Delta Flew a Plane With Just Luggage From Heathrow to the U.S.

A Delta Air Lines plane packed with luggage but no passengers was flown from Heathrow Airport in London to Detroit this week, a Delta spokesman said on Wednesday. The luggage belonged to Delta customers who had recently traveled through Heathrow and were separated from their bags because of travel disruptions.

Delta decided to send the plane, an Airbus A330-200, to deliver 1,000 pieces of stranded luggage to Detroit on Monday, and from there the airline transported them to their owners across the United States “to accelerate movement of delayed bags,” said Morgan Durrant, the Delta spokesman, who described the move as a “creative solution.”

It has been a chaotic summer for travel. Staffing shortages, the pandemic and high demand from travelers have led to scores of canceled and delayed flights. Some of the worst problems happened over the July Fourth weekend, with more than 1,400 cancellations of flights into, within or from the United States from that Friday through Sunday, according to FlightAware.

Things have been particularly chaotic at Heathrow Airport. A baggage system malfunction there last month contributed to even more flight cancellations. And on Tuesday, the airport announced that because of constrained capacity, it would curb the number of departing passengers until mid-September, calling on airlines to limit ticket sales.

David Elges, 56, was among the passengers who lost luggage after flying through Heathrow to Washington Dulles International Airport last Thursday. In the past week, he said, he has woken up early several times to call Delta about his missing bags: two large suitcases and two garment bags. A customer service agent told him on Monday that Delta would send a plane from Heathrow to bring lost luggage back to the United States, he said, but he did not yet know if his bags were on that plane.

“It’s very frustrating,” he said.

Despite the widespread inconveniences and rising prices because of inflation, consumer demand for travel remains robust, for now. Delta Air Lines on Wednesday reported a quarterly profit of $735 million, and said it expected strong demand to continue into the fall.

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