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Stolen bag that was checked-in
A few weeks ago I had a very bad Star Alliance experience, while flying from Bogota to Amsterdam (via Panama and Newark). I don’t want to sound too dramatic when I say this, but it was the worst airport experience I have ever had.
I checked my bags in Bogota, and since I flew united they checked them to my final destination, which is Amsterdam. In Panama, after the Copa lounge closed and I decided to just wait at the gate, I noticed this guy who reminded me of the movie the Terminal, he was cleaning his hands with a tool you normally use on your feet. I kept looking at the guy and suddenly I notice that a lot of the stuff he has looks like my stuff, and then I realize that this guy has my checked luggage! No idea how?! So I go there and he said: it was given to me by copa, I am flying first class etc, I don’t steal from people. So good you see this.
I opened my bag and noticed I was missing my fragrance, my shaving machine, even my cremes, which I later found out he had in his bag. He was checking all my dirty laundry, opening bags, gifts, had broken into my luggage as it had a lock, which he got rid off, he had removed all the tags plus my information that I had on there.
I get extremely nervous cause here I am at the Panama airport and this random guy is going through my checked luggage. I call gate agent and security who look at me like I am an idiot, and ask them to please call security and airport police. The United lady kind of disappeared, so I felt completely lonely and everybody was looking at me. The police, air force (?) and even military arrives. The guy tells some lame story and I tell my version. I told the United agent to please help me fix this, this was my checked luggage. The supervisor comes and helps me. Meanwhile my passport is taken around and everybody keeps writing down my information. I lost control over all my stuff cause people kept asking things. I was told to check for missing stuff. Being nervous I could hardly think straight. I checked it and it looked ok, so they rechecked it, made sure nothing was added to the suitcase and gave me the tags. I was asked to go through security again and after I did that I noticed that the cops and the guy had disappeared. I was told I could press charges, but that would mean I had to leave airport, miss flight, pay for hotel, etc, so obviously since they sold it like that I did not want that. The United guy did not seem that eager to help me at all, which honestly was a big disappointment.
I finally boarded, with pain in my stomach and heart, due to a small panic attack that I got from it, but still felt bad. Crew on my flight was extremely nice and helpful to me, but I had a hard time enjoying the flight cause I kept thinking about it. I have OCD so the fact that this guy was in my suitcase, made me sick.
What I don’t understand is how my suitcase could come into his hands. A baggage label tag should be like a contract that says that my bags are safe while traveling. In the huge airport of Panama, I coincidentally sat across a guy who was not on any of my flights, but somehow got hold of my checked bag. I am extremely disappointed by the situation, and not even sure how I will stay like this and fly to Amsterdam later tonight. I think that united staff in panama was nice, but could have represented me better.
They could have pressed charges for me as it was supposed to be in their hands anyway at the moment, also they could have helped me a little bit better as I was standing there looked at by all the people on my flight. I have never felt so uncomfortable and embarrassed, besides grossed out that a random stranger just accessed my suitcase and personal belongings.
What steps should I take from here ? I am considering legal actions as well, as I feel that due to this event there could have been some possible dangers to US Homeland security, and I feel that the airport security should be closely watched. The fact that this passenger could get my checked-in suitcase, which contained nail scissors, clippers, lotions and many liquids past airport security, says a lot about the system there. There is definitely a breach in the system that should be monitored. I would also like to take this higher up and would like to know whom to contact for this, but no clue. I have sent messages to Avianca, United, and the Panama airport authority, and have not really received messages that made me confident that they are taking ANY steps at all to look at this situation.
Isn’t this the craziest story ever heard?
PS: I even took a picture of the guy going through my stuff but I couldn’t upload it. Be careful with him as he said he travels on a weekly base to Panama. Does that mean he engages in this behavior all the time?
That’s a crazy story for sure! Sounds like an inside job and hopefully the airport authority is reviewing their video surveillance to figure out how the breach occurred and take steps to correct it. As for legal action, it’s probably not a good course of action because the monetary damage is small. I would pursue the airline and put in a claim for your actual damages. And be persistent.