AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — The stress an air traveler felt the last 12 days subsided Monday afternoon when the suitcase containing a vital item finally arrived at her Austin home.
Emily Tuite described the days leading to this moment as “traumatic,” because the bright blue bag she checked for her Sept. 1 flight from Austin to San Diego had her waterproof prosthetic leg inside it. She planned to use the costly, custom medical device to do everything from swim in the Pacific Ocean to shower. However, the critical piece of luggage never made it to her final destination, which she said ruined her trip because of all the time she spent unsuccessfully trying to find it.
“It can take over a year to have a leg made. It’s not easy with insurance to have medical devices remade for you,” Tuite said. “I was like I need to do everything in my power to get the bag back somehow, so, yeah, I did a lot to get there.”
She turned to Nexstar’s KXAN Friday for help after exhausting other options. The hours spent calling customer service and talking to employees from Allegiant Airlines resulted in nothing. She said a representative at one point told her the bag never made it onto her Austin flight, even though she received a slip with the tracking number when she checked it at the counter. She assumed someone must have stolen the luggage.
However, a day after KXAN reached a media spokesperson and shared information about Tuite’s situation, she finally got a phone call that the airline found her bag. Somehow, Tuite’s suitcase had another traveler’s information placed on it, so it had been sitting in baggage claim all this time at the airport in Provo, Utah.
“So they were calling that person saying, ‘We have your bag,’ and that person was saying, ‘It’s not mine,'” Tuite said. “Meanwhile, I’m frantic, panicked, thinking that my items are gone, like just stolen from the airport, so I really learned a lesson for sure about flying and tracking your stuff.”
In a statement, Allegiant Airlines extended an apology to Tuite for the mishandling of her bag.
“Our system baggage team works around the clock to ensure customer issues are resolved,” an airline spokesperson said. “We gave Ms. Tuite a refund in the amount of $60, which covers her baggage fees. In addition, we kindly asked Ms. Tuite to submit receipts for compensation and processing.”
According to its statement, Allegiant said it will reimburse travelers with a mishandled bag for “reasonable non-excessive necessities,” like personal hygiene products and clothes.
Tuite said she found it disappointing the airline did not offer to cover the cost of her flight.
“My whole trip was spent on the phone trying to contact them,” Tuite said. “It’s frustrating to think that there’s no other compensation for losing someone’s medical device for 12 days.”
For future trips, she plans to buy some Apple AirTag devices to stick into her luggage, so she can keep track of the location herself. She also intends to carry on her waterproof prosthesis even though it’s heavy.
“As a disabled person, you don’t always want to be carrying your device with you the whole time. You would hope that you could check it,” Tuite said. “But hopefully, if I check it with an Apple AirTag in there, I’ll at least know where it is myself.”
She also suggests whenever other travelers decide to check a bag, they should now ask the airline attendant to see any tags placed on their luggage to make sure the correct information is listed, so no one goes through what she did these last few days.