If you have ever wondered what happens if your checked luggage on a United flight is damaged and you complain, this is one possibility.
My checked luggage was damaged after a domestic United flight from SFO to EWR had me check my rolling carry-on because of the overhead bins being full. Gate checked, I think, is the term for it.
The flight itself was disappointing. Neither the screen in front of me nor the WiFi worked, so I could not see the end of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, which I had started on the TPE to SFO leg. I settled down for a long nap.
When I arrived in Newark, my brother called to ask where I was. I told him I had just gotten off the plane and was on my way to the baggage claim. After getting my baggage, I called my brother to come get me now that I had gotten my— “Hey! There is a big crack in my luggage! I am going to complain! I will call you after I am done.”
This is not the first time I have had damaged luggage after travelling with United. I did not complain then, counting it towards the risks of travelling and being reluctant to because of being tired. This was the second time, though, and I was awake after my very long nap.
I went to the Baggage Claim Counter for United. I explained, “I checked my baggage on the flight from San Francisco and it got cracked. I would like to complain.” I was not quite sure of how to complain.
“May I see?” asked the baggage lady.
I looked down to realize that I had accidentally presented the damaged luggage with the crack facing me. Quickly, I turned it around.
She leaned down to inspect it, confirmed the existence of a large crack parallel to the bottom, and began filling out a form. She scanned the checked luggage tag and noted the brand and type. I was asked how old the luggage was (“3 years.”) and how much it cost (“My aunt gave it to me so I do not know. I’m sorry.” “That’s okay,” she assured me.)
While she checked my address, phone number, and email address, a neighboring baggage lady retrieved my poor bag’s replacement from a side room. The new one was bigger because they had no suitcases as small as the one that was damaged. When asked if the replacement was all right, I asked whether it fit in the 21 inches—
“Yes,” said the lady who retrieved the new bag quickly. I think she was relieved that the matter of dimensions was my only hesitation and why I had been taken aback by the presented luggage.
Then this was fine, said I.
We all smiled.
I received a little card with a claim number and the word “DAMAGED” was blocked in large gold letters on the side of the old luggage (to prevent people from scamming the airline with the same bag repeatedly, I joked to my brother afterwards.) The card was for formality only because the matter was already taken care of.
And that was that.
I think the only downside is that the new luggage is listed as 20″ but, with wheels, is more like 22″. This means it may not fit in the overhead of smaller planes and may be too large for some European and Asian airlines. Furthermore, although bags are usually eyeballed, I have been on at least two US flights over the last 15 years where someone dragged a metal luggage checker over and had the passengers put their carry-ons into the luggage checker before letting them board.
I am satisfied with my treatment and the replacement. The process was easy and quick, taking about 10 minutes. I would have preferred a replacement that was also 20″ or 21″ with wheels, but I think the baggage claim ladies did the best they could under the circumstances.