I’ve read several articles on various sites that passengers that flew on Ukraine Airlines yesterday from Tel Aviv to Kiev were singled out if they looked Jewish and were not able to bring any carry-ons onto the plane. Those carry-on bags didn’t reappear as promised in Kiev and passengers connected onto JFK without their carry-ons. Some articles state that the passengers won’t see their luggage again.
I reached out to a travel agent who had a passenger on the flight for a firsthand account. That passenger told me that in fact everyone that had wheeled checked baggage was forced to gate check their bags, even if it fit into the carry-on bag sizer. They were told that this was because there was no space on the plane, but in fact there was an abundance of empty overhead space.
I’ve encountered gate agents on a power trip like this before, though it’s certainly more prevalent on lower cost carriers. This is a good time to remind people that they should always take out their phone and start recording everything whenever they encounter an airline agent doing anything that seems suspect. Without video evidence it will just be a he said, she said story.
It’s also a good time to remind people that if you are forced to gate check a bag, always take out everything of value and carry them with you, including cash, jewelry, electronics, and religious items.
The passenger I spoke to said that he didn’t even get a receipt for his bag, though he did provide his address when he gate checked his bag. He also didn’t receive the assigned seats that he prepaid for, didn’t receive the bassinet he confirmed, didn’t get back his carry-on bags or carseat, and his checked baggage and stroller were broken.
I reached out to Gregory Truman, the UIA (Ukraine International Airlines) General Manager for North America for their side of the story and here is what he told me,
“I am waiting for an official statement from the head office…But, here is a summary of what happened…
Yesterday in TLV, the ground handlers did not use the correct UIA bag labels when tagging bags that were loaded from the plane into the storage area with other checked bags under the plane. There was a miscommunication between the airport staff in TLV and KBP, as the ground handlers in KBP, did not get the correct information for names and final destinations that these bags were to be transferred and unfortunately, they were left in KBP.
I have spoken with head office and they understand what happened, and will not allow this to occur again.
So, yes, passengers with oversized or overweight baggage had to gate check these bags. They should have received an official UIA tag to insure proper handling. They did not and the bags were mishandled. That compounded the situation as passenger are required to pay for checked bags even when done at the gate.
Hope this provides an adequate summary. If you have additional questions, please let me know.
I know that many Jewish travelers feel like they were singled out. I can assure that we treated all of our passengers the same yesterday – very poorly 🙁
The bags are being processed. And as soon as is possible. I do not have specifics for each passenger other than it is being worked on. I believe every passenger filled out paperwork describing their luggage and providing a delivery address.
So there you have it. The agent in Tel Aviv clearly told her superiors that the bags in question were all oversized, though that’s likely suspect. It was probably just easier on them to force everything with wheels to be gate checked. Overall this seems like typical poor customer service as one would expect from an airline like Spirit when you are trying to save a few shekels. In the end of the day you get what you pay for.
Officially Ukraine Air allows for 2 free carry-ons and 2 free checked bags when you buy a longhaul flight. Your first carry-on can weigh 15.4 pounds and have dimensions of 15.75″ x 21.66″ x 7.87.” Your second carry-on can weigh 11 pounds and have dimensions of 21.65″ x 11.8″ x 3.94.” A hat in a case and tefilin in a case are officially allowed in addition to those 2 free carry-ons, though of course that depends on the agent knowing that rule. You can refer them to this to look it up in their systems. Then again when you have a gate agent on a power trip there is no much you can do, other than ask to speak to the station manager.
Hopefully Ukraine Airlines will be able to reunite everyone with their carry-ons eventually. In the meantime you can check to see if the credit card that you bought the flight with has any protections.