A disgruntled holidaymaker claims he had to abandon his holiday and travel back to the UK to pick up his missing luggage after it was believed to contain a gas cylinder.
Kevin Openshaw and David Ayre had been looking forward to a two-week diving holiday in Malta since they booked to travel with EasyJet on February 4. The diving enthusiasts were to spend the first week diving on the wrecks accessible from Malta’s shore, before heading on a boat with a diving group to explore some of the deeper WW2 wrecks.
But when they arrived in Malta to begin their diving experience on Sunday, May 8, they discovered that one of the bags containing a vital piece of diving equipment – Kevin’s rebreather – was missing. And after reporting it missing to security staff at Malta Airport the pair discovered that it had been stopped at Manchester Airport as the bag was believed to contain a diving cylinder “and nothing else”.
With no way to resolve the issue from Malta Kevin forked out around £ 500 to travel back to the UK during his holiday to pick up the luggage. He said the missing bag contained a £ 6,000 rebreather only, with no cylinders or compressed air vessels and he had already paid an additional £ 180 for sports luggage allowance to transport it.
Kevin, from Dunstonsaid: “I had to go back and get it because the second part of the holiday cost £ 1,000 and if I didn’t have my unit that part of the holiday wouldn’t have happened.”
A rebreather is a breathing apparatus that absorbs the carbon dioxide of a user’s exhaled breath and is often used where breathing gas supply is limited, such as underwater. Oxygen cylinders can be fitted to rebreathers.
Kevin said that when he collected the luggage he found a note attached to to bag, which read: “This bag contains a large diving cylinder and nothing else. This bag can not travel. HBS Team Leader.”
David, from Whickhamadded: “We didn’t know that the case was missing until we got to Malta airport and it wasn’t on the carousel. Up to that point we had had no communication from anyone saying we haven’t been able to send your bag. The only way we found out was from Malta security people who had to email EasyJet, because even they didn’t have a number for them.
“They got an email back within the hour and we got a phone call from the people at Malta Airport when we arrived at the hotel to say it’s in Manchester and they’re not going to send it and that was it. There was no other discussion or options.
“We even said we would pay whatever it was to get it out to Malta because we need it.”
Manchester Airport said that safety must be the overriding priority and security cannot verify whether a diving unit contains compressed air without inspecting it and the passenger would need to declare it at check-in and demonstrate that the canister is empty by displaying the open valve.
They added that at least two call-outs were made for the passengers to return to security after the hold baggage security team identified that there was a diving unit in the passenger’s bag which had not been declared at check-in.
In order to retrieve the vital piece of equipment, on Tuesday, May 10, Kevin traveled from Malta to Manchester via Munich to pick up the bag. He slept in his car di lui, which was parked at Manchester Airport, and then had to fly back to Malta via Brussels the following day.
The missing luggage and traveling to retrieve it resulted in a hefty additional cost which hadn’t been budgeted for, took up a substantial amount of the holiday and added a huge amount of stress to their vacation.
Kevin, 62, said: “I’m very disappointed because all of this could have been sorted out on Monday morning at Manchester Airport. If they had said over the tannoy can Kevin Openshaw and David Ayre go to security we could have sorted it out and caught a flight on Monday morning.
“But instead I lost four days of my holiday because by the time I got back to Malta on the Wednesday night I was in no fit state to go diving on the Thursday because of the amount of traveling I did.”
The pair, who travel back to the UK on Friday, May 20, said that there were no issues traveling back to Malta with the rebreather and they have not heard of anyone who has had to declare they are sending a rebreather.
Kevin and David explained that they also explored options of hiring the equipment during their stay but it would have worked out more expensive for them.
David, 62, added: “We asked around to see whether Kevin could hire a rebreather. But it’s £ 6,000 for a second hand one and up to £ 14,000 for a new one so obviously no one really wants to hire us a unit because if anything goes wrong it becomes an expensive fix.
“Then we looked at the option of hiring normal tanks and cylinders but again that would end up with using helium for the deeper dives which would then work out far more expensive to use gasses rather than the rebreather, which uses less gas by recycling what you ‘re breathing. “
A Manchester Airport spokesperson said: “Our hold baggage security team identified a diving unit within a passenger’s bag which had not been declared at check-in. It was not immediately possible to verify that the unit did not contain compressed air, which has the potential to endanger an aircraft, so the bag was not cleared for loading. At least two announcements were made requesting the passenger returned to the security check area but he did not do so.
“We are satisfied that all processes were followed correctly in this case and reasonable attempts were made to contact the passenger involved after his bag was held. Passenger safety is and always will be our overriding priority.”
An EasyJet spokesperson said: “The safety of our customers and crew is our highest priority and in line with security procedures we ask customers ahead of their flight to ensure they do not carry certain restricted items and to declare if they have any potentially restricted items in their luggage when checking in their bags.
“As Mr Openshaw did not declare his diving equipment to be able to confirm its safety for carriage, his bag had to be held by airport security staff. We understand that attempts were made by the airport to reach Mr Openshaw to confirm the contents of his luggage, however as no response was received it could not be permitted to travel.
“We are in touch with Mr Openshaw to provide clear information on the process of transporting his equipment, ahead of his return flight.”