For everyone that flies, is going to fly or is even THINKING of flying: If your checked luggage is mis-directed or lost, you are most likely in for a nightmare.
My latest nightmare on Elm Street is with United Airlines. I have been trying to help a former exchange student, Sophie, locate her one and only checked bag that was lost on her trip from Belgium to Northwest Arkansas.
Sophie arrived at Chicago O’Hare to board her final leg to Northwest Arkansas (XNA) At that point she was physically in possession of her bag. She checked it through to XNA then boarded the plane….after a long delay,the passengers were told the flight was cancelled because the pilot did not show up and they could not find one! They were disembarked from that plane and the poor United agents were scrambling trying to find alternate flights for everyone. Sophie was at first told that she would go to Tulsa, then that changed and they flew her to Springfield, MO. Forget the fact that her host family had been waiting at XNA for hours, then were told she was diverting to Springfield!
Sophie arrived very late in Springfield, sans bag. Even though it is HIGHLY recommended that a person file a claim before they leave the airport, she was told NOT to do so by a United agent because it was supposedly not lost but had actually gone on to XNA, where it would arrive the next day. Guess what? Surprise, surprise, it never showed up there. Suffice it to say that nearly 72 hours later, after at least 8 calls to 2 different toll free baggage assistance numbers, the United people still do not know where the bag is, even though it has one of their tags on it…..they have a complete file on the bag, its size, color, brand, contents, as well as the life history of Sophie, her Belgian family and the history of the nation of Belgium. But, AND HERE IS THE GREAT PART, depending on what agent is on the line when one of us calls, we are told that it might be in Chicago, or XNA, or Springfield…or Tombuctoo, or maybe wherever that plane later flew to when they located a pilot or recruited one from the ground crew!
The absurdity of this is almost hilarious! The 800 number agents seem courteous and interested enough, (when we can understand them) but apparently by using the UA online lost luggage locator in which you simply type in your file number, last name and VOILA! Up pops the same info that these agents have on their screens! At the top, in fine print, this appears: Bag 1 Status
Tracing (Sic) Process Continues, check back later Please note that the fact that “tracking” is spelled “tracing” does not inspire confidence in me..
Of course, it is impossible to get LOCAL baggage info numbers for each airport. Even though the NSA and every major credit card company is giving out personal info about all of us to the entire world of crooks, NOBODY has access to these numbers, (well, maybe Edward Snowden, but he’s enjoying borscht in Russia these days).
Even a look at the United Airlines official website gives nothing but these 800 numbers which seem to route your call straight to Pakistan, asking you to press one for English, etc. etc. and then listen to a litany of recorded gibberish which can only be avoided by punching 0 over and over..(Apparently, 0 is the secret code for live people in Pakistan.)
Meanwhile, Sophie has had to go buy clothes at her own expense, not to mention the huge cache of Belgian chocolate that was in her bag and which is probably melting on the tarmac of some god-forsaken airport. Oh, but there is one note of encouragement….UA will reimburse her for interim expenses as long as she saves all her receipts and submits them via snail mail..then if she still doesn’t have her bag after 21 days, it is considered lost and she can file a claim for reimbursement for that. There is however, and of course, a caveat: The owner of the lost luggage must file a claim for said luggage within 24 hours or further claims are void. And since she was told upon her arrival by a United agent NOT to file a claim, she finally filed it after that 24 hour window of time..whoops, looks like that reimbursement was just a fantasy after all.
Looks like United is united only in ways to scam the traveling public after their possessions mysteriously disappear. (Personally, I think it was the chocolate….the sniff dog alerted on it and once they steal it, the bag will suddenly and mysteriously reappear.)
Sincerely and disgustedly, Jeff Middleton, Jasper, Arkansas