United Airlines Will Not Let You Report Your Damaged Baggage For "Security Reasons"

Reader Sid is having a hell of a time reporting some damaged luggage to United Airlines.

He writes:

On a recent flight, on United Airlines, I had my suitcase damaged. When I reported it to the United baggage office in Portland, OR, they apologized for not having the proper form on which to report the problem and suggested that I contact the United baggage office at one of the airports in my home city, Washington, DC. Upon returning home, I attempted to contact United’s baggage department by phone. The “800″ number was of no help, nor was the “Customer Service” call center in India. When I called the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority in an attempt to obtain the telephone number for one of the United baggage offices, I was told that United had instructed them not to release the number FOR SECURITY REASONS!

I have written to the VP of Customer Affairs at United to congratulate him on following the example of the now defunct Soviet Union which had no telephone books for security reasons.

Sid

We checked United’s policy on damaged luggage and it seems that the first baggage office screwed you with bad advice. From United’s website:

Please report any damage to your baggage immediately after retrieving your baggage from the baggage claim carousels. A customer service representative at our Baggage Service Offices will be happy to complete a damage report for you. Please have your passenger ticket receipt and claim check available when filing your claim. All baggage claims must be reported within 24 hours of travel.

You’ve already launched an EECB of sorts, so all we can really suggest is that you also file a complaint with the Department of Transportation and CC: it to Graham Atkinson at United.

Filing official complaints with the government will sometimes reduce the time it takes for an airline to get around to dealing with your complaint. You might also try filing your complaint in person, again, but we could understand why you might not want to trek out to the airport with your luggage.

(Photo: Ben Popken )

Comments

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  1. B says:

    It’s obviously for security reasons. The job security of the baggage handlers and the CSRs at the baggage service office, that is.

  2. Sudonum says:

    They’ll deny the claim and give you a couple of semi-useless vouchers to “compensate” you. Been there, done that with United.

  3. alphacoder says:

    Until our citizens make a real election issue out of open skies, open cable and open telecommunications, we can’t expect much to be done about anything.

    All it takes is our willingness to ask our politicians at all levels – city, state and federal – questions that affect our ability to have alternatives.

  4. SuffolkHouse says:

    I will never fly with United or American again in my life. They are the absolute worst. luckily, their flights are rarely prices enticingly.

  5. kepler11 says:

    it is a waste of a friendly executive’s time to email him over an issue where you can find the correct information by looking just a little bit more carefully. if the Portland staff didn’t have the forms, it would’ve been best if you had sought out the baggage office in DC when you returned, which would’ve been the easiest way to handle it right at the moment, and for them to verify your damage.

    Instructions on how to report baggage damage, even after you’ve left the airport, are here: [faq.ua2go.com]

    Most companies this large don’t give out the individual station information, because they simply don’t have enough staff to answer phone calls and do their jobs at the same time.

  6. bdgbill says:

    @SuffolkHouse:

    You obviously have never flown on US Airways.

  7. kepler11 says:

    @SuffolkHouse: would you care to explain what you dislike about them?

  8. Pylon83 says:

    Why not just use the internet to find the phone number? It’s likely the number the Airport Authority has is not a public phone number, and that’s the “Security” reason they won’t give it out. A quick Google search would have probably given the OP multiple numbers to call them at. Further, who in their right mind would leave the airport without reporting the damaged bag? Common sense should tell you that you can’t report something as damaged a few days later and expect it to work out smoothly. When the lady at the counter turned you down, the appropriate response should have been “Where is your supervisor” not “Ok, I’ll just report my damaged luggage at a later time, at an entirely different airport, where it is even harder to verify that the luggage was damaged during the flight in question. Shame on United, but shame on the OP as well.

  9. Craig says:

    Your first mistake is expecting reasonable customer service from a major U.S. airline.

  10. Barbarisater says:

    How badly does United handle bags if they are out of damaged bag forms?

  11. Wheels17 says:

    I had an interesting experience with Northwest. I was supposed to fly via JFK to ROC, but a storm resulted in a flight to Pittsburg, and a drive home. The next day, I used the internet to find the 800 number for Northwest and after several attempts actually spoke to a human being.

    I asked when my luggage would be arriving at the airport, and the agent asked for the lost luggage report form number. I replied that the luggage was not lost, just delayed, so there was no report. The agent insisted that without a report they couldn’t look up the baggage location. So, I asked to fill out a report. “Oh no, I can’t do that over the phone, you have to go to the airport to fill out the report”. So, to find out if my bags are at the airport, I have to go to the airport and fill out a form. Thinking the agent was clueless, I called again and received the exact same answer a second time.

    I then had an inspiration. I looked up the airport’s web site, and they had a list of the local baggage offices on their web site. Called the local number, spoke with a thoroughly pleasant agent who found my bags in 30 seconds with the claim check numbers, gave me an estimated arrival time, and made arrangements to have the bags delivered directly to my house even though it was a weather related problem.

    It’s interesting that the airline offers such a different experience depending on which number you contact. The corporate number seemed to be purposely useless, and had me swearing that I’d never fly Northwest again. But they have a well functioning system that knew exactly where my bags were, and when they would arive. They even went out of their way to deliver the bags to my house. Had I reached the local number first, it would have been a wonderful experience.

    Then, I tried to get documentation that the filght was actually canceled so that I could collect on my flight insurance….

  12. thirdbase says:

    @Kepler11: If your going to shill for United at least be subtle about it. Geeeezzzz

  13. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    Northwest has multiple personality disorder, bipolar, or something. I have had them go way above and beyond to get me my luggage, or even an item left on the plane (small bag with prescription medication that fell out of larger carry on).

    At the same time, on simple routes they have managed to screw everything up possible delaying my travel for days.

    I would say they are operationally challenged but actually have decent customer service. I have many times sworn I wouldn’t fly with them if I had a choice, but they are the only airline serving a region where I have family.

  14. For some reason my old company’s phone number was listed as the number Delta’s Baggage Claim at Boston Logan Airport. Needless to say we got quite a few calls from people looking for their luggage.

    When I tried calling Delta’s main baggage number to make them aware of the error, I got outsourced to India where the person couldn’t grasp what I wanted and kept on asking what Delta flight I had taken.

  15. Landru says:

    kepler11: = Shill

  16. dgolding says:

    I’m somewhat impressed that one of the baggage trolls was smart enough to get their office number set up as unlisted. That takes some ingenuity. Its terrible customer service, but clever, in terms of active “work avoidance”

  17. SumanolataSparta says:

    Comment on United Airlines Will Not Let You Report Your Damaged Baggage For “Security Reasons” I have had success making complaints to and receiving compensation
    from United Airlines by contacting the Better Business Bureau.

  18. humphrmi says:

    I once flew AA into Heathrow with my (then stroller-aged) son, and gate-checked the stroller. It came off the plane with the wheels sheered off cleanly right above where they attached to the stroller.

    Now besides having to walk a 2-year-old who just slept through most of the flight across Heathrow’s sadistic terminal layout, I had to drag the now immobile stroller behind me.

    Get to the baggage office and they claim that I need to file a claim when I get back home. Well first off, I know better, and second I want this settled in British Sterling so I can go buy a new buggy during our trip.

    I pressed my case, pretty hard, and ended up getting it taken care of right there at Heathrow. But only because I used to work for the airlines and knew better.

  19. kepler11 says:

    if I were a shill for United, don’t you think I *would* be more subtle about it? Geez. Just because someone presents a more rational view of a situation, you accuse them of being a traitor or something?

    I’m just pointing out things this person could have done better — 1) resolving the issue while still in the airport (which she was twice), and 2) looking at the airline website to get the information she originally wanted (at least, in addition to filing all the complaints she wants), rather than like Consumerist rashly suggesting that her issue rises to the level of emailing a chief executive of an airline because she can’t find a phone number that could’ve been found with a brief search. I think that’s a little bit inflated, don’t you?

    I provided more useful information in my post than any of you. What part of my message is incorrect, and on what grounds do you attack me as a result? No wonder companies *don’t* put their employees on these boards!

  20. StevenJohn says:

    @thirdbase:

    kepler11 was not being a shill, what kepler11 said is entirely correct ….

    “Most companies this large don’t give out the individual station information, because they simply don’t have enough staff to answer phone calls and do their jobs at the same time.”

    Don’t believe kepler11? Try looking up the local FedEX or UPS terminal telephone numbers in your telephone book. That is a telephone number half the world always seems to need. It ain’t published and you won’t find it very easily on the interweb.

  21. BugMeNot2 says:

    United has outsourced their baggage service offices in most cities. They probably have just forgotten what that number is.

  22. kepler11 says:

    apologies, the link in my first message does not seem to work, try this [faq.ua2go.com] and type in search for “baggage damage”, and click the answer entitled “How do I report damage to my luggage?”

  23. nsv says:

    United has never damaged my luggage.

    They did, however, dump a pot of hot coffee down my back, lift my shirt in front of the cabin to apply something to the burns, and assure me that they were very, very sorry and were taking the situation very seriously.

    I’ve never boarded another United plane and never will.

  24. thirdbase says:

    @kepler11: shill
    @stevenjohn: shill too.
    phonebook? they still have those? I remember them from when I was a kid.

  25. scoosdad says:

    Maybe this is a coincidence or maybe there’s a common baggage handling service for both United and Southwest in Portland: last summer flying into Portland, Southwest rerouted my bags in Chicago into never-never land and they didn’t show up in Portland. Went to the baggage office there and filled in the claim, and I asked for the local number in the office to call back to see if it came in on a later flight. The guy there refused to give me the local number, saying they weren’t allowed to give it out “for security reasons” and that I needed to call the national 800 number on the back of the form instead.

    When he turned his back on me to attend to another customer’s bags, I leaned over the counter and copied the desk phone’s number onto my copy of the form and went on my way. Called a bit later, got a different and very surprised person who first wanted to know how I got the number, but confirmed that my bag had just arrived there on another flight.

  26. I blame the passenger. She should have said NO to the Portland baggage people when they told her to contact the Washington baggage people.

  27. captainleah says:

    if you are not going to let me post please delete my account

  28. gnimsh says:

    My girlfriend visited me in Minneapolis last year (I believe she flew United or possibly American) and when we got her bag from baggage claim, the wire frame had been ripped out at the bottom corner so it scrapes and makes an awful noise on the ground. On the return trip, one of the feet had been knocked off so that it no longer stands up on its own. Also while we were waiting for her luggage, we watched the last bag came out. How do we know it was the last bag? They had spray painted on it, with a very large lettered stencil and in bright orange, the words “LAST BAG.” I know that I would be pissed if they just painted my luggage like that. It is so rude and unthoughtful.

    Now, she also visited me while studying abroad in Austria. She flew to Europe on Lufthansa and then switched over to Austrian Airlines to get here. I would like to note, the European airlines are amazing. Her luggage was late getting in, so they called when it arrived, told us when they would deliver it (9:30 at night even, no waiting til the next day!) and even asked us if we knew that one of the feet was missing and that it had been ripped up. We said yes to both. An Austrian friend of mine said that they have to pay you about 30 euros a day for food and clothing since all your things are lost and it is there fault. Amazing difference. I may complain about the customer service but the airline industry is one place where it is definitely not lacking.

  29. MonaOwl says:

    Comment on United Airlines Will Not Let You Report Your Damaged Baggage For “Security Reasons” I happen to work AT the very place you are talking about. It is possible to be out of forms, isnt it? Just as its possible to be out of another product at another big box store. There is always two sides, perhaps you could tell the readers what damage your bag had? How your bag is? What condition it was in when checked? Not withstanding the absent form, these all play a part in if a damage claim is considered.

    Still at United

  30. LibertyReign says:

    @kepler11:

    Waste of time to do your job?

    FRIENDLY executive?

    Holy crap..

    THis guy is Graham Atkinson!!!

  31. LibertyReign says:

    @StevenJohn:

    Man that’s funny..I thought it WAS their job…

    I am totally confused now..

    What again is customer service supposed to do?

    Break luggage?

  32. LibertyReign says:

    @dgolding:

    Yeah and just like our President they claimed that they were slacking off and doing nothing FOR SECURITY REASONS..

    EXTRA nice..

  33. LibertyReign says:

    @Wheels17:

    yeah remember when the local shmoe was the one trying to be lazy and you used to have to “call corporate” to “get ‘er done”..

    Now every company under the sun goes out of their way to screw us. Thankfully there are still some decent human beings out there who still take pride in their work and are willing to carry-out their job duties to make our day just a little bit easier.

    Very interesting story on how apparent incompetance was merely someone’s poor attitude and people skills.

  34. LibertyReign says:

    @corporateamericabites:

    Right on! I always blame the victim in ANY given circumstance. It is my philosophy for EVERYTHING!

    Broken luggage? Her fault. Being lied to? Her fault.

    People who get on a plane, check in their luggage, and then have the audacity to expect it to arrive with them at their destination in the same condition REALLY tick me off too.