A woman’s suitcase containing her custom prosthetic leg was mishandled and sent to the wrong destination for over 10 days by Allegiant Airlines in an experience she called “traumatic.” 
Emily Tuite had booked a direct flight from Austin to San Diego on Allegiant Airlines to visit her cousin, she told USA TODAY. “This was my first time to the West Coast, so I was really looking forward to swimming in the Pacific and spending time at the shore with her,” she said. It was also her first time flying Allegiant. 
She packed her custom-made, waterproof prosthetic leg in a bright blue suitcase. 
When she arrived in San Diego on Sept. 1, she couldn’t locate her bag at the airport. “I remember feeling sick to my stomach when I didn’t see my bag going around the carousel,” she said.
She immediately went to the Allegiant ticket counter with her luggage stub and tracking number. The agents said they couldn’t track her bag and would ‘put a note’ on her reservation about it, she said.
“I was prepared to stay at the airport until I was able to get assistance, since this was an item I couldn’t afford to lose, and continued to wait there for over three hours trying to get someone to call Austin to see if it was still at that airport,” she said. 
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“When someone loses a medical device, it’s incredibly serious,” Tuite said. “Medical devices, like my prothesis, provide assistance to help me function and participate in everyday activities. Without it, I’m disabled.”
Rachel Christiansen, an Allegiant spokesperson, acknowledged that the airline received Tuite’s lost leg claim. Christianson told USA TODAY in an email that “it is rare for Allegiant to mishandle a passenger bag.” 
“Nonetheless, that is no consolation to a customer whose bag has been mishandled,” Christiansen said. “When it happens, we make every effort to reunite customers with their luggage immediately.” 
The spokesperson added that the airline “prioritized her claim” and is “sincerely sorry” for what happened. 
Tuite said that in the days following the loss, she “received very little communication” about her baggage and it was “very difficult” speaking with the airline. She said she called the company’s customer service on three separate days and spent hours on hold. She also reached out via social media, chat and email but never heard back. The San Diego Allegiant team called the Austin airport twice but didn’t receive much information either or just didn’t call back, she said. 
At the same time of Tuite’s flight was another Allegiant flight heading to Provo, Utah. It turned out that her bag had been tagged with someone else’s information and sent to Provo. It had been sitting in the unclaimed baggage area in the Provo airport, she said. 
It took a total of 12 days for Tuite to get her suitcase and leg back – 10 days lost and two days to be transported to her. At first, she was only offered a refund to cover the checked bag fee and the toiletry and clothing items she had to purchase in San Diego. “They declined my request to refund the cost of my flight, since this experience impacted every aspect of my trip,” she said. 
On Wednesday, Allegiant told Tuite they would refund her flight cost as well. 
Tuite feels “deeply upset” at the airline for a lack of “urgency or reasonable accommodation” in helping to find her device. Even though she acknowledges that lost suitcases happen, she hopes the airline puts in better processes for faster responses when someone’s medical device goes missing. 
This year saw more mishandled baggage than usual as air travel became a source of frustration for many. Earlier this year in April, airlines mishandled nearly 220,000 suitcases in the U.S. 
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“The thought of losing a device like mine is incredibly stressful – not just because I couldn’t safely shower or swim while on my trip, but because I know the time, effort, and money it takes to replace a custom prosthesis,” Tuite continued. 

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