Feb. 16, 2010 — -- Michael Jobin and a group of friends had just returned from a great vacation on a Caribbean cruise when they arrived at baggage claim in Denver to a highly unusual, and unpleasant surprise.
Their luggage made it back to Denver on time and intact … and doused in deicing fluid... or jet fuel... or something.
"Our bags were the last ones to come out of the baggage carousel and they were just smelling profusely," Jobin said. "It was horrible. Everything was soaked to the bone."
The friends, a group of 10 bridge players who have been together for 30 years, were on the cruise out of Puerto Rico as a memorial to celebrate the life of one of their members who died recently. Most said they had a great time on the six-day voyage.
But now, instead of sharing photos they are swapping tips on how to get the fluid's foul stench out of their clothing. So far, nothing has worked. The smell was so bad that most assumed it was jet fuel.
A Delta Airlines spokesperson initially said the airline "regrets that a few passengers" on the Atlanta to Denver flight "had their bags exposed to deicing fluid and is working to reach out to these customers to ensure that their claims are resolved."
But later Delta said it could no longer confirm what type of fluid was on the bags.
"Delta is investigating damage to a small number of passenger bags on flight 1487 to Denver," spokeswoman Susan Chana Elliott said. "We are following up with our customers to ensure their claims are resolved immediately."
Whatever it was, all 10 from the bridge group, along with another couple, had their bags drenched.
Jobin had a tuxedo and other formal wear for cruise dinners in his bag, as well as his snorkeling gear.
"I think most of that stuff is not going to be salvageable," he said.
Kathy Shoemaker, another member of the group, remembers the look on the Delta employee's face when they walked into the baggage services office Saturday night in Denver International Airport.
"The person in there was like, 'Oh my gosh the fumes are too bad. Take them out of here,'" Shoemaker said.
The representative was very apologetic, she said, but couldn't stand the fumes and didn't really have any suggestions on how to clean the clothes.
Delta Passengers' Baggage Soaked in Deicing Fluid
Shoemaker tried cleaning her clothes in her washing machine, but the smell wouldn't come out. Now she is trying to air them out in her yard.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's hazardous waste and I'm not sure what to do with it," Shoemaker said.
"It's just kind of shocking," she added. "We just didn't know what to do."
Diana Pigford and her husband Scott Pigford said the group was delayed out of San Juan because of weather problems in Atlanta, where a big snow storm had led to many flight cancellations the day before.
Pigford praised a Delta gate agent for taking the entire group aside and rebooking them on a new flight to Atlanta, arriving only 30 minutes late. Thanks to that agent, they made their connection to Denver in plenty of time.
However, she is still "kind of dismayed and shocked" but the baggage incident, especially after they paid extra to check their bags.