American Airlines Passenger Tracks Down Missing Luggage At Homeless Camp, Outraged By 27% Compensation Offer

An American Airlines passenger’s luggage went missing. Sam Brinton had nothing to do with the disappearance. Instead, her Apple AirTag allowed her to track it to a Southern California homeless encampment.

After flying from Dallas – Fort Worth to Burbank on May 29th, Aunny Grace’s luggage went missing. American Airlines operations melted down at the end of May, as a result of North Texas weather, running out of reserve crew, and flight attendants being unwilling to pick up premium pay hours due to ongoing protracted labor negotiations at the carrier.

Her original May 29 flight was cancelled, and she was rebooked onto a flight the next day. She overnighted in the airport. Her bags didn’t get transferred and American promised to deliver the delayed luggage the next morning. Five days later, the wrong suitcase arrived at her home.

Grace’s AirTag showed the bag moving slowly down Western Avenue in Hollywood. She tracked it to a homeless encampment on Sunset Boulevard. She went there herself and discovered her belongings scattered and partially destroyed. A homeless man told her he bought her belongings “down the street.” She offered,

I found my stuff, not my suitcase, but particles of my stuff in a homeless man’s shopping cart. You kind of get to a point where you’re looking around the encampment and think, ‘I don’t even want my stuff back.’ I had toiletry bags that were dumped upside down. I had makeup bags. All the makeup was gone.

Her bag wasn’t the only one there. She found several other pieces of luggage with airline tags in the encampment. There were “rows and rows of suitcases, bicycles, baby strollers with airline tags on them everywhere.”

It was simply too easy to steal bags with stacked delayed luggage on the curb outside the Burbank airport terminal, easily taken by anyone passing by. “Anyone could walk by and just grab bags…hundreds of bags out in the open, away from eye shot of the office” she explained.

American Airlines offered $1,700 against $6,300 in lost items. The passenger has retained an attorney. According to American,

We strive to ensure that our customers’ checked luggage and other items arrive at their destinations on schedule and in their original condition. We are investigating what occurred here and, in the meantime, a member of our team is in contact with the customer to apologize and resolve the issue.

American Airlines consistently mishandles more luggage than any other airline both in absolute numbers and on a percentage basis.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Doubt she will get anywhere near what she claims was stolen and then will be out attorney fees. First of all there are caps on lost luggage amounts and even if not she would have to show proof, with receipts in some cases, to confirm her value. Tough story and obviously zero security there but really doubt she will get more than AA has offered.

  2. Texas-based company used to dealing with small town Texas thinkers without resources to fight them. AA Corporate probably thought they could offer a modest sum and the majority of their broke-a$$ Texas customers would accept it, so they didn’t bother to safeguard their property. Didn’t work out so well this time.

  3. Having used to do luggage settlements and representing an airline in court when people sued… hope she has the original purchase receipt and lots of items will be presumed to not be in luggage per the contract of carriage (and she won’t get $6000). We also used to depreciate items in figuring the pay-out if they couldn’t prove how much it was in the first place.

    And honestly the homeless stealing luggage is a widespread problem in many many airports. Until airports decide they won’t allow people who have no business being at the airport then it will continue to happen.

  4. I wouldn’t sue based on the lost luggage but rather the delinquency on the part of the airport, it’s owners, the city and the administrating authority for failing to secure the area from what can be proven as rampant theft.

    Name them publicly and see if a class action starts. They’ll pay just to avoid bad publicity

  5. The last time I checked a bag was in 1983 (not a joke). Rick Steves is right – you don’t need 90 percent of what you bring. I did a week trek to Seattle last month and took a tiny, stick-under-the-seat bag and it was plenty.

    That, ladies and gentlemen, are what washing machines (and soap) (and deodorant) is for.

    Safe travels!

  6. @Uncle Jeff. Yeah, because stuff like this NEVER happens in San Francisco or L.A. 🙂

  7. If it wasn’t for the AirTag, American would not have got caught. No wonder Lufthansa briefly banned them in luggage. I wonder how long before the airlines start pressuring TSA to ban them in luggage as a security risk.

  8. Just another example of “The Most Inept Managed industry, Ever” Just daily destroying the pleasure we used to experience while traveling by air !

  9. Just another example of “The Most Inept Managed industry, Ever” Just daily destroying the pleasure we used to experience while traveling by air !

    Hmmm tried to post comment and get a notice (it looks like you already posted that) and I will continue to post it as the airline industry destroys itself !

  10. I while agree for many trips of a week or less in the USA, you can get by with a carry-on. Yes, you will need to do some laundry and you may not want to do that. For longer international trips, a checked bag is needed for a few reasons, toiletries of larger sizes, not wanting to do laundry, and the extra space for things you purchase.

    The rule used to be that your luggage had to travel with you. Has that changed? Her bags should have been pulled from the canceled flight.

  11. Her first mistake was booking with American Airlines, the garbage can of the major airlines.
    She should have flown Delta (America’s best major carrier) from DFW to LAX. You live and learn.

  12. Back in the 1980’s I flew through Washington National (now Reagan). At that time you had to show your luggage tag and it was matched to the tag on your suitcase. Even today I see that at many foreign airports. While it wouldn’t solve the lost luggage, it would virtually eliminate stolen bags. Until then, I inventory/photograph everything going into my bag that has any real value attached.

  13. It seems every day there is another post that makes me question, why does anyone fly American?

  14. I’m surprised at the complete lack of security for luggage @ airports
    When I lived in New York City years ago and you flew into La Guardia they would check for luggage tags and photo ID,bag tag receipts etc before exiting the airport baggage carousel areas
    The situation and lack of protection for flyers today is shocking and irresponsible
    so airlines can save money not doing anything to reduce and or eliminate theft
    Especially in todays world where crime theft and all else is more prevalent

  15. Getting your luggage stolen and distributed to a homeless encampment is the least of your worries when visiting California considering they recently had a black bear break into a home, drag a woman from bed and eat her. Welcome to The Failed State.

  16. @Theresa Lancione-Beccaria

    No you don’t.

    Let’s not get stupid here.

    99.8% of luggage has no problems.

    If something is very dear to you. Photo album of your great grandmother, diamond ring, wedding dress, medicine, then keep it on your person.

    Everything else, clothes, food, toiletries, etc. can go in the checked bag.

  17. I have traveled to Europe several times, staying 10 to 14 days each time. I never pack more than a carry on size bag.

    You can wash things out in the sink. You can spend 90 minutes at a laundromat. You can have the hotel handle it. There are options.

    You can buy toiletries in every country. While I’ve never had to buy more than aspirin, stores in every country I’ve visited have had toothpaste, deoderant, shampoo, and conditioner.

    People act like they’re headed into a deserted landscape, devoid of any sort of store. Y’all need to relax and step out of your comfort zone.

  18. Fundamentally, this comes down to what makes sense as a business model (valuing security at the cost of compensation * the probability of loss) doesn’t account for the personal harms inflicted. You get depreciated value despite having to replace them with new items and rarely able to get a good deal in doing so. And no compensation for having to do so.

    I don’t know the answer but I think a good starting point would be to look at the IDB system–when they mess up there’s a presumption that the harm to the passenger exceeds the value of the flight. Bag doesn’t get to the belt, you’re owed a fixed amount **in addition to** the value of anything you lost.

    And the DOT should establish a tolerable loss rate, any airline with a higher loss rate the required compensation goes up until the loss rate drops to the tolerable rate. (And I would do the same for IDB.)

  19. I fly every 2-3 weeks with checked bags. About 1/3 of them get lost. That’s why I check two.

  20. The icing on the cake – after ignoring the fact that flying American Airlines is just asking for problems – is that she PAID a bag fee for American Airlines to lose her bag. When will people wise up and quit flying American Airlines?

  21. My guess is the class-action angle is what is being worked here. Airlines owe passengers a duty of reasonable and ordinary care, and leaving stacked luggage on a sidewalk outside BUR’s terminal isn’t compliant. If the attorney can get enough clients to sign on from various incidents all over the country, it might amount to quite a bounty of (reimbursable) legal fees, some cash for the plaintiffs (always a punk amount) and AA learning a hard, multi-million dollar lesson in accounting (that you can’t just weigh small payments against fully-loaded benefit-earning security employee pay, but have to take into account the loss of goodwill and an inevitable class action settlement).

  22. ~ To Care For People on Life’s Journey ~

    ~ You’re the Reason We Fly ~

    better …..

    ~ To Bear with You People We Hire an Attorney ~

    ~ We’re the Reason You Cry ~

  23. @AC

    These days, a wise person photographs the contents of checked bags and when possible has the receipts for recently bought items. That person also insures checked bags, not depending on what an airline may offer in compensation.

    There are excellent, reasonably priced attorneys who have good records of obtaining satisfactory settlements when an airline screws up and loses or otherwise destroys a passenger’s checked luggage. They aren’t always easy to find, however.

  24. I have had numerous occasions where bags were delayed or very badly misplaced even when my wife and I checked in 4 bags and 3 arrived I once waited 4 days in WA state for a bag and clothing that never arrived although I was promised multiple times it was en route to our hotel
    it eventually was delivered to our home in NYC after a week. it had gone to the wrong city AND state!!! my advice: always carry underwear and sox in your carry on.

  25. Come on Gary, you remember the big wig in DC who got fired after they found out he/she was a suitcase cleptomaniac? That’s why he was mentioned. Google the name Sam Brinton people.

  26. I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time I arrived at an US airport and saw anyone could just walk off the street and reach the baggage reclaim area!
    I have never seen anything like that anywhere else in the world, it makes absolutely no sense. I remember a time when they used to check your luggage tag to make sure you’re only walking out of the secure area with your own luggage.

  27. Just flew to Florence (Italy, not Oregon), London Gatwick and to Dublin.
    No checked baggage security in any of the airports.
    (We checked the bags as we were bringing hiking poles)

  28. Some of the comments are hilarious. Obviously no scuba divers or underwater photographers in the group.

    Some of us have major hobbies and squeezing that BCD into a backpack just isn’t going to happen.

    THINK outside your little box before commenting on how nobody needs more than a carry on.

    And we travel internationally extensively for weeks at a time. I were to think at what it would cost to replace some of our custom gear. $6300 is a jump off point. Which is why we use tags in our luggage

  29. Why do consumers still need to pay for checked bags when we don’t end up getting it back. In any cases of mishandled luggage, we should get the bag fee back and 1000$ compensation for stress and related materials, that will then teach the airlines to be more careful.

  30. Its not politically correct to mention Sam Brinton, the DOE’s former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition since he self-identifies himself as a real standup guy. Unfortunately, the FDA now officially identifies him as a defective spoiled fruitcake that has been recalled.

  31. There are several reasons that luggage tags are no longer verified in most airports. Primary reason is the fire department limits the # of people in a given claim area. Secondly is the impatience of the American flying public who can’t be bothered to wait to retrieve, much less retain/produce their tag to match to their luggage. When asked for tags to do a random bag match I was told “I don’t have time for this” or “it’s none of your business” or “you have no authority”…etc. That was 20 years ago long before we became such delightful flyers!

  32. This brings up an important distinction between bags lost on the way home versus at your destination. When away from home, you will be reimbursed costs based on (new) purchase price, since you have no choice but to buy replacements from a local store at your destination. However, when coming home, normal insurance rules apply: you will receive cash value. That shirt you paid $120 for is probably worth $10 now, and they are well within their rights to only offer that $10 value. She’d be better off suing for the emotional distress of seeing someone else wearing her prized blouse or something.

  33. @Alex “I have never seen anything like that anywhere else in the world” Gee, so in the last two years, I picked up bags in Australia and NZ with no check of ID. But, those were prior to customs on international arrivals. Additionally, there were five domestic arrivals in Australia and two in France with no ID check. However, it is true that only arriving passengers had access to baggage claim in France.

  34. Why do the “I never check bags” folks act like the rest of us a stupid, lazy, overindulgent, etc.? There’s no moral high ground on this.

  35. @ AlohaDave. +1. No sympathy for Sam. Who in our government hires these “qualified” individuals?

  36. I feel for this flyer’s loss, but it strikes me as astounding that someone could/would have $6,300 worth of stuff in a checked bag. Maybe I’m just way too blue collar, but I can’t imagine spending that much money on clothing and toiletries. Anything really valuable travels with me or on me. That said, airlines are way too aloof about lost luggage. Never mind the value – what if one of those stolen pieces contained a firearm?

  37. Whenever I have hazardous materials that I want to dispose of, I put in a large suitcase and check it on American Airlines.

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