Air Canada says it is investigating after a video that appears to show its baggage handlers dropping items from a tall staircase circulated on the internet.

The short video was shot on Thursday by Dwayne Stewart of Vancouver while he was waiting to fly home on Flight AC137 from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

'The gate check, unfortunately, turned into a gate toss.'- Air Canada passenger Dwayne Stewart

Stewart told CBC News the flight was crowded and, because the storage bins in the cabin were full, some passengers had to check their carry-on luggage at the gate.

Stewart said his seatmate then pointed out what was happening outside.

“The gate check, unfortunately, turned into a gate toss,” Stewart said.

The video runs a little over a minute and shows a baggage handler dropping items from the top of a movable staircase into a bin, which a second handler then moves into a nearby vehicle. The staircase looks to be about six metres high.

“We were so shocked we had to laugh ... it looked comical, it looked like it wasn’t real,” said Stewart.

“This was luggage people brought on the aircraft with the expectation they were going to hang on to it. When I do that I know I put valuable things in my luggage. I might have a camera. I might have gifts for my kids,” he added. Stewart said he flies on Air Canada “every other week.”

Stewart posted the video on YouTube, after which it quickly circulated.

YouTube: Air Canada 20-foot bag toss

Airline 'extremely disappointed'

Air Canada said in a statement, and in a comment on YouTube, it is "extremely disappointed" by the video.

"This clearly goes against our standard baggage handling procedures which dictates that gate-checked bags are to be hand carried down to the ramp,” the airline said. “An investigation into this has been launched."

The airline also followed up on Twitter after Stewart’s friend and seatmate tweeted the video.

Stewart said he feels bad for the baggage handlers because they were in a difficult position — "walking dozens of bags down a steep staircase" — that required more staff or better equipment.

He said he was told gate-checked baggage is usually sent down chutes.

"They [were] looking for the faster, most efficient solution,” he said. “I understand why they would do that, from a workplace safety point of view, but that doesn't help passengers whose baggage they don't want to have treated in that fashion." 

Stewart added that his own bags had remained in the cabin.