Lost luggage backs up at airports after winter storm

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter, Christopher Yazbec

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The brutally cold temperatures this week have crippled airports across the country, and even though some passengers are finally reaching their final destination, they're learning their luggage did not.

Two courier companies are contracted with Jacksonville International Airport to deliver delayed baggage to fliers' doorsteps or hotels. But the owner of one company say it may be months before a sense of normalcy is returned to airports across the country.

Delayed luggage from Rhode Island to Florida lined the walls at Jacksonville International Airport on Wednesday, separated from its owners during the height of the most recent winter storm.

"I just keep mine next to me so I don't lose it," said traveler Leanne Bryan, whose flight was canceled. "I don't even check mine anymore."

Others who chose to travel with their luggage on the plane are now realizing the complexity created by a polar vortex.

"It will be a couple of months before what I would say it gets back to normalcy around here," said David Hill, of Airko Freight Systems.

Hill's courier company is only one of two contracted by JIA to deliver lost baggage. He advises never to pack anything that you can't live without for 48 hours, adding that there's a chance that you may never see it again.

"There are rare situations where they don't find their luggage, but 98 percent of the time, they do find their luggage," Hill said. "It may take a couple of days to get here."

"The complexity of the system is more than just the aircraft itself," said Michael Stewart, of JIA. "If the weather was just ideal, you still have mechanical problems, flight crew, other issues."

Airport officials say major airlines are compensating passengers for their inconvenience, providing them with toiletries or T-shirts. But passengers have to ask.

Most bags displaced during the storm were lost in layovers or when a passengers' flights was canceled. Rather than pay baggage fees again for rebooking on another airline, many of the passengers opted to travel without their luggage.

"This is going to take several days because people are getting put on flights that were already full," Stewart said. "So all of this is going to take some time."

A period of time that could continue to grow if winter weather hits again.

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