Congresswoman slams D.C. airport after reports on baggage problems

In the wake of an investigative report by USA Today and Washington, D.C., TV station WUSA9 last week, which revealed that Washington’s Dulles International Airport has the highest claim rate of baggage damage, loss and theft among the country’s 30 busiest airports, U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Tuesday, blasting the facility’s security screeners and officials for their failures.

The report revealed that over the past five years, the Transportation Security Administration has paid claims to 331 Dulles travelers totaling nearly $68,000 for lost, broken or stolen items. The items ran the gamut from a $24 handbag to damaged jewelry and electronics costing several hundred dollars.

Although many airports’ actual numbers are higher, when adjusted for the number of people served, Dulles’ rate stood out as the poorest. Orlando (Florida) International Airport was a close second in terms of paid claims per 1 million estimated passengers screened by TSA.

“This is especially alarming with the rate being close to 50 percent higher than Baltimore Washington International Airport and surpassing Reagan National Airport by over 150 percent,” Comstock said.

Comstock said the issue is “a local and personal concern.” She demanded information on the reasons for failure and pressed for a list of suggested solutions for improvement.

On a greater scale, the report showed that TSA paid passengers more than $3 million for claims over the last five years, a review of approximately 50,000 complaints said. TSA officials said in response that damaged and lost baggage makes up a tiny fraction of the 2.5 million bags handled each day and said bags spend much more time in the hands of airport staff and airline workers.