Ukrainian evacuees’ luggage lost by Canadian airlines

Two Ukrainian families fleeing their country from war, arrived five days ago in Calgary only to find out that the airline had misplaced all their bags. Silvia Naranjo reports.

By Silvia Naranjo

Two Ukrainian families fleeing their country from war arrived in Calgary at the end of March with the few belongings they could bring, only to find out upon their arrival that the airlines had misplaced all their bags.

Maria Pastuhova told CityNews that it is already challenging and painful having to leave a life behind back home in Ukraine.

“We leave all our life, our typical life because we wanted to have a better future and be safe,” she said.

“It’s really hard in Ukraine, so we moved to Canada, but now we are face to face with this really hard situation.”

Pastuhova says her luggage is very important to her as it includes her most precious possessions, like her art.

“I have some of my works, some of my really lovely books, and I want to have it,” Pastuhova said.


Sharon Saul and her husband wanted to help and applied to host one of the families, but found the problem was beyond one family.

“When we got to the airport, there was another family that didn’t have any place to go, so we end up with two families, which was quite an adventure because we had a pretty full house,” Saul told CityNews.

Unfortunately, their new housemates had to leave the airport with only their carry-on luggage. The airline could not find any of their luggage.

“I just can’t imagine moving to the other side of the world with one family — it’s a family of five, and they have only two bags. That’s all their possessions,” Saul said.

“One bag finally showed up the day before yesterday a bit destroyed, but at least we got it, but we’re stuck on all the other bags.”

A man holds luggage that arrived with damage at the bottom in Calgary

A man holds luggage that arrived with damage at the bottom in Calgary on Tuesday, April 4, 2023. (Silvia Naranjo, CityNews image)

Pastuhova says she is grateful for the support and help they have received.

“We want to say like these people help us to find it because it’s really important for our life,” she said.

Saul says it’s been a back-and-forth battle between Air Canada and WestJet, saying the latter inherited the situation.

“I’ve called Air Canada, Air Canada says they’ve given them to WestJet. WestJet says Air Canada hasn’t given them to them, so we’re really stuck,” Saul explained.

Meanwhile, WestJet told CityNews they are working on getting all the travel information from the families they need to find the luggage, but were not able to provide any other details at the time.

However, in an update Wednesday, the airline says it has made progress on the location of the bags.

“The bags have been located in Montreal, and WestJet is coordinating with Air Canada to send them on the next flight to Calgary,” WestJet said.

Lost Ukrainian luggage highlights oversight need: advocate

While this story appears headed toward a happy ending, Gabor Lukacs, president of Air Passenger Rights, says despite passenger baggage claims in Canadian airports, airlines still can’t seem to find a solution when handling luggage.

“The bigger question is what happens when the airline doesn’t do everything to prevent a delay or restore a missing baggage?” Lukacs said.

“That’s an ongoing issue that we are seeing across Canada, and the answer is that under the law when that happens, the airline can not limit its liability.”

Traditionally, most airlines use barcoding or optical character recognition to keep track of individual bags, but a code printed on tags can not provide real-time data.

“So, when you hand over your bag to the airline, that’s one scan, and the bag is loaded to the aircraft, that’s another scan,” Lukacs said.

“It comes off the aircraft that’s maybe another scan, and when it’s handed over to a different airline, that’s another scan, and so and so forth until it is getting on the belt at the destination. Many airlines don’t follow that.”

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That’s why Air Passengers Rights recently initiated a petition to the House of Commons.

Lukacs explains not only should airlines improve their procedures, but air travellers should stand for their rights.

“We are asking the government to adopt a specific legislation that was developed in consultation with the consumer protection community in Canada to solve the air travel crisis,” he said.

“Part of the solution is for passengers, [is] changing [their] mindset and getting used to the idea that if an airline short-changes you, you don’t let it go.”

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