Disembarking your flight to discover that your suitcase has been sent to an airport in Moldova is arguably the worst thing that can happen to an air traveller, unless you were at Heathrow Airport on November 7.
Hundreds of suitcases and rucksacks were destroyed at the hub’s Terminal 1, after a sewage pipe burst. “It was a nightmare,” one witness said. “Gallons of raw sewage came spewing out. The stench was appalling.”
The incident is one of many luggage ‘mishaps’ to have occurred over the years at London’s first airport.
In March 2008, British Airways cancelled 34 flights from the newly opened, Terminal 5, after the baggage reclaim system stopped working. Just over a year later, in July 2009, another broken machine caused “chaos” at the airport, preventing the airport from checking in luggage, and stranding 5,000 passengers.
Also, in 2007, an American traveller lost the equivalent of £1245, when baggage handlers at Heathrow left his suitcase out on the airport taxiway in the rain. The man, who only discovered the state of his bag when it was returned to him seven days late, said he was “overwhelmed” by the smell of mould coming from his luggage.
Returning to the present, a spokesperson for the British Airports Authority (BAA), owner of Heathrow and five other UK hubs, said that the aviation firm is “extremely sorry,” for the burst pipe, which destroyed an estimated 240 items of luggage.
The BAA rushed a hygiene firm into the hub to clean up the swamp of (presumably) human waste, but most items were “so contaminated they were not salvageable," according to witnesses. The authority has since pledged to reimburse travellers for their lost items, spending up to £1,000 in many cases.