WASHINGTON DULLES/ TORONTO PEARSON -- I am writing to you in regards to an issue I have with United Airlines. Iâm hoping you can help me with my story because I think that consumers should have some sort of voice as well as valuable information before they chose to fly with various airlines. My matter started on Wednesday July 25, 2007. I flew from Aruba to Washington (UA974) and than Washington to Toronto (UA7794). I was in Aruba for 2 weeks on a vacation as well as visiting a friend. When I arrived in Toronto both of my bags were not there, this is where my nightmare started. Not only did they misplace one bag but both of my bags did not arrive. After all of the baggage was picked up from our flight I went to speak to a United representative. He assured me that one of my bags was on the next flight, landing an hour or so after mine. I waited 3 hours after my flight arrived to see if my bag was there and it wasnât. The United representative made me fill out a lost luggage report and again reassured me that they were both still in Washington waiting to be placed on the next flight to Toronto. This unfortunately was not the case at all. Since it was 2:30 am by the time I left the airport I left everything for the next day since I was exhausted.
The very next morning I called the lost baggage customer support number and again was told that both of my bags were last scanned in Washington and still waiting to be placed on the next flight to Toronto. He told me that because of weight issues they May not have been put on the plane, therefore once again left behind. He told me to call back in 3 hours and check for any updates. Following their instructions I called back again. With every phone call I placed I had to give every possible piece of information (my name, my address, phone number, airport I filled out my lost baggage report, my baggage claim number, the flight which I flew on etcâ¦ taking at least 5-10 minutes before I could even voice my issue). After giving the representative all my information I would be placed on hold for another 5 minutes, with the explanation that they are inputting my information and checking for any updates. The representative would than come back on the line and tell me to please continue waiting. The music they play while on hold is perhaps the most unappealing music Iâve ever heard; it has the potential to drive a person crazy.
From the very first day I was patient and understanding with the representatives and aware that humans make mistakes (mistakes meaning misplacing my suitcases). Once the representative came back on the line for the second time he told me that he would call me in an hour because he was positive that they would both be on the next flight. From the very beginning I was told that they were sending priority messages to the Dulles airport and would have some response within the next few hours. I waited and waited at my house because I did not want to miss any phone call regarding the whereabouts of my suitcases. Two hours later I still did not receive a phone call so I called back again to see why I didnât and check for any updates. After going through the initial information stage I was told now that it âseemsâ that my bags are in the Washington airport because they were last scanned there. So I went from being assured that my bags are there awaiting a flight to it âseemsâ that they are there. With that being said I began to feel as though each representative had lied to me so they would not have to deal with the problem themselves and get me off the phone in order to place my problem on someone elseâs shoulder. I was told again that the rep. was sending another priority message to the Dulles airport because they still did not respond to the previous ones. I was told to call back the following morning at 9 am to check for any updates which I agreed with.
DAY 3 â DAY 6
Threw out the following days I had placed the same phone calls. I spoke to various representatives that told me the same thing; it seems they are in the Washington Dulles airport and because of weight issues on the plane they are still being held at the Washington airport. I spoke with representatives at least 3 times a day, each time I spoke with a different representative. It is torture for a person to go through the agonizing process of providing information, staying at or close to home in case of a phone call as well as hearing the same speech over and over again in regards to sending priority messages and saying that they understand. In one phone conversation I was told again that a rep. would call me back in 3 hours with any information good or bad therefore I stayed home waiting for yet another phone call which again never came. So once again I called back asking why I did not receive and phone call and this time I was told that someone tried to get a hold of me but I was not available. This was a blatant lie because I was sitting at home the entire time. Even if I was on the phone, which I was not, we have call waiting as well as voicemail therefore I could be reached at all times. The rep. asked me if there was another number to reach me at which Iâm not sure why because Iâm fully aware that they did not try to get a hold of me. I told her that there was not because my cell phone charger was in my baggage therefore I donât have it on me but there is a voicemail that would pick up if called. In the end I did not give her my cell phone number because I knew it was useless and overall a lie that they told me. This time I asked to speak to a manager or someone with more authority and I was told that it could not be done because it was a call centre. The fact that there was no supervisor frustrated me and made me feel like the size of an ant in a big world.
This caused me to take matters into my own hands, well try to anyway. I went online and tried searching for any possible information I could. I got the Dulles airport number and contacted them. I left two messages saying that Iâm looking for two bags that were misplaced in the airport. I gave detailed information and said that United representatives have continuously tried contacting reps. at the airport and have not had any response. After the second message I left a nice lady returned my call and left me a message saying that she had one bag in the lost and found that matched my description but she had already located the owner of the bag. She also provided me with the number of the United lost and found at the Dulles airport (703-572-7799). I began calling and calling that number but to this day (August 7th) no one has answered this number and there is not answering machine to leave a message. Once again I left overwhelmed with despair, hopelessness, and frustration.
In the mean time I continued calling the lost baggage centre and was repeatedly told the same thing over and over again. This call centre must be outsourced somewhere because each person had accents as well as ethnic/cultural names, which I have no problem with, and also had no further information to give me. I believe all they have is email and some sort of switch board to relate messages. Iâve asked them numerous times to personally call the Dulles airport reps, some reps. told me that could not be done, while some put me on hold saying they will do so and come back on line saying no one is answering their call. Therefore I donât even know if they in fact tried making the call or if they just put me on hold and waited a while, came back on the line with me and said no one is answering. With each phone call I felt smaller and smaller and more helpless in the matter but I continued to be patient and kind with every individual I spoke with.
In this time I also wrote various emails to any email address I could locate on the United website as well as consumer story web pages. All I got in return, with the ones that actually emailed me back, was that they would forward my information to the lost baggage department. I basically completed one big circle and did not gain one ounce of progress.
Basically after a week of phone calls and emails I was still at a dead end. All I managed to get was lengthy conversations with unhelpful representatives, busy signals, useless emails, zero information regarding the whereabouts of my luggage, frustration, loss of employment, stress, frustration, and anger that simply no one with United cares about these issues. My life has been turned upside down because I have no casual clothes, no work clothes, no shoes, no dresses for upcoming weddings I must attend, no personal hygiene products, no electronics, no memorable items I bought in Poland while visiting my grandparents early this year. This situation is so very overwhelming and in order to understand it one must personally go through it themselves.
One week had gone by so I decided that Maybe there is more information out there that could help me with my situation. I decided to go to a travel agency and see if they could give me any advice or contact numbers that would be useful with this matter, First, I went to CAA, I figured that since they are a travel agency as well as insurance providers they would definitely have some sort of information. This was very untrue. All they told me was to call the lost baggage telephone number and that is the only I can do. I was discouraged to hear that but I tried one more place. I went to a local travel agency and a lady helped me as best she could. I was, and continue to be, very appreciative of her kindness. She took all of my information and did the best she could to contact the United customer service as well as find me any other numbers that could be useful for my case. She provided me with another number for the United customer service at the Dulles airport. I called this number but all I got was a recording that stated that they no longer take voicemails regarding bag descriptions because of the volume of messages left, instead they said to email the description to an address. I did as they said. I provided every ounce of information regarding my flight, times, bags etcâ¦ All they respond back to be is that they are sorry about my missing backs, provide me with a form I need to fax or mail in and that is all. It once again gets me absolutely no where.
Out of the couple of hundreds of phone calls I made to the customer service department I was told a few times that one of my bags was forwarded to the Toronto airport but it was not scanned there after arrival. With that being said I thought that perhaps my one bag was sitting in the lost and found at the Pearson airport and possibly had its name tag ripped off.
I phoned the Toronto Pearson Airport to see if I could speak to a United rep. from the airport but I was told they do not deal with phone calls and the best way to contact them is to personally come speak with them face to face and even then they May not be useful. It wasnât a surprise that the gentleman at the help desk told me they are uncaring.
With that information I called a friend of mine up and we drove an hour and a half to the airport. First we went into the lost and found in Terminal 1. When I saw the complete mess and lack of security in the airport my heart sunk. There were rooms of lost luggage that did not have any doors, luggage thrown and left sitting by the walls, and people every where waiting for their own luggage by the carousels. The lost and found was in the same giant room where travelers on Canadian flights where picking up their luggage. Basically if anyone wanted to take an extra suitcase or two it could have been done in a heart beat with no questions asked. I walked around to each pile and room with suitcases. I saw damaged suitcases, where the entire contents of a peopleâs bags were lying on the ground, empty suitcases piled up at the corners of the walls in the room. Actually when I was in one room there was a man loading all the empty suitcases on a cart, most likely destined for the garbage. I was so angry to see this sort of chaos and lack of security and professionalism.
There is an incredible amount of security before boarding a plane (you cannot bring water bottles on some flights or lighters or nail files, you have to take your shoes off and your belt off while going through customs, you must place all your items through various security measures before boarding a plane but afterwards it is all out of your hands. I understand why we have such security in customs but why is it that then is comes to an individuals personal property they provide no security at all. My one and only thought was that if Toronto Pearson is so unorganized, lacks security, and is much smaller than the Washington Dulles airport, I cannot imagine what goes on there. Iâm sure it is a 100% worse with all the concourses, shuttle buses, and volumes of people.
When I finally reached the front of the line at the lost and found desk (at least a half hour later) the gentleman I spoke to was very unfriendly. I questioned the security of the lost luggage and he cold heartedly told me that if I want to steal a camera than I should go ahead if I want to be placed in jail. I was shocked by his response. I had no words to say to him because I knew if I did I would lose my cool. I simply said that I myself would never do such a thing but there are people in this world that would and because people like that exist there should be more security protecting peoplesâ property, especially after I saw the condition of some lost suitcases and the lack of care for them. He than said there is security at the doors but surely enough when we walked out there was not one person standing there to even look as though they have any sort of security. I honestly could not even fathom his response and the disorder of that airport. The lost and found rep. provided me with a sheet and told me to wait in the main section of the airport and someone will escort into the international section of the airport, where I initially waited for my luggage on July 25th. My friend had to wait outside for me because only one individual can go through customs at a time. The man eventually came and took me to that section of the airport. There I found some more lost luggage, not nearly as much as in the other section, but here at least you needed to be escorted and pass customs. I looked for my luggage and nothing. I went up to the United information desk where I found an unpleasant man. I asked him to help me or provide some assistance in locating my bags. All he did was type in my claim number and told me that they have not been located.
With all the new technology within airports it stuns me how 2 bags can be traced, misplaced, and then not located. The incredible tracing systems they have are nothing more than a joke. He told me to call the customer service number which I told him Iâve been doing for the past week, 3-4 times a day. And this is how he left things with me, he turned his attention to something else. I was so upset with the lack of competence any of the United employees have. The nice man that escorted me into the that section told me to go upstairs and try speaking with the manager there, so that is exactly what I did.
I went to the section of the airport where passengers were checking their baggage with United. After waiting in line with the current passengers it was obvious that it would take way too long to get to the front of the line. I told the others that I was simply asking the reps. to radio a manager and it would only take a minute to do. Most were understanding but the lady working pretty much shrugged me off until I repeated that all I would like is to speak with a manager and not her. She finally did and then told me he would be there in less than 5 minutes. A gentleman came and all he did was radio another manager. After roughly 15-20 minutes a man by the name of Philip, a United manager, came. He was extremely pleasant and told me he would personally follow up with my case. He took me to a room where after 72 hour lost baggage sits. In this room there was a man opening up baggage and checking the contents, Iâm assuming to help identify the owner of the bag. Here again I did not find any of my bags. Philip reassured me once again that they would be found. He said that Dulles is located in the capital of USA and that it would be found. I felt confident after speaking to him that my bags would be located and safely returned. My friend as well thought the same. He also says bags are often misplaced but 99% of the time they are always located. He said himself that he had lost a bag and it had been 6 weeks and he still hasnât found it. Again he stated that they would find the bag and I would get it back soon. He provided me with a direct number to reach him at and told me to call him the next day around 3 pm, he even told me that I might hear form him before than but if I donât and he doesnât hear from me he will call me anyway. I was overjoyed to hear his words and left the airport that day feeling sure that I would see my bags again.
Philip also told me at some point in our conversation, that I was responsible for my baggage in the Dulles airport. He said that I was supposed to pick up my bags and go through customs there which I know for a fact is not true. My friend that I visited never once has had to do that because you go through the US customs in the Aruba airport. I told him I did not have to do such a thing while flying down to Aruba and he responded by saying I did not have to do that because I went through US customs in Canada. That is true I did do that in the Toronto airport. But I also had to in Aruba. It was humorous that he was trying to place the responsibility of my lost baggage on me and my failure to be an informed traveler.
The way he spoke about it made me question if I in fact I did have to pick up my luggage in Dulles and go though customs there. Once I got home I spoke to my friend who lives in Aruba and I was reassured that not once have they ever had to do such a thing because there is a US customs in Aruba.
That morning I once again called the lost baggage customer service number, I never stopped checking for any updates with them, but all I was told was that they were still not located. It did not affect me as much because I was under the impression that Philip was personally looking into it himself and he would have more information for me. I waited for 3 oâclock to roll around and I made my call. There was no answer all it did was ring and ring and ring. I was understanding because I knew that they are constantly busy around the airport, dealing with customers and searching for bags. I called numerous times that day and still no answer and I did not hear from Philip either. So once again I became discouraged. Once again I hit a dead end, back to square one.
DAY 10 - 12
I continued calling the lost baggage service line, once again speaking to a variety of reps. that asked the same questions and told me the exact same things; no updated information has been provided to them. Not even one bit of information has changed since July 25th . Iâve been wearing the same clothes repeatedly and the same shoes. I do not have money to purchase new items because I am a university student that has tuition to pay for, books, rent, bills etcâ¦ The ticket itself cost me $800, therefore leaving me with a decrease in my finances.
Day 13 (August 7,2007)
Today I finally reached Philip and he had nothing to say. I honestly do not think he even remembered who I was. This time he was very unpleasant. It seems as though the only reason he was kind to me at the airport was to get me out of the airport as fast as he could. I asked him if it seems they are permanently lost now and he said yes. I now have to fill out a claims form which takes 6 weeks to be processed again leaving me with no money or progress. He got me off the phone as quick as he could by just saying fill it out send it in and thatâs all I can do. I even offered to fly down to Dulles many times to look myself for my bags and speak to representatives down there but he said , as well as the reps., that is just a waste of time. I now feel hopeless and angry.
After getting off the phone with him I went online to check for the telephone number for the United headquarters in Chicago. I found it and called. First they say to punch in the extension or punch in the name of the individual you are trying to contact or wait on the line. I waited on the line and an answering machine picked up and said to leave a message but after the voice stopped talking the machine hung up, thus making sure no one who does not know anybody within the building can leave a message. I tried back once again and a lady picked up, I told her I would like to speak with someone with authority regarding an issue Iâve had with United, she did not say anything and a couple seconds later another lady came on the phone, she asked which department I would like to speak with and I told her Iâve already spoken with the lost baggage department but as soon as I said lost baggage she put me through to the headquarter number again. The same menu came up but instead of picking up the phone again no one answered and the line went dead. I called back again and still no answer. Basically they do not want to deal with any complaints about lost baggage. They could not care less about their customersâ issues and why would they when they are getting paid an incredible amount of money while everyone suffers. United simply does not care about its passengers.
What I donât understand is how my baggage could have been lost, not one but both bags. First of all it was last scanned in the Washington Dulles airport and did not make it to the Toronto Pearson airport. Therefore it was left behind. There is no way BOTH of my bags grew legs and walked out of the airport, so all I can say at this point either it was stolen by a traveler or employee of United or the Dulles airport or it was thrown on another flight somewhere in the world and United is not doing anything to locate it within the world by systematically tracing it.
The way in which the customer service representatives handled my problem sickens me, the fact that no one, I mean no one, cares about it is discouraging and should not be allow to happen within todayâs time. No explanation was ever provided to me. People every where should be informed of the lack professionalism and competence United has to offer. It disgusts me how big conglomerates can walk all over the âsmallâ people of the world and their property.
By writing my story I am hoping that all travelers will be informed of Unitedâs true intentions and professional identity. I am aware of the fact that I will most likely never see my luggage again but if this story prevents someone else experiencing the nightmare that I have had to deal with than it is all worth it.
I am forwarding this story to all possible news outlets and customer report agencies and defenders in hope that someone will help me share my story, along with many othersâ, and to eventually modify the responsibilities of airlines and in this specific case United airlines.