LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — For a week now, Southwest Airlines customers have been without clothes, medications, Christmas presents, and more because those belongings sit in luggage checked into flights that were eventually canceled. Owners are beginning to get them back after days of fighting for them.
A communication representative for the airline told 8 News Now that, “during the worst of this storm, at times, (they) had to move aircraft out of the weather before (they) had available staff to offload bags.”
It left luggage delivered to destination airports before the passenger, and vice versa.
Sumi Ting is one of thousands nationwide who never made it on their scheduled flight, but their bags did. She said she has been without her belongings for four days after her and her husband’s Christmas day flight from Denver, Colorado to Las Vegas was canceled.
She told 8 News Now’s Ryan Matthey that airline personnel told her and others on her canceled flight that luggage could not be retrieved since it was already on another flight.
The Tings finally made it to Las Vegas on Thursday, where they found their bags amongst a sea of unclaimed luggage outside the airline’s baggage services office.
“The (Southwest airline worker) asked me for the barcode (on my luggage tag). My husband had it. So, he goes to look at the suitcase and they found it immediately. That was good,” Ting said while holding the handles of four different suitcases.
The customer service phone line continues to see an increased wait time of an hour or more, so travelers, such as Ting, are instead going to their destination airports to look for lost bags.
A Southwest airline employee who was helping people find their bags at Harry Reid International on Thursday afternoon told 8 News Now that several of those assisting are stranded flight attendants or retired airline personnel volunteering.
Lee Kissner and his grandson walked out of baggage claim on Thursday afternoon with their relative’s bags. Kissner said his son’s flight from Denver was also canceled over the Christmas weekend, forcing him to drive down for the holiday before leaving Monday to return to work.His bags made it to Las Vegas after he left.
“My son went to the airport in Denver and they told him the bags were shipped to Vegas, so he could not pick them up. He either had to get them here or wait until they were shipped back,” Kissner said while his grandson held a suitcase and bag. “(There are) medication left in the bags and all of the Christmas gifts. My grandson‘s waiting for his Christmas gift, which is in his bag“
“Trying to get the bags back, a little bit frustrating from Southwest with the lack of communication. However, the people here at the airport have been fantastic.”
On Tuesday, a Southwest airline manager told 8 News Now around 3,000 bags from its customers were unclaimed on the property. The process of retrieving them in person has become more organized as more workers are assisting and bags are organized alphabetically in baggage claim.
Though the unclaimed bags are behind stanchions and other barriers in baggage claim, 8 News Now witnessed several people over the past three days going around them to search for their bags themselves. Only Southwest airline personnel are supposed to be behind these barriers, they say.
8 News Now also did not witness stationed security at these stanchions. A requested interview with a Southwest manager was denied.
Instead, the corporate representative told 8 News Now that they “have a massive effort underway to reunite customers with their bags, and we hope to reach every customer over the coming days.”
Those who believe their bag is in a different location than they are in are urged to fill out a Baggage Report. This and other information about reimbursements and rebookings can be found on its “Travel Disruption” website.
The airline announced it plans to resume normal operations with “minimal disruptions” on Friday.