Spirit Airlines is apologizing for the behavior of their workers after they are seen on camera rummaging through a passenger’s travel bag, stealing items, and tossing his life-saving medicine in the trash. The passenger has now secured a lawyer to represent his best interests.
Keyonne Brooks, a California resident, said he attempted to board a Spirit flight at the Armstrong International Airport on Feb. 19 when he ran into trouble at the boarding gate, CBS News reports.
Brooks had come to New Orleans for a funeral and was returning home to Los Angeles.
Keyonne Brooks says Spirit Airlines gate agents stole his belongings. (Photo: YouTube screenshot/KCAL News)
However, an escalated conflict at the ticket counter put him in a debacle with the popular discounted air carrier.
An agent noted Brooks’ suitcase was larger than what he was allowed to carry on the flight — requiring him to upgrade his ticket.
“She said that I’d have to reschedule my flight instead of doing a gate check, and I knew that was not true because of my travels with my nonprofit,” Brooks alleges in an interview with 4WWL.
Allegedly an argument broke out between the two, and Brooks requested a manager come and sort out the disagreement.
However, it was boarding time, and he was called to get on the plane. In his rush, he accidentally left his small carry-on at the ticket counter, which was later picked up by Spirit workers.
“I had a gut feeling that something went wrong,” the man said.
The man filed a lost-and-found claim, but when it was not resolved he made a public records request to the airport and asked for the security footage surveilling the gate.
According to Warren McKenna, Brooks’ attorney, the airport expeditiously sent the footage to him and his client.
The video showed even before all of the passengers were boarded, a female agent, who had not interacted with him, took the bag behind the counter. It also showed, instead of alerting a flight attendant or those already seated, that the bag was left she held it until the flight was completely boarded.
After the plane doors shut, the woman took the bag to a seat, opened it up, and started searching through its contents.
“I noticed that she was stuffing some things in her pocket. I don’t know if that was my jewelry or my crystals,” said Brooks.
Others joined her and started allowing people to take what they wanted out of the bag. Brooks, who had very important medicine in his bag, watched as people poured the pills out into a trash can. At the same time, he saw some people laugh at the violation while taking selfies with their cellphones.
The passenger said he could not believe what he was seeing and stopped watching.
“There were my house keys, my car keys. When I got back to L.A., I was not able to get into my home right away. I was not even able to start my car. Everything was halted until I paid locksmiths,” Brooks said.
He was especially disheartened because he had special jewelry in the carry-on he believed was also swiped.
Brooks said reached out to the airline, sending them the video. Four days after the incident, Spirit refunded the man the cost of the flight. A vendor working with the airline to compensate him for his missing property asked Brooks to provide receipts for the missing jewelry.
The man was unable to produce them as the jewelry had been handed down through the generations of his family.
On social media, many people responded in shock and lent support.
“He definitely had valuable items for him to request footage. He needs more than a refund of his ticket! Some things just can’t be replaced,” one person said.
Another person believed the woman “let him leave that bag on purpose just so she could be spiteful. But okay lady, now you losing your job.”
“Spirit employees be having no spirit at all,” Trinidadrell remarked.
New Orleans Councilmen Green and Giarrusso interceded on behalf of Brooks to move Spirit toward fully compensating the passenger for his losses.
In a statement regarding the incident, Spirit says they launched an investigation and suspended the contract workers.
“We are aware of this matter, and our vendor suspended four of their employees at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) pending an investigation into the matter. Spirit Airlines is committed to treating all Guests with respect and delivering high-quality service, and we will take appropriate action as necessary following the completion of the vendor’s investigation. Spirit has already issued a refund for the flight on February 23, and the vendor is expediting the compensation for the items.”
GAT airline ground support is also on the hook for Brooks’ treatment. This third-party vendor was responsible for hiring personnel to help with passenger experiences, ground handling, and cargo handling.
Brooks believes this may not be an isolated experience.
“If it happened to me and I got the video footage, how many other people has this happened to?” said Brooks.