LAX shooting: ‘Logistical nightmare’ as passengers return, wait
What one Los Angeles International Airport official called a “logistical nightmare” played out Saturday afternoon inside Terminal 3 as passengers who had fled in the midst of Friday’s shooting rampage returned to search for their belongings -- resulting in long lines and hot tempers.
Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, announced at a press conference Saturday afternoon that LAX was “returning to normal” and Terminal 3 is fully operational.
But she also acknowledged that operations were “very, very busy.”
“We greatly appreciate the public’s patience because of this,” she said.
In the wake of the shooting that killed a Transportation Security Administration officer and left several others injured, people who had lost their bags and personal effects in the chaos were essentially sent on a scavenger hunt for their belongings.
Many airlines routed lost items to a large holding hallway on the airport’s lower level. One by one, passengers walked in to search for their bags and other possessions, which were organized by gate number. Each passenger was accompanied by police.
Judy Rosen and her husband had booked flights on Virgin America on Friday morning for a wedding in Philadelphia. She left the gate in search of a power outlet to charge her iPhone and left it plugged in when the shooting started. Her husband abandoned their two carry-on bags.
Saturday morning, the Rosens stood in line at the Virgin ticketing counter, then waited in the baggage claim area for their turn to hunt for their luggage.
“I’m hopeful,” Rosen said as she waited. “There’s a lot of valuable things in that suitcase.”
They emerged, smiling, half an hour later. “We found everything,” she said. “Even my phone.”
Jim Rowe was less successful.
Rowe, of Niwot, Colo., flew Frontier Airlines from Denver, landing shortly after the shooting occurred. After sitting on the plane for six hours, he said, he and his wife left the airport without any idea where their checked bags had gone.
Nearly 24 hours later, he still didn’t know.
“This is all I have!” He shouted at an airline representative, gesturing at his denim shirt, cargo shorts and flip-flops. “This is all I have with me!”
The airline representative spoke to him in a calming voice, telling him his bag wasn’t in the holding area.
“My phone is almost out of juice and I’m exhausted,” Rowe said. “This wasn’t how I was supposed to spend my weekend with family.”
Meanwhile, Miguel Torres, 24, slumped against his suitcase as he stood in a long line snaking back from the Virgin America ticket counter. He had been relieved to learn that his flight to Florida would be leaving after all, he said, but was worried that he hadn’t left enough time to get to his gate — which would require getting to another terminal.
He shared the check-in line with other travelers – as well as people like Rosen and Rowe, trying to retrieve their belongings.
“I got here three hours early,” he said. “But this line is insane.”
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