Engagement Ring Disappears From Force-Checked Bag On United Flight

Brad flew halfway across the country to propose to his girlfriend, but the engagement ring that he picked out didn’t make the trip. He was forced to check his carry-on, and somewhere between handing over his bag to United employees and landing in Boston, the lock came off his bag and the engagement ring mysteriously disappeared. United claims no responsibility because he didn’t contact someone in the airport soon enough. Which is funny, because he did, and encountered an indifferent response. For which United later apologized.

Back in December I was flying from KC to Boston so that I could propose to my girlfriend of nearly 4 years. She had moved out east to live closer to her parents and begin nursing school while I finished up my degree at Kansas State. She was flying me out there to take me to a football game, and I decided that was the appropriate time to propose to her, apparently United Airlines did not agree.

I had just a carry-on bag with me, and decided to place the ring in there since I didn’t want to carry it around in my pocket. Just to be extra careful, I locked the carry-on. I had to connect in Chicago, but while boarding the flight in KC, we were informed that the flight was going to be entirely full and larger carry-ons would have to be force checked at the gate. I did this and received my bag in the jetway upon landing in Chicago. Unfortunately, things did not go so smoothly in Boston. Once again, while boarding the flight to Boston from Chicago my bag had to be force checked. When I landed in Boston and received my bag in the jetway I immediately noticed that the lock was no longer on top of my bag. I exited the jetway and went through my luggage about 10 times before believing that my engagement ring had been stolen. The lock had been completely pried off the zippers and someone had gone through the whole bag, removed the ring from the middle, and placed everything back as it was.

I immediately talked to a woman who was behind the desk at the gate I had just exited, and she sought help from her supervisor. I explained the situation to him and he told me that I should talk to him further in the United baggage office. I waited for 5-10 minutes in the office but the supervisor never showed up. A woman behind the counter finally took notice of me and said “Oh, I think I’m suppose to give this to you.” She handed me a Missing Property Questionnaire. I asked her how this was supposed to help me get the ring back that was literally just stolen from me, and was told that if I didn’t think it would do any good, I didn’t have to bother sending in the form. I didn’t have time to argue further at the airport since my girlfriend was at the airport to pick me up and I couldn’t tell her I just had her engagement ring stolen from me.

When I finally returned home to KC I contacted United again (don’t worry the engagement still happened, I got a replacement ring in time and she said yes but that’s another story). I talked to a supervisor in the Baggage Department on the phone and asked what they were going to do for me. He was extremely apologetic and told me that because this was a force checked bag it would not be treated the same as regular checked luggage because “it was handed to our representative and becomes a matter of integrity on our part.” He apologized more and explained that he couldn’t assist me until the paper work was submitted for my claim. He promised me a $150 voucher just for calling in and also suggested I tell my story to their Customer Relations department. I sent documentation to both departments with letters explaining exactly what happened, my ticket info, and the appraisal for the engagement ring.

A couple weeks later after I had sent in the paperwork, I received a reply from United. In the letter from the Baggage Claim department they explained that because I did not contact anyone in the airport within 24 hours, they never had a chance to recover my property and were therefore, no longer liable. Around the same time I also received a letter from the Customer Relations department apologizing for how poorly their employees acted at the airport and a promise that policies regarding situations like mine would be reviewed. So I had two responses, one for how sorry they were for employees ignoring my problem, and a second response saying it never happened. I went back and forth with the Baggage Claim department. Once they realized their mistake, they changed their excuse for not having to reimburse me to the fact that jewelry is prohibited in checked luggage. Again, I explained how this was a force checked bag handed directly to their representatives, and not simply checked luggage.

Unfortunately, there was no happy ending (although she did say yes). I finally gave up after 3 months of fighting with United. Basically, someone was allowed to steal from my luggage out on the tarmac, and they refused to help me. They then used their own unwillingness to help as an excuse to not be liable (since no one helped me they had no record at the airport of my claim). I got two vouchers from them, but I had to call the Baggage Claim department for two months before they finally emailed me the voucher originally promised when I first called to report it.

If only Brad were a musician, he could write a hit country song called “United Loses Rings,” a love song in which love prevails even without shiny objects. Those of us who are less talented will have to settle for calling executive customer service.

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