© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An Air Canada plane taxis at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Ontario, Canada May 16, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

By Allison Lampert

MONTREAL (Reuters) – Air Canada said on Wednesday it will not allow animals in the baggage hold until Sept. 12 due to “longer than usual” delays at airports, as carriers and airports wrestle with complaints over lost luggage and long lines.

Airlines in Europe, the United States and Canada are cancelling and delaying flights due to staffing shortages, as aviation struggles with a stronger than expected surge in traffic after a pandemic-induced slump.

Passengers at airports from Toronto to Frankfurt have been sharing photos of piled-up luggage near baggage belts on social media.

“Due to longer than usual airport delays, and for the safety and comfort of pets, we will not be accepting new requests for pets travelling in the baggage compartment until Sept. 12, 2022,” Air Canada said in an emailed statement. Current pet bookings will be honored, it said.

Earlier this month, Canadian broadcast network CTV News reported that a dog flown by a different carrier had been left at Toronto Pearson International Airport with baggage for about 21 hours.

Air Canada’s smaller rival WestJet Airlines said it will continue accepting animals.

Canada’s largest airline recently said it would cut flights by 15% in July and August, with the changes on largely domestic routes going into effect on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for Pearson, Canada’s busiest airport, said it is “still assessing the impact of these reductions.”

According to data from FlightAware, around 70% of Air Canada’s U.S. flights were delayed over the long holiday weekend, the highest proportion of any carrier. Air Canada is the largest foreign carrier in the United States.

In a June 29 letter to customers, Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau apologized for flight cancellations and customer service shortfalls.

Earlier on Wednesday, a senior United Airlines executive said the U.S. aviation system is expected to “remain challenged this summer and beyond.”

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