't entirely true.

Icelandair's example is, though, a lesson to so many airlines which tell passengers that nothing is really their fault. It's staff shortages, it's the weather, it's air traffic control. It couldn't be anything else, could it?

Here's another thought for harassed, frustrated passengers on U.S. airlines.

While the likes of American, United, Delta, and Southwest took $52 billion in taxpayer money during the pandemic -- and didn't exactly spend it on keeping all their employees -- Icelandair opened up a mere $120 million government-backed line of credit, and then closed it seven months before the end of the drawdown period. 

It's now back in financial health.

Oh, one other thing. The airline never used that line of credit.

Editorial standards

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