United To Reps: “Delayed Their Flight? Lost Their Baggage? Lie to Them.”

Outside of a small child incessantly kicking the back of your seat and being powerless to reach around and slug him, there’s few things more frustrating in travel than flight delays and lost baggage. No one really likes flying… it’s a slightly filthy, slightly scary, rather expensive cattle car experience that leaves even the most seasoned traveler feeling a bit drained. You just want the ordeal to be over, get home or to your hotel as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always go that way. Luckily, we usually only have to deal with one or the other: either our flight is delayed or our bag is lost. But when Consumerist Laura recently flew with United, they somehow managed both. Oh, and when she asked about her missing bag? The United representative just lied to her face.

Laura’s frustrating tale is after the jump — Consumerist shorthand for “click ‘Read More.'”

On the way back from a business trip, United lost my bag (well, not exactly) and then lied to me about where it was.

The story begins with the plane sitting on the runway 20 minutes after the scheduled takeoff. Nothing appears to be happening, and no announcements have been made. Finally we get some news: apparently there are high winds along our route and the weight on the plane needs to be reduced before takeoff. The captain asks for two volunteers to get off in exchange for a free flight. They in fact get two volunteers, who leave the plane, and finally (45 minutes late) we take off.

When we arrive, I go down to the baggage claim to wait for my bag. I wait about half an hour, and some bags from my flight come down. Then the bags stop, and
mine is still not there. The United baggage claim office now has a line about 30 people long, with no one at all at the counter. I go to ticketing and explain the problem to a manager: my bag is missing, long line at the office, no-one helping people. He tells me with great confidence that the cargo doors on my airplane are frozen shut (plausible; it’s pretty cold out), and that the rest of the bags will be out shortly. He also promises to get someone at the baggage office.

I go back to the carousel and wait patiently, secure in the knowledge that my bag is here and will be out shortly. Eventually a couple of people get to the baggage office and start to slowly work their way through the line of people. I wait another 45 minutes or so. Finally, someone else who was on my flight stops by to tell me that their bag wasn’t on the plane, so I should go wait in the line (still around 10-15 people long).

Turns out they took my bag (and 3/4 of the other bags) off the airplane for the weight restriction issue. Apparently it never occurred to anyone on the plane to tell the passengers that some bags were getting left. No cargo doors were ever frozen shut; the manager lied to me with a straight face for no apparent reason. Oh, and their only obligation is to deliver my bag to me within 24 hours. I never even got an apology from anyone.

Just to make things even more special, I was told my bag would be delivered by 10pm. At around 11 I call the customer service number I was given, since it still hasn’t arrived. I make my way through the incredibly irritating computerized voice recognition system and finally get the message: “We’re sorry, all of our representatives are helping other customers right now. Please call back later.”… and the phone hangs up. I hate waiting on hold as much as the next person, but having to call back and go through the options again, without any guarantee of talking to anyone, really takes the cake.

I keep trying to figure out precisely what United is charging for when flying with them is about 50% more expensive…

Ugh. That’s a boycott-worthy customer service issue if we ever heard one. Fuck ’em, Laura.

Had a similar issue flying the friendly skies? Tell us about it!


Edit Your Comment

  1. Ben Popken says:

    Aaron writes:

    “I can vouch for Laura’s story about United’s awful baggage tracking system.

    My bag didn’t make a connecting several winters ago — I was only home in Tucson for 3 days. As it turned out, my bag hung out in Denver for 2 of those days, even though there were several Denver-Tucson flights a day it could’ve flown back on.

    Trying to reach a person in United’s baggage call center is basically impossible — you can’t wait on hold, you can’t leave a message, and you can’t call baggage staff at any airport.

    I discovered your best bet for getting lost luggage back: Go back to the airport, and stand in line until a Real Live Human Being ™ looks up your bag for you.

    It’s an awful waste of your time, but it works better than getting hung up on by a computer.”

  2. Danilo says:

    Few things inspire a murderous rage better than a phone system that makes me wade through stupid menus, forces me to wait on hold and then disconnects me with a terse “too busy!” message after subjecting me to 15 minutes of pain. I would endorse castration with rusty farm implements for every single corporate decision maker who has ever approved such a measure.

  3. billhelm says:

    A similar thing happened to me on Sun Country, our local low fair airline. We took them to LA last summer for my cousin’s wedding. They have one flight a day there from Minneapolis and use Delta as their baggage handler under contract. Apparently they had been overweight the day before and had to put a bunch of those bags on my flight, which bumped a bunch of our luggage off. They told us it wouldn’t come in until the next night on the next sun country flight. Luckly, someone at the airline figured out that they would probably have to put the bags on other airlines and we got our stuff sooner than that.

    This happens more often then people think, I believe. It’s personally happened to me 3 times.

  4. jmont says:

    I flew on United Airlines back on the 1st week of march. After I arrived at my final destination, I noticed that my baggage was not there.

    I had a limo waiting for at the airport, which I had to make wait for about an hour. I went to a baggage rep who told me that they have located the baggage and they will send it to my house ASAP.

    A few days later they said taht they could not find my luggage. Over 2 months latter, I have still not heard from the airline to resolve my claim.