Newly married couple opens bag after flying to find wedding money gone

Posted at 7:24 AM, Sep 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-25 15:41:14-04

It's one of the fears we all have when we fly—losing our luggage and our stuff inside. But this next story has a bit of a twist taking that to a whole new level.

"It was pretty disheartening to see that would happen,” said David Vanas who is originally from Mentor. "You trust the people that work with our bags."

He just got married in Colorado and earlier this month had a family reception back here in northeast Ohio. Afterwards, he caught a flight from Cleveland back to Denver.

"From what I'm told, there are cameras all over the airport so hopefully they can figure out who went into the bag,” said Vanas.

You see, Vanas put his sealed wedding cards into his bag, checked it in with Frontier Airlines and, of course, TSA.

When back in Denver, though, Vanas opened the bag only to find many of the cards opened, money was stolen, and gift cards taken. His wife was upset. "She was in tears."

There was something else in the bag — a Notice of Inspection tag from TSA but something wasn't right with it. "(TSA) said that they usually time stamp those so that they can go back and check them and there was no stamp on it,” said Vanas. “No time... nothing like that."

So, now the investigation begins. Did a TSA agent take the money or did someone else go into the bag and just leave an unmarked TSA tag?

5 On Your Side Investigators found from 2009 to 2016, nearly 150,000 people have filed claims with TSA about lost or damaged items. "If there's that many incidents of this happening, then clearly there's a flawed system,” said Vanas.

We also found that it's not the first time Frontier has dealt with a stolen items case. Reviews online show others have had baggage problems.

While speaking with Frontier Airlines on the phone, a representative told us TSA opened the bag. There's a tag in it. However, in a statement, TSA said bags are only briefly in its possession and the rest of the time another airport-related staff has them.

"I hope that TSA and Frontier…will work together to fix the problem so it doesn't happen to anyone else," Vanas told us.

Both TSA and Frontier said they're taking this seriously but it could take months before this is resolved. Meanwhile, David and his wife are out about a thousand bucks. "We were hoping to open those cards together and enjoy them and properly thank people."

We’ll stay on top of this for you.

Here are the full statements released to 5 On Your Side Investigators from TSA and Frontier Airlines.

TSA takes seriously the responsibility to fairly adjudicate claims when property is proven to be damaged or lost during TSA's security screening process. Checked bags are briefly in TSAÂ’s possession, where cameras record the screening process. The airlines are in possession of bags for the remainder of the time, including transit to the aircraft, loading, unloading and transit to the baggage claim area. Of the roughly 4.3 billion passengers who have traveled between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2016, less than 150,000 have filed claims to date for lost or damaged items.

Also: *   Should a passengerÂ’s checked bag alarm during the screening process, TSA must resolve the alarm for the safety and security of the aircraft. This may require TSA to open the baggage. Once the baggage has been cleared, it is returned to the airline. The screening process averages between 3 to 5 minutes to complete.

  *   Nearly 2 million passengers and approximately 5.6 million pieces of baggage (checked and carry-on) go through security screening every day. Based on those volumes alone, incidents inevitably occur, with approximately 40 claims filed daily. That is less than .0018 percent of baggage screened.

  *   TSA security officers comprise a professional workforce that is trained to treat passengers and their personal belongings with care.

  *   If an item is lost or damaged during the security screening process, passengers may submit a claim to our Claims Management Branch for review and adjudication.

  *   Although we are provided up to six months by the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), TSA generally completes the adjudication of the majority of claims within 60-90 days. Those that take longer are typically due to insufficient information.

  *   Approximately 700 million passengers fly domestically in the United States each year. Each passenger carries on or checks approximately two bags.

  *   Passengers may want to explore the option of filing a claim with the transporting airline.

Mike England
TSA National Spokesman

Frontier Airlines:
“Frontier Airlines takes claims of pilferage and baggage issues seriously. We are investigating this claim to ensure our policies and procedures are effective at preventing these issues from occurring while baggage is in our possession. Our baggage team is working with Mr. Vanas to ensure a resolution that is appropriate and acceptable within the contract of carriage.”

Richard Oliver

Corporate Communications





As a follow up, CCTV footage shows TSA screened, but did not search either bag; the couple drops off 2 bags at CT80 in the lobby, bags are x-rayed, neither alarms, both are placed on Frontier's bag belt.  No intervention with the bag.  Additionally, CLE TSA time and date stamps their Notice of Inspection docs prior to placing in a searched bag; the NOI the passenger provided does not have a date and time stamp.




Mike England

National Spokesperson

Transportation Security Administration

601 South 12th Street

Arlington, VA 20598