Passengers flying Air Serbia in late June and early July were apparently having their bags lost at a very high rate. And many, perhaps most haven’t seen their bags since. Luggage is piling up at their hub airport in Belgrade. Reportedly only a couple of employees are processing large amounts of lost luggage for the Serbian national carrier, which flies to New York JFK and Chicago O’Hare, and nobody knows when or if they’ll work through the backlog.
People are literally calling the police in Belgrade to report their bags as stolen. Others are flying to Belgrade in search of their bags. Some are finding them. Others are desperately trying to gain access to luggage tracked by AirTags but that are lost in the system. The issue is getting modest coverage in Turkish media, but doesn’t seem to capture the scale of what seems to be going on.
Овако јутрос изгледа пријем пртљага на Аеродрому Никола Тесла!
Стотине изгубљених кофера са свих могућих летова протекле недеље.
Срамота и криминал! pic.twitter.com/yefoseXknQ
— Ивица (@IvicaIvanM) June 25, 2023
Customers have taken to Reddit to share their stories, and hundreds of people have found a private Facebook group for support in just a week.
There have been suggestions that the issue isn’t limited to lost luggage, and that Belgrade airport has melted down more broadly as a result of lack of staffing and equipment, and an inability to keep up with the flag carrier’s increased operations. The Serbian government has been holding daily meetings with the airport’s operator. According to the country’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure,
They [VINCI] knew that Air Serbia would introduce 22 new routes and increase operations by 40%. They also knew that Flydubai would increase operations by 193%, Wizz Air by 109% and Turkish Airlines by 80%. Simply said, they could have predicted it would be a busy year.
At the end of last week the government lifted limits on competition for ground handling in hopes of addressing staffing challenges.