Belfast-based Cher tribute act's airline chaos costume crisis

Airline baggage chaos left renowned Cher tribute performer, Trisha McCluney, forced to scramble to buy new stage costumes after baggage chaos at Heathrow left her in the Isle of Man without her trademark on-stage outfit.

After flying from Belfast to transfer to a flight to the island for a Pride event on August 13-14, Trisha and her two dancers landed to find their baggage was missing.

Trisha has been left angry and frustrated by the entire experience.

"Airlines are happy to take your money to check in bags but don't look after them,” she said. “Any other businesses wouldn't get away with treating customers or their property in such a manner but somehow it is acceptable for them and there is nobody to answer for it or be made accountable.

Trisha McCluney as Cher

"You are in a system where you just have to accept that they lost your stuff, and you have to wait it out.”

And that wasn’t the only chaos Trisha faced when staff at Heathrow told them they had to have a biometric facial scan before being allowed to board their flight.

"As they started boarding we were asked to take a picture for biometrics and they couldn't find a match so asked us to step aside so they could board the rest of the flight,” she explained.

"The girl at the desk called her supervisor and he came over and asked how we got through security to which we replied we never went through security at Heathrow only at Belfast.

"He said we should have had a biometrics picture taken at security yet Belfast does not do this. We had to hot foot it down to the security area and have a picture taken to run back up to the gate to have it taken again.”

Exhausted, Trisha and her dancers, Hayley Norton and CJ Summer, landed on the picturesque island to find their luggage nowhere to be found.

"Once we arrived in the Isle of Man we waited at the conveyor belt and no bags,” she said.

"We had to fill out a form at the desk and were told we could claim up to £25 per bag per day for the first 3 days up to a maximum of £75 on essential items only. I am billed as Essentially Cher, my costumes are essential.”

The cost was, however, more immediate for Trisha.

"We lost out on performing for our headline spot on the Saturday night at the Pride event. The dancers did not have their costumes, dance footwear, or makeup.

"I could not do the job I was hired to do without the aesthetic. It would be the equivalent of someone being booked as a Dolly Parton tribute act and going on without the boobs or big hair.

"It just wouldn't have worked and would have drawn heavy criticism and affected my reputation as a tribute act.”

The organisers of the Pride event had booked Trisha’s flights through British Airways, but she had to fly from Belfast City Airport to Heathrow on Aer Lingus, and from Heathrow to the Isle of Man on Loganair.

Aer Lingus have said that as Loganair was the final carrier the baggage was their responsibility.

A spokesperson from Loganair said: “Unfortunately, the luggage in question was not transferred to Loganair in time to make the onward flight to the Isle of Man. Loganair has launched an investigation to find out why this happened and is liaising directly with our partner handling company to reunite customers with their luggage.”

The carrier said they are also looking into how the issue of baggage handling can be resolved in future.

As for Trisha, she ploughed on to make sure she could still belt out the Cher classics.

"I decided to try and salvage the Sunday night performance and went out to the local costume shop and shops in the town to buy and source something that I thought we could potentially use to make it work,” she explained.

"I spent a lot of money, the money that I was there to earn, trying to pull together the look on little time and with limited resources.”

Throughout the weekend Trisha and her dance team returned to the airport, to no avail. She remains hopeful that her lost baggage can be returned as she has a long list of future shows, and the specialised costume designs would not be ready until October.

"You are in an airline and airport system where you just have to accept that they lost your stuff and you have to wait it out,” she said.

"I have emailed and made phone calls and in this day and age of technology they have baggage tags but no means to properly trace that tag?

"If I could turn back time I would make sure that this was not the way to handle any person’s belongings.”

Eventually Trisha was reunited with her bags nearly a week after they went missing following calls and emails from Northern Ireland World, and whilst she’s delighted to have got them back she says it doesn’t make up for the stress.

To find out more about Trisha’s Cher tribute act and tour dates across Northern Ireland go to essentiallycher.co.uk

Additional reporting by Tina Calder