Luggage mangled on Air Canada flight 'looked like it was out of a war zone'

An Air Canada passenger waiting for luggage didn't recognize her brand-new suitcase during its first turn around the carousel: it had gaping holes on either side, the fabric was stained and mangled, and the clothes inside were filthy and shredded.

'I've never seen anything like it in all the years I've travelled,' passenger says

Jan Odgen is seeking compensation after her new suitcase was mangled and torn during an Air Canada flight from Ottawa to Edmonton. (Jan Ogden)

An Air Canada passenger waiting for luggage didn't recognize her brand-new suitcase during its first turn around the baggage carousel: it had gaping holes on either side, the fabric was stained and mangled, and the clothes inside were filthy and shredded.

Somehow, during her five-hour Air Canada flight from Ottawa to Edmonton on Dec. 19, the luggage had been ruined.

"I remember kind of looking at it. We really didn't recognize it as our suitcase," Jan Ogden said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"And then as it went around, we both kind of looked at each other and said, 'Oh my God. That's our suitcase.'"

Ogden and her husband went directly to the baggage claim counter, where the suitcase became the centre of attention.

Staff and fellow travellers flocked around the bag, snapping photos and offering theories.
Some of the clothes inside the suitcase were shredded and covered with what appeared to be burn holes. (Jan Ogden )

The suitcase was a writeoff. A couple of items of clothing were destroyed, while the rest needed dry cleaning to remove the dirt that had made its way inside. Two small Christmas gifts were broken.

"The gentleman there was shocked, and he started our claim for us," Ogden said.

"People all through the airport were staring at this suitcase. I've never seen anything like it in all the years I've travelled, and I've travelled quite a bit."

'Covered in dirt and black stuff'

Ogden said airline staff thought the bag may have fallen off a cart used to haul luggage across the tarmac and got caught up in the undercarriage and dragged at full speed across the runway. 

"It was certainly dragged, because it was just covered in dirt and black stuff," Ogden said. "I had people say it looked like it was out of a war zone."

Ogden asked that the luggage be replaced, but the agent told her if they needed a suitcase for the return flight, they could get one when they returned to the airport after their holiday in Edmonton.

"Now when I think about it, why wouldn't they just give us a suitcase then and there in case we needed another one?

"We probably didn't ask all the questions we probably should have, because we were just in disbelief that this had happened."

Ogden was given a voucher to the store in Edmonton contracted by Air Canada to replace damaged luggage.

Her husband, Derek, went to the store, but it refused to order one to match their suitcase set.

Her frustrated husband went back to the airport for a visit to the baggage claim counter.

"He said it was just like starting over again. The guy didn't have a clue. He had no information. He knew nothing. So I thought, 'Oh my goodness.'"

'Is that the best they could do?'

Since that latest trip to the airport customer service counter, Ogden has spent hours on the phone trying to get through to an Air Canada agent.

She wants compensation for the damage, and warns other travellers to keep their valuables out of their checked luggage.

"I'm lucky that I didn't have things missing," she said.

"Somebody obviously picked this suitcase up in the condition it was in. They didn't put in a plastic bag, they didn't label it in any way … and it was basically just thrown on a conveyor belt with the rest of the suitcases.

"It's like, holy crow, is that the best they could do? Wow."

In a statement emailed to CBC News, Air Canada apologized for the damage caused to Ogden's luggage.

"We are sorry for the damage caused to this customer's bag," reads the statement. "We have a process to repair or replace damaged bags and will be in touch with the customer to advise them of the necessary steps to resolve this matter."

After CBC News published a story about her troubles Wednesday, Ogden said she received a call from an apologetic Air Canada agent who assured her she will be fully reimbursed for her losses. She credits the news coverage for turning things around. 

"I couldn't count the times she apologized," said Ogden. "She went over some of the items and said definitely all of that will be covered and then she said something about how they will provide me with extra compensation.

"Fingers crossed that this does work out."


Wallis Snowdon is a journalist with CBC Edmonton focused on bringing stories to the website and the airwaves. Originally from New Brunswick, Wallis has reported in communities across Canada, from Halifax to Fort McMurray. She previously worked as a digital and current affairs producer with CBC Radio in Edmonton. Share your stories with Wallis at wallis.snowdon@cbc.ca.

With files from Ariel Fournier