Deaf Austin teen stuck 1,800 miles away with no luggage, cochlear implant charger after Southwest cancellations

Sanyia was stuck at the airport without her flight being canceled and unable to communicate because her luggage had been sent elsewhere.

AUSTIN, Texas — Lacresha Roberts has been in for the last two days Austin-Bergstrom International Airport hoping to find her daughter’s luggage.

Roberts’ daughter, 16-year-old Sanyia Roberts, is one of many affected by the Southwest Airlines disaster. However, Sanyia is still stuck 1,800 miles from home without her luggage, any toiletries or her cochlear implant charger.

On December 20, the deaf teenager flew to the Midwest to celebrate her 16th birthday with extended family. It should be a fun and stress free week.

“She’s just a normal teenager,” Roberts said. “She wants to do TikTok. She wants to talk to her friends on the phone all day. She loves her siblings.”

In purchasing the flight to Sanyia, Roberts requested assistance for her unaccompanied minor and realized that her daughter is deaf and would need interpreter services.

“I check that box every time I fly,” Roberts said.

Having done this previously, Roberts assumed that Sanyia was ready for their flights to Chicago and then back to Austin. But when Sanyia arrived at Chicago Airport on December 27 to fly back to central Texas, she was never accompanied or assisted by an interpreter.

Sanyia was also not notified that her flight had been canceled until hours after the flight landed via text message or the Southwest app.

Roberts said that because Sanyia’s cochlear implant charger was in her checked baggage, the device was dead and Sanyia couldn’t hear announcements about her flight at the airport.

And a text message received at 1pm showed that their flight, which was scheduled for 7am, would now depart at 9:35am – a warning delivered more than five hours late. Later, at 2:39 p.m., a final text said the flight had been officially canceled even though it had been canceled for some time by then.

“She’s sitting in a corner crying because she’s traumatized because she doesn’t know what’s going on,” Roberts said.

Sanyia said she tried asking people for help but had trouble getting anyone to understand what was going on. She described being scared and feeling helpless. Some people offered to drive Sanyia to visit her extended family, who live two hours from Chicago Airport, but she refused out of fear.

Roberts said after learning her daughter’s flight was canceled, she FaceTimed Southwest ticket agents. One offered to take Sanyia to baggage claim to get her suitcase, but when they got there, Sanyia was told that her belongings were now in St. Louis.

The single mother-of-three said she spent money on other bills on a separate Southwest flight to try to bring Sanyia home, but that too was cancelled.

“Even though I’m trying, I feel like a failure because I’m supposed to have a safety net,” Roberts said.

While Roberts is upset that her daughter is stuck with nothing 1,800 miles away, she’s more upset that Southwest Airlines dropped the ball. At the very least, Roberts said, she wished her daughter would get the assistance she requested when booking the flight.

“You failed my child in every way you could,” Roberts said. “You completely failed her.”

Roberts is urging Southwest Airlines to do more to better serve its customers with disabilities and be more aware that minors traveling alone need assistance.

“I don’t just want ‘Here’s yours [the refund] back’ and ‘I’m sorry,'” Roberts said. “I need some kind of action. I need more measures to be implemented so that this situation does not happen again.”

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https://www.kvue.com/article/news/local/deaf-austin-teen-cochlear-implant-charger-southwest-cancelations/269-40d0fecb-625e-43c3-83a4-1a7517d6ab79 Deaf Austin teen stuck 1,800 miles away with no luggage, cochlear implant charger after Southwest cancellations

Laura Coffey

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