ATLANTA -- Val Westhoff and her husband landed in St. Martin on Saturday, October 27th, to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. Delta Airlines got them there but failed to deliver Val's bag.
It showed up the following Wednesday. What she didn't know is that it had been delayed because it had been stolen and that we had turned it into police, at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, the day before!
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"On Wednesday morning, I think I spent half the morning, wasting my vacation on the phone and he said, (the Delta baggage agent) "okay, it's on a plane", he said, "it's coming". I said, "where's it been"? He said, "I have no idea why they haven't sent it"," Westhoff said, speaking to us by phone, after arriving back home in Salem, South Dakota.
On Monday, October 29th, 11Alive was tipped off by a viewer about a bunch of looted luggage, lying in a field next to the airport. Some employees, at a nearby business, were frustrated by Delta's slow response to pick it up, so they called us to do something.
We contacted the passengers, whose numbers were on the luggage tags, and left messages for those who didn't answer. We delivered one bag to a Delta customer, who lived in Atlanta, and we turned Westhoff's luggage into the Atlanta Police Airport Precinct, along with two other stolen bags.
"When I opened it, it was full of dirt and twigs, dried leaves or something. My fear was that maybe somebody put something, drugs or something, in my suitcase and then when I got back to customs, I was kind of freaking out that something would happen," she said.
Westhoff didn't get our voice mail message until she landed back in Atlanta, this past Saturday, on her way back home.
"I don't think I should have heard this from you. I should have heard this from Delta saying,"we just want you to know we've got your luggage, but it did leave our terminal", nobody's ever told me that, other than you," Westhoff said.
We found it strange that no one had told her about the stolen luggage. Just last week Delta had sent us this statement, via email:
Delta is disheartened by the discovery of what appears to be stolen bags in a vacant lot. Theft in any form is unacceptable and Delta is investigating the incident in cooperation with law enforcement. We will work with our customers on a case by case basis to make this right and certainly apologize to them for the inconvenience.
So what happened? Why didn't Delta, the Airport Authority, or Atlanta Police contact Westhoff? Is there an investigation into the theft of the bags? What is Delta doing to strengthen security around the baggage carousels?
We sent an email, on Sunday, to all concerned parties and received a response, on Monday, from the Airport Authority. Action is being taken. Here's the email we received fromHartsfield-Jackson spokesperson Myrna White:
Department of Aviation security officials met with Delta Air Lines security representatives today regarding baggage security. (The meeting was scheduled prior to the creation of 11Alive's online petition.) Below is a statement from the Department of Aviation.
At Hartsfield-Jackson, we are committed to not only the safety and security of our passengers, but also to excellence in customer service. The Department of Aviation's Security division and Atlanta Police met with senior officials from Delta Air Lines' security team this morning to determine what steps we can put in place immediately to enhance both security and surveillance in all baggage claim areas. Effective immediately, the Atlanta Police Airport Precinct has increased patrols in all baggage areas. Additionally, we have asked Delta Air Lines to develop a plan of action.
Delta followed up later with an email stating:
Delta would add that we are following up with the customer directly to make this misstep right. Additionally, we'll continue to work closely with the airport and Atlanta Police Department to deter theft.
When we followed up with another Delta passenger, whose bag was stolen,we discovered that Delta has reached out to him. David Noren, of Dunwoody,told us that Delta offered to reimburse him and offered him air miles and vouchers, as compensation.
Westhoff says some sympathetic Deltabaggage agents offered her drink vouchers. However, she says every time she's called to complain about the stolen luggage, she's been given the runaround by Delta agents on the phone.