Kathy Maguire doesn’t think she’ll ever see her husband’s U.S. Navy retirement keepsake again.
It was in a suitcase checked on Delta Air Lines Flight 1652 from Boston on June 29 that disappeared from carousel No. 16 at McCarran International Airport before she could claim it.
All the Las Vegas resident has now are a few pictures of her husband, Gregory, wearing the Navy cover — his captain’s hat — on one of the most significant days of his life, his retirement from the Navy.
“It probably doesn’t mean anything to anybody else, but it was important to us,” said Maguire, whose purpose now is to call attention to baggage thefts that continue to be a problem at the nation’s airports.
Other contents of the suitcase, a diamond pendant and diamond earrings, were recovered from a pawn shop.
A sharp Metropolitan Police Department officer was able to track down a suspect. Maguire intends to press charges.
But the Navy cap, some costume jewelry, a laptop computer, prescription eyeglasses, all her clothing and some of her husband’s military gear, all worth a total of more than $5,000, are gone.
Maguire and her husband were back East for her husband’s retirement ceremony and Kathy, who rarely flies Delta, came home ahead of her husband on the airline’s cross-country nonstop flight.
Maguire arrived at the carousel before baggage was being distributed so she texted a friend who was picking her up to make meeting plans.
“By the time the carousel did begin to move, there was a significant number of people, about three deep, at the point where the luggage dropped and where it would proceed around the carousel,” she said in a police report. “I made the decision to avoid the crowd and patiently wait until the luggage made its way around. Obviously, this was a bad decision because my luggage never made it around the carousel.”
After the carousel stopped, Maguire inquired at Delta’s baggage claim office and was told that her suitcase was scanned after arriving so it did arrive.
“The Delta people were pretty blasè about it and told me somebody could have picked it up by accident,” she said. “I think that’s what she wanted me to believe.”
Maguire went through the frustrating exercise of filing a claim report through Delta.
“They wanted me to list a date of purchase on everything and to submit receipts. Who keeps receipts for all the clothes they’ve ever bought?”
Maguire recalled that Delta once had a baggage claim system that required passengers to match their claim tickets against their bag tags before removing suitcases from the baggage claim area.
Those days are long gone.
In December 2013, after a series of thefts, Delta established a positive bag match pilot program. At the airline’s request, McCarran set up stanchions and developed a system for arriving passengers to match claim checks. The program was similar to a system McCarran had throughout the baggage claim area prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
After 9/11, airport personnel assisted at security checkpoints and airlines, opting to cut costs, decided against paying for personnel at baggage claim.
Delta abandoned its own program in about two months because it was determined it wasn’t cost-effective.
Delta, the second-busiest commercial air carrier at McCarran, charges passengers to check bags. The airline did not return calls for comments on Maguire’s claims.
“Baggage theft is an issue at just about any airport, largely because it’s a crime of opportunity,” said Chris Jones, a spokesman for the Clark County Aviation Department.
“Unfortunately, McCarran is no exception to this fact, especially considering it’s the ninth-busiest airport in North America, with nearly 60,000 arrivals on a given day.”
McCarran uses surveillance cameras and occasional sting operations to prevent baggage thefts. Jones said there have been instances in which roving bands of thieves move from airport to airport stealing bags.
Jones offered some tips to travelers to avoid theft.
He suggested never packing valuable items in checked luggage — take valuables in carry-on bags instead. Don’t linger at the gate; get to the baggage carousel as quickly as possible. Alert Metro police at airport substations immediately when a theft is suspected.
Maguire added one more suggestion: Don’t use expensive-looking luggage or use priority bag services offered by airlines.
“I think my bag was targeted because it looked like a top-of-the-line suitcase,” she said. “And when you put a ‘priority’ tag on it, it calls even more attention to it.”
Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3893. Follow him on Twitter @RickVelotta.