Luggage Emerges From United Airlines Flight Totally Mauled

A Gothamist reader’s bags didn’t show up until three days after she got off the United Airlines flight, and when they did, they looked like they’d been ravaged by the gnashing of an angry monster. The bags and contents were torn, soaked, and moldy, and several items were missing.

My money is on an acute automated baggage system attack.

Despite being a “premier” United Mileage Plus member, her efforts to get restitution through customer service haven’t borne any fruit. No wonder some frequent travelers resort to FedExing their luggage.

What Did United Airlines Do To This Luggage? [Gothamist] (Thanks to Kate!)


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  1. scoccaro says:

    How frustrating! Even if they were to provide restitution, it still doesn’t bring your stuff back.

  2. Urgleglurk says:

    Looks like it got caught in a high-speed bag conveyer system.

  3. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Is that “luggage” or a duffel bag? Not blaming the OP, but machinery and hanging straps attached to something soft don’t mix well.

    • Alvis says:

      Sounds like a problem with the machinery. Luggage can have all sorts of straps, and a machine that can’t handle that is ill-equipped for airline use.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        You can’t make a machine 100% “anti-rip your luggage apart proof”. Things happen. But a hard sided/reinforced suitcase could have withstood something like that.

    • dreamfish says:

      … and did the airline say “This is very likely to be mangled by our machinery and you lose items from it?”. I doubt it.

      If they really thought that they’d have suggested he gets the bag wrapped in cellophane or something similar.

      • jacques says:

        Not to defend United, but their Contract of Carriage does mention that straps and hooks should be secured or removed.

      • Bativac says:

        I flew from Rome into the US back in 2007. I checked a large travel backpack. They said almost exactly that and asked me if I was SURE I wanted to check the bag. I had no other options so I said yes, but I appreciated them warning me ahead of time.

      • Murph1908 says:

        No, because it isn’t “very likely” that it will happen. But soft sided, strappy bags have an increased probablility of getting caught and ripped. Thus, the attendants will warn you.

    • FatLynn says:

      Agreed. Always look for luggage with detachable straps.

    • Murph1908 says:

      I gotta agree with SteveDave. I am not surprised such soft and strappy luggage got caught and torn.

      Last time I flew and forgot to remove the shoulder strap on my garment bag, the attendant said something. And I usually do remove it from a trip a long time ago where they told me to.

    • skapig says:

      It’s cool that employees are giving some warning, but it should either be a firm, publicized policy or the airlines should have to rectify the situation with their clearly inadequate/defective design of their machinery. Either engineer for the current policy or change it.

  4. Salty Johnson says:

    Attention United Airlines baggage workers: The jet engine intake is not a suitable place for baggage transportation. Please store checked baggage in the cargo hold on the underside of the airplane. Thank you.

  5. MDSasquatch says:

    I transported a handgun from Texas to Maryland a few years back on Continental. I bought a brand new, metal case per the airlines requirements and checked it in.

    They somehow managed to destroy the case; looked as if it was run over. Fortunately the gun inside was fine. Unfortunately, continental gave me the royal run-around when I tried to get them to replace the case ($50). They never did and I don’t fly Continental any more.

    • Etoiles says:

      Continental used to be the airline everyone used for their travel at my last job. It was an international organization so we had someone flying around, to or from EWR, pretty much every week. And among my co-workers we had at least one lost or destroyed suitcase a month, some returned completely soaked with mold in them.

      That was enough for me never to spend my own money on Continental.

      • heltoupee says:

        I wonder if stuff’s falling off of the luggage trolleys before it actually gets in the plane, then sitting out on the tarmac for a couple of days in the rain before someone can actually be arsed to go pick it up and send it where it needs to go.

  6. corkangel76 says:

    United is notorious for NOT doing anything for their customers, I had to take them to court twice in the last 3 years, once for not providing a refund for tickets after being told I would.. I won, and got a settlement agreement, and once for their failure to honor the settlement agreement after a year.. They are seriously out for money. period. They could care less about their customers, after flying with then for over 4 MILLION miles!

  7. kgmoome says:

    Looks like a back pack to me. Why didn’t they just carry it on?

  8. ajlei says:

    I fly cross country fairly often for more than a week at a time, and I just bring a carry-on. I never check luggage; hell, I never seem to use all the clothes I bring in the carry-on, anyway.

  9. sirwired says:

    That looks like an inexpensive duffle-bag. When you take a floppy duffle bag, run it through a high-speed, high-power conveyor system… well, imagine what happens if this bag gets caught, and then rammed from behind by some 70lb suitcase. If this happens on one of the loading conveyors during a rainstorm, your stuff is going to get scattered all over the tarmac.

    Friends don’t let friends check floppy luggage.

    I’ve flown for many years, and never once had a piece of luggage, or any contents, get badly damaged, beyond normal wear-and-tear. The key is to use decent luggage, and dispose of luggage before it catastrophically fails. If the zipper starts not closing properly, throw the suitcase away; don’t rely on the airline to magically prevent it from popping open. If the corners start to fray because of friction damage, don’t wait for a seam to fail. You get the idea… The last thing you want is to see a big trash bag with your name on it rolling down the conveyor.

    I now use Briggs & Riley luggage; expensive, but indestructible, and a warranty that doesn’t mess around with disclaimers. (The warranty: If your bag ever gets functionally damaged (as opposed to cosmetic damage), they fix or replace it. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is, or how long you’ve had it. It covers zippers, wear and tear, airline damage, the whole works… and no fees for warranty service, unlike some other high-end luggage suppliers *cough* Tumi *cough*…)

  10. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    I’d love to take a billet of aluminum, mill it to the shape of a suitcase, paint it, and see how much damage each airline inflicts.

    • TPA says:

      It wouldn’t last — the TSA apes managed to severely dent the side of my Macbook Pro’s case on my last flight. So much for the aluminium allowing for more durability.

      • hoi-polloi says:

        You checked a computer? You’re either much braver or more trusting than I am. When I bring my computer, I always carry it on. (We’re also talking about an increasingly dated G4 iBook.)

  11. AugustaCassiopeia says:

    They charged that person $25 for the privilege of having their luggage trashed and Airlines wonder why people want to shoot someone.

  12. grebby says:

    That’s not luggage, it’s a flimsy gym bag. They may as well have packed their belongings into a Hefty bag.

  13. sweaterhogans says:

    Growing up in a family where my dad causes us to miss almost every flight (last time it was because he was dying his mustache…), I’ve always been a little paranoid when it comes to flying. Now that I’m adult and have learned how to pack properly, I refuse to check in bags unless I’m going on a major trip (like visit family in India for 2 wks). However, when I go on vacation I tend to buy things that I can’t carry on, like knives and other such prohibited items. I’m going to Japan in September, and Consumerist, you have made me the most anxious, paranoid person in the world. I am terrified of them ruining a trip that I’ve been wanting to do since I was 14. I’m flying Air Canada most of the way, but I have to fly to Toronto from Philly with US Airways Express. I’m so scared that my flight will be delayed or that they’ll break/lose my luggage on the way home. I’ll need to take some valium while flying…

    • HungryGal says:

      Deep breath. You can just UPS your souvenirs home.

      • sweaterhogans says:

        I know, but shipping knives and cast iron pans from Tokyo to Philly is REALLY expensive! I’m sure that’s what I’ll end up doing though.

  14. teke367 says:

    Maybe we’ve found the dog that was lost on the airline, it probably hasn’t eaten much, started munching on luggage.

  15. hoi-polloi says:

    I frequently fly with a large backpack which is covered with straps, web pockets, and zippers. I’d fully expect it to get destroyed on an automated conveyer belt. It’s the poster child of things every airline cautions you about. I strap everything down tight and put it in an old-school heavy army duffel. You should assume the worst will happen and pack your bag accordingly. It sucks that her bag and its contents were so mangled, but it doesn’t look like she took much action to prevent it.

  16. Keavy_Rain says:

    What she needs to do is write a song about her experience.

  17. baristabrawl says:

    I like Frontier.

  18. FishtownYo says:

    She had SEVERAL thousands of dollars in that cheap ass backpack? I call BS. Who checks those things anyway?

  19. djlotus says:

    At least she got some trendy clothes out of the situation. Not for me that’s for sure but some people might enjoy it.