A traveler who took a carry-on to avoid losing her bag says American Airlines took it, checked it without telling her, then lost it anyway

A traveler who took a carry-on to avoid losing her bag says American Airlines took it, checked it without telling her, then lost it anyway
Airlines have been losing luggage amid a summer of travel chaos.Peter Dazeley/Getty Images
  • A passenger said American Airlines checked her cabin bag on a flight without telling her, then lost it.
  • She said she'd packed hand luggage only to avoid her bag being lost amid the summer's travel chaos.

A passenger said American Airlines checked her cabin luggage without telling her – and then lost it.

More than three weeks later, the passenger still hasn't been reunited with her bag, she said.

Lara Watson flew from Wilmington, North Carolina to Toronto on August 21 with a layover in Washington, DC. She told Insider that she had flown with just hand luggage because she had "heard news about bags getting lost."

On both flights out, American Airlines gate-checked her bag. The flights were operated by Republic Airways as American Eagle.

The airline says that it may check some bags at the gate on regional flights on American Eagle planes because they have limited overhead bin space, and that in these cases passengers receive their bag on the jetbridge after getting off the plane.


On flight back from Wilmington the flight crew told passengers after they boarded that they couldn't fit all their bags in the overhead lockers and asked people to pass them to the front, Watson said.

"It became clear once I was on the plane that there were tons of us in the aisle with these big bags that were just not gonna fit." This created a "traffic jam" in the aisle, she said.

Watson said that once all the bags were at the front of the plane, flight attendants held them up one at a time and asked passengers to yell out their seat number so they could match each bag to its owner.

She told Insider that she presumed the bags would be given to the passengers when they got off the plane. But during the flight, attendants went seat-to-seat passing customers tags that looked like checked luggage tags, Watson said.

When they arrived in Washington, the flight attendants told Watson that her bag had been checked through to her next flight. Prior to this, Watson didn't know her bag had been checked at all, she said.


So Watson boarded her flight to Toronto, presuming that her bag had been loaded onto the plane. Toronto Pearson Airport was a "mess" upon her arrival, with the airport changing her flight's luggage carousel several times, Watson said.

Watson said she waited for over an hour but her bag never came. Eventually, she went to the American Airlines desk and was pointed to a bag that matched the tag she was given. It was not, she said, her bag.

The member of staff "was trying to convince me that that was in fact my bag," Watson said, despite her insistence that it wasn't. The member of staff then said that her bag tag had got switched with a passenger who had finished his journey at Washington's Ronald Reagan International Airport, and that Watson's bag would be sent from there within 24 hours.

But the bag didn't arrive.

After a few days, Watson rang American Airlines and was told that the airline hadn't found the bag and thought that the passenger in Washington had it, but hadn't been able to contact him.


American Airlines and Republic Airways didn't respond to Insider's request for comment on Watson's case.

Watson estimated that the bag, which contained her favorite clothes and shoes as well as work files, was worth around $3,500.

She said she'd packed some valuable items, including her laptop, phone charger, and wallet, in a small backpack that she kept with her during the flight, and said she would have put more items in it if she knew her larger bag would be checked.

Screenshots shared with Insider show Watson's repeated efforts to contact the airline. In late August, the airline told her that her bag had last been scanned in Washington.

"I feel very, very mistrustful of American Airlines specifically," Watson told Insider. "Having them literally take my bag and check it without telling me – I don't think I'm ever gonna fly American Airlines again."