United Airlines Says It Will Deliver Your Luggage Within 25 Minutes

United is already one of our more entertaining airlines when it comes to stories—they’ve rerouted direct flights without telling ticket holders, given us duct tape heroics, and hire Disney executives to improve customer service (we hope that means pilots dressed up as giant huggable pilots). Now comes news that they’re pledging to reduce waiting times for baggage from nigh-infinity to 25 minutes, as part of a comprehensive new “Customer Commitment” pledge to improve customer service and avoid Federal intervention.

Before you get too excited, the commitment isn’t binding in any way, cautions a United bigwig:

“While we may not be achieving this delivery time consistently, we are setting the standard to ensure our customers know they should be able to expect it from us,” [United CEO Glenn Tilton] said.

Not everyone (anyone?) is convinced this amounts to little more than empty promises in lieu of last week’s Federal report that “complaints over airline service reached a seven-year high in July.” One industry expert, Joe Brancatelli, put it this way to the Rocky Mountain News:

“Airlines are all running scared because they’re afraid of congressional action. These are just their benchmarks and goals. We’ve been here before. It’s obvious that the big airlines just don’t care. It’s not as if they’re doing this to improve customer service. They just don’t want a federal mandate. “

The new 12-Point Customer Commitment, which was last updated in 1999, is available for your amusement on the official United website. If you still have any complaints after this new set of guidelines, you’ll be happy to know that they’ll try to respond to you within 45 days.

“United sets delivery goal of 25 minutes for bags” [Deseret News]
“United moves to remedy complaints” [Rocky Mountain News]

12-Point Customer Commitment at United.com
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. jamesdenver says:

    That would be of great news to me! That is if I ever checked luggage. 25 minutes you say? Why sir taxi driver and I can usually be at or near my destination by then.

    Thanks for reminding me what big time wasters those huge ugly behemoths are – belching out bags to the delight and dismay of the hordes swarming over it’s evil shiny belly.

    I’ll pass. A small backpack and my messenger bag is all I use and need.

  2. stubblyhead says:

    If they can manage this at SeaTac, I’ll eat my hat. I don’t think it’s ever taken me less than an hour to get my bags there, regardless of the time.

  3. Sonnymooks says:

    If you have the money, your better of spending it on a luggage forwarding service such as luggageforward.com or virtualbellhop.com Either that or bring no luggage with you, or just deal with the crappy service if you have to.

  4. timmus says:

    “A comprehensive new customer commitment pledge to avoid Federal intervention.” Shorter is better.

  5. Mr. Cynical says:

    Ohhhh, United. I recall earlier this year they lost my luggage three weeks- IN A ROW. Once from Chicago, once from Denver, once from Los Angeles- all United hubs. Even as a 100K Flier, their “priority” luggage tags obviously don’t make the slightest bit of difference.

    When I called to complain after the third time, they offered me two “500-mile upgrade” credits… of which I already had about 30, if I recall, because they give 100K Fliers these upgrades for free each month (4/month, typically).

    The United Rep said that that was the best they could do for someone who flies 100,000 miles per year.

    The only answer is to use CARRY ON luggage. It’s your safest bet. And, other frequent fliers may have noticed, United is not enforcing their ‘size’ policy nearly as much for carry-ons, in an effort to encourage carry-ons (read: less checked luggage equals less lost luggage on United’s part).

    Even beyond luggage, I’ve learned it’s all an illusion with United. Flying United with status is better than flying another airline without status- but rest assured, they treat everyone pretty poorly. My stories of disappointment are endless.

  6. wymanator says:

    This is just more evidence of why airlines need a major makeover. Who in their right mind thinks that waiting around for 25 minutes for one’s luggage is a good experience?

    They ought to get the new Disney exec to implement an in and out of the airport strategy which rivals that of some of the Disney rides!

  7. rickhamilton620 says:

    25 Minutes, I really wouldn’t mind waiting that long when I have pressing things like meetings to go to! Thanks United!!


  8. BugMeNot2 says:

    Having worked in baggage handling, I can tell you that most airlines have performance goals for what we call “baggage delivery”. At WestJet in YYZ, the aim was to have all bags delivered within 15 minutes of the first passenger arriving in the baggage hall. With respect to narrow-body and bulk-loaded baggage, during peak times and on heavy flights with many passenger connections, this time could easily reach between 30 or 40 minutes. Offloading flights with many connections take a lot of time as the bags are to sorted as they are unloaded. Rest assured, in off-peak periods, bags can be completely offloaded and on the carousel before the first passenger even arrives in the arrival hall (of course, this was also when we were not understaffed, which is also typical in off-peak hours).

  9. crnk says:

    @FrequentFlyer: With “100k” miles a year under your belt, I’d sure hope you know to travel with carry on only. Not to kill your credibility, but someone who needs to state how much business they give anyone generally doesn’t know much about the subject.

    From a general perspective, 25 minutes from ARRIVAL is not the same as waiting 25 minutes for a bag. I have done plane-street with immigrations in under 10 minutes EXACTLY ONCE….with carry on only and in the front row of coach. But, most people take 10 minutes to get off the plane and 10 minutes to walk to the baggage area. So, you have maybe 5-10 minutes of waiting for a bag–I wouldn’t say that it is unreasonable…

  10. FLConsumer says:

    CRNK: depends on what United’s definition of “arrival” is. If that’s 25 minutes from the time the wheels hit the tarmac, then this isn’t bad. More than likely, this will translate out to arrival of passengers at baggage claim.

  11. CurbRunner says:

    Sounds to me like those baggage handlers will be flinging backs around like basket balls to meet a 25 minute turnover goal. Most likely will result in more damaged baggage.

  12. lyndyn says:

    Wow. I’ve never waited more than five minutes for my luggage, even at huge hub airports and medium-sized, overworked airports. (I’ve collected checked baggage from Denver, Nashville, and JFK in the past week.) Usually, the carousel is powering up just as I’m arriving from my gate, and I have my stuff in hand 2-3 minutes later. Love, love, love the JetBlue.

  13. andros says:

    What’s really confusing me is, how can they make such a commitment, straight-faced?

    That’s like a public transportation company guaranteeing their busses will never be late – since they don’t directly control infrastructure busses use, or traffic around the busses, they can’t guarantee busses will always be on time unless that ‘on time’ has a generous safety margin built in.

    Same way, AFAIK, United doesn’t own or directly control airport infrastructure in charge of baggage sorting and handling. Without direct control over whole process, how can they commit to such a small time window?

    Well, I guess they can keep people sitting on the plane / tarmac until baggage is on the carousel, thus meeting their guarantee :P