Delta’s Transatlantic Bag Flight: Not (Quite) What It Seems

Delta’s Transatlantic Bag Flight: Not (Quite) What It Seems

23

During Delta Air Lines’ second quarter 2022 earnings call, CEO Ed Bastian turned some heads with a comment he made about a charter flight from London to Detroit that carried just bags. However, this might not have been quite as charitable as it first sounded.

Delta A330 flies from London to Detroit with 1,000 bags

While being asked by a reporter about Delta’s general issues with baggage handling, Bastian commented the following:

“We’ve gone as far as recently, we had a separate charter just to repatriate bags back to customers that have been stranded because of some of the operational issues the European airports were having. And we did that on our own nickel just to reunite or to help the customers sort their bags as quickly as possible.”

Indeed, on July 11, 2022, Delta flew an Airbus A330 from London (LHR) to Detroit (DTW) with no passengers and roughly 1,000 bags, all of which were in the cargo hold. The flight was operated by a 17-year-old Airbus A330-200 with the registration code N854NW, and with the special flight number DL9888.

Many European airports have had major issues with checked bags in recent weeks, largely due to a shortage of baggage handlers. There have been many pictures of baggage related chaos, including one particularly viral picture of bags piled up at Heathrow Terminal 2.

It’s of course fantastic that Delta made the effort to reunite passengers with their bags. However, there is a bit more to this story…

The real reason Delta operated this flight

Did Delta just fly an A330 empty from the United States to London so that it could fly it back to the United States with luggage? Nope, that’s not what happened.

On July 10, 2022, this plane operated flight DL10 from Minneapolis to London. Heathrow Airport has been having major operational issues, and the airport has been forcing airlines to cancel flights and reduce passenger numbers. This plane was supposed to operate flight DL17 from London to Detroit on July 11, but that flight ended up getting canceled due to the need to limit the number of passengers.

At this point Delta had a spare plane. The plane needed to be positioned to Detroit, given that it was supposed to operate flight DL18 from Detroit back to London later that day (and the cap doesn’t apply on passengers traveling to London).

Rather than just flying the plane back to Detroit totally empty, Delta decided to carry as many bags as possible that were delayed, in hopes of reuniting passengers with them.

Did Delta make the best of a bad situation? Absolutely, this was well thought out. But I’d say it’s a bit of a stretch to claim that the airline “had a separate charter just to repatriate bags,” and that this was done on Delta’s “own nickel just to reunite or to help the customers sort their bags as quickly as possible.”

This plane needed to reposition no matter what, and Delta was just making the most of that by loading some bags on the plane.

Bottom line

On Monday Delta operated a flight from London to Detroit carrying no passengers and 1,000 bags. This is a reflection of the times on a couple of levels. Yes, Delta did a good deed here, because so many bags had been delayed due to issues at European airports.

At the same time, the real reason this happened is because Delta had to cancel a flight due to passenger limits imposed by Heathrow that day. Rather than flying the plane back to Detroit empty (where it needed to be repositioned), the airline instead decided to carry some bags.

What do you make of Delta’s passenger-less flight?

Conversations (23)
The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. BB Guest

    Bragging about losing 1000 bags… wild.

  2. Doug Guest

    Delta used a spare plane they had in London to fly an off-schedule (charter) flight carrying only luggage, for which they were not compensated by anyone (on their own dime). Careful with the hair splitting, you might end up bald.

  3. iamhere Guest

    Business and marketing. You could argue that that this was a chartered flight because it is for a special purpose and was not originally planned.

  4. Leo Liang Guest

    they could easily take legal actions against LHR like what EK are doing, DL might be commendable for this instead of making matters worse

  5. Tim Dunn Diamond

    The real question is not how Delta managed to get 1000 bags out of LHR but that there are that many bags that were clearly separated from their owners.
    1000 bags is anywhere from 2-4 entire planeloads worth of bags if every seat was sold depending on the number of bags per passenger.
    Since the widely circulated picture with the mountain of bags was purportedly in the BA terminal at LHR, how many...

    The real question is not how Delta managed to get 1000 bags out of LHR but that there are that many bags that were clearly separated from their owners.
    1000 bags is anywhere from 2-4 entire planeloads worth of bags if every seat was sold depending on the number of bags per passenger.
    Since the widely circulated picture with the mountain of bags was purportedly in the BA terminal at LHR, how many bags were sitting around LHR and in what terminals given that DL doesn't operate in the BA terminal?

    You genuinely have to ask when the wheels began to fall off the wagon and why it took so long to realize things needed to be fixed.

    You also have to wonder how many airlines asked to be able to send their own employees to LHR to fix the problem.

    and, of course, how large the problem is in other airports as well.

    1. Donna Diamond

      It’s bad at CDG as well, if two weeks ago was any indication of how things are currently going.

  6. RF Guest

    So just bad PR speak again from Delta.

  7. Mick Guest

    Still missing one of my bags from three weeks ago from Firenze. Not sure why there is no way to check where my bag even is in todays age lol. Had to search through 2000 bags to find my bags a few weeks ago. Train is the way to go! And apple tag :)

  8. stogieguy7 Diamond

    I knew there was simply no way that Heathrow was going to sit back and watch Schiphol have all the glory for being aviation's biggest cluster.

  9. Mantis Guest

    So they didn't charter a plane at all. Lying to investors is a crime.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Good for you that being a naive investor isn't a crime.

    2. Big AL Guest

      Stupidity has no bounds

  10. Bgriff Guest

    I don't understand how, if Heathrow is forcing airlines to cancel flights to limit passenger numbers, Delta was then able to reaccommodate all those passengers on other flights? Doesn't that mean Delta moved the same number of passengers?

    1. Mh Diamond

      May have rebooked them on another airline which has capacity elsewhere e.g. transfer them on a flight to Frankfurt or Dublin then on an onward connection out of there. So may not be carried by Delta.

      As for luggage, passengers may have had 1hr+ connection so just made the transfer at London, but their luggage didn't.

  11. Sean M. Diamond

    Climate warriors are having a cow over this

    1. Airfarer Gold

      Seems appropriate given the flatulence of our bovine friends.

  12. DLPTATL Gold

    Regardless of how Ed spins-it, it was good for customers and made good business sense. Delta's working really hard to bring-back their operational integrity which is especially hard in Europe where some of their partner hubs are woefully understaffed and dealing with labor issues. I flew R/T ATL:AMS in the last 10 days and was on-time and had my checked bags at both ends.

    1. Andy Guest

      I agree, in the most siloed organizations, the plane would have just flown back empty for repositioning, but there was some creativity here with one person saying hey, we have 1,000s of bags that need to go to the US; we should put it on this repositioning flight. Hopefully, that individual got a spot bonus!

  13. AdamH Gold

    Seems like the real story is all the pax who were suddenly stranded in London or faced with the reality that their vacations/reunions with familiar and friends were now ruined.

  14. AA70 Gold

    Unrelated but the miles flown, words written, and posts published counts have remained the same ever since you redesigned the site. Why have these not been updated and what is the point of having them if they will stay unchanged? Genuinely curious

  15. Never In Doubt Guest

    In before Tim Dunn let’s us know that everything Delta did here was genius of the highest order!

    1. UA-NYC Guest

      He will be by soon to tell us Delta slipped a small gold nugget into every bag just to be nice

  16. Ed Guest

    So has Heathrow become the new Hotel California?

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Sean M. Diamond

Climate warriors are having a cow over this

3
stogieguy7 Diamond

I knew there was simply no way that Heathrow was going to sit back and watch Schiphol have all the glory for being aviation's biggest cluster.

2
Eskimo Guest

Good for you that being a naive investor isn't a crime.

1
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
4,788,713 Miles Traveled

27,627,500 Words Written

32,315 Posts Published

Keep Exploring OMAAT
  • April 22, 2022
  • Ben Schlappig
28
Delta Opens Gorgeous New SkyClub At LAX
  • November 2, 2020
  • Ben Schlappig
18
Sad: Delta Operates Final Boeing 777 Flight