A Florida teacher helped dozens of stranded travellers across the US find their bags after the chaotic Holiday weekend.
Brittany Loubier-Vervisch became an unlikely Santa the day after Christmas at the Tampa International Airport, Insider first reported. The science teacher had cancelled a Christmas trip to see her family amid a weekend of thousands of flight cancellations stemming from historic winter storm Elliot.
The teacher and her husband opted for a last-minute hiking trip to Tucson before calling it off about thirty minutes before it was officially cancelled by Southwest Airlines. In a never-ending line with her husband trying to retrieve their luggage, Ms Loubier-Vervisch had a eureka moment.
“There were just hundreds, maybe thousands of bags in the baggage claim area for Southwest terminal at the Tampa airport,” Ms Loubier-Vervisch told The Independent on Wednesday. “We went downstairs and my husband waited in line, I want to say about two and a half hours. So, as I was walking around, I was like, ‘Gosh, a lot of these people have their name and their phone number on their luggage. I’ll text them to let them know where it is.’”
The small gesture was dubbed as “lifesaving” by dozens of grateful stranded travellers in cities across the US, who had no idea where their bags were.
Some of them had been going back and forth to the Tampa airport to inquire about their luggage for three days in a row, Ms Loubier-Vervisch said. Others had stood in line for hours, unaware that their luggage was just hundreds of feet from them.
”One family came up, they were supposed to be flying ... It was an adult, and they were supposed to be flying with older family members and they had to collect like seven pieces of luggage,” Ms Loubier-Vervisch told The Independent. “I texted the one person and then they all came down and he was like, ‘Oh my God, did you send me the text?’ And I was like, ‘Here’s your other bags’ ... Some people texted me back and they were like, ‘Oh, you’re a lifesaver.’”
Ms Loubier-Vervisch said Southwest employees told her they had never seen a scene even reminiscent of the weekend nightmare in their decades working at the airline.
Southwest has cancelled more than 15,700 flights since 22 December, when deadly bomb cyclone Elliot started causing havoc with airline schedules.
While other major airlines have been able to restore regular scheduling, Southwest was still cancelling more than 60 per cent of its flights on Wednesday. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has vowed to hold Southwest “accountable” for the “unacceptable situation.”
Ms Loubier-Vervisch said she was also told by staff the company’s computer system had crashed while in line waiting for her bags. She noted that employees were diligently trying to control the luggage mayhem.
”They were just like running back and forth, getting bags and trying to help people and trying to answer questions,” she said. “So like I could text all these people, but nothing was gonna happen with their luggage for at least a week.”
Southwest CEO Robert Jordan released a video statement on Tuesday night saying computer systems recover from disruptions work “99 per cent of the time”, but upgrades were clearly needed.
Ms Loubier-Vervisch estimates she texted between 50 and 80 people before she and her husband got their luggage.
The teacher says her good deed helped people find their luggage in only one airport out of hundreds in America, but travellers who were either directly contacted by Ms Loubier-Vervisch or were touched by the wholesome gesture have taken to social media to thank her for coveying the true Christmas spirit.
Ms Loubier-Vervisch did not solve everyone’s luggage woes, but she at least helped them figure out how to proceed.
“A lot of people have spent a lot of money to be able to take a trip, buy presents for their kids or their family members and they don’t have that extra money to go book a thousand-dollar flight on another carrier to try to get home or rent a car to try to drive cross country to get home,” she said. “So I really felt for all the people that were maybe stranded in a city where they didn't live and then had no idea where their luggage was.”
Ms Loubier-Vervisch advised future travellers to always put a tag with a cellphone number on their luggage. Then perhaps, a kind stranger just like her could make the difference between a travel inconvenience and an impossible situation in the future.
Although Ms Loubier-Vervisch ended up returning home on Monday, her trip to the airport was greatly appreciated by strangers and not at all in vain.
In addition to getting to see the “finally finished” statue of a Flamingo at the Tampa airport, the science teacher was also able to prove that a little nice gesture can go a long way.
“The most important thing is, there's always something everyone can do to help others. Anybody could have done what I did. It was very simple,” she told The Independent. “I think most people have unlimited texting at this point, but it was something I could do to help people. It was literally the smallest thing, otherwise, I would've just been standing there playing a game on my phone or some like pointless scrolling.”