HOUSTON, Tex. (CBS Houston) – Last week, a vacation turned sour for Houston resident Charlie Menefee, when a lost suitcase was returned to him smelling strongly of gasoline.

Menefee told CBS Houston that, while going on vacation with his family, one of its six suitcases was seemingly lost in transit during their Continental Airlines flight.

It was returned to him later in the day, but it is then that the situation got worse rather than better.

“On the outside, it faintly smelled like fuel,” he said to CBS Houston. “The moment you opened the bag, it knocked you over. The clothes were soaked in it.”

What followed was a several-hours-long process with the airline of trying to figure out what had happened to his belongings, and to get compensated fully for any reparations or loss.

After talking to multiple representatives, both on the phone and in person when he was told to come back to the terminal to verify the damages, he was reportedly left with one answer.

“Basically, the company line was that a $25 per day allowance was made for clothes, and I was not pleased with that,” Menefee said.

For Menefee, the ordeal cost more than that, not only in dry cleaning bills, but in lost time.

“The biggest aggravation was having to fight for it…on my vacation time,” Menefee said, adding that he had to miss several family activities while handling the situation.

Menefee said the odor was reminiscent of jet fuel. However, whether or not it was has not been determined, United Airlines spokesperson Mary Clark told CBS Houston.

Since the initial discussions, the airline has discussed the matter further with Menefee, offering to compensate him for the dry cleaning expenses.

“I’ve taken the clothes to the cleaners…and should have them back next week,” Menefee said. “If they were successful in getting the fumes out, Continental will cover the dry cleaning expenses.”

The airline has also offered to help if the effort does not work.

“We’ve been in touch with (Menefee)…and if he’s not satisfied (with the dry cleaning), we will continue to work with him,” Clark added.


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