UA Baggage Issues - A Rant

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by KenInEscazu, Oct 23, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    This has been the year from hell for me and baggage. First, they destroyed two bags. Ran over them. Crushed beyond repair. A month later, after several broken promises, I had to buy my own replacement and wait another 30 days for them to reimburse me.

    On my first trip after buying the new bags, UA broken the handle off of one of them. They are Briggs and Riley, so I told them to send them back to the manufacturer, as they have a lifetime warranty - including airline-caused damage. They sent them to their regular repair center. The regular repair center couldn't fix them, so they sent them to the manufacturer. The end result is that I'm using a cheap loaner that is not big enough, and not sturdy enough.

    After three weekes, I returned to DFW (the point at which the damage was discovered) where I had been assured the repaired bag would be waiting. It wasn't. On top of that, the first agent I spoke with was rude, and the second agent told me that I have to call Briggs and Riley to find out when they can deliver them to me.

    Living in Costa Rica, I regularly bring back 12 packs of soft drinks that are not available here. I always put each 12 pack in a large plastic bag in case one gets broken. That contains the leak from staining my suitcases. Even though I have them put Fragile tags on every bag, they always break a couple of cans. I once watched a guy at DFW check-in throw one of my "fragile" bags onto the conveyor, landing upside down.

    Tonight I returned home to find two entire twelve packs destroyed. That's more moisture than a plastic bag can contain, so I now have one Briggs and Riley totally stained, along with the cheesy loaner. Not to mention that I can't buy the stuff here, so it's a total loss.

    My daughter had two bags with mostly clothes, but a few fragile items - all wrapped in bubble wrap - loaded in another suitcase marked Fragile. They broke about half of it. Not a lot of money, but irreplaceable until her next trip. And to her, the $100 or so in value is a big loss.

    Finally, I bring back meats from the US that I like. I have a big, rolling cooler that is tough as nails. I tape it closed so well that there is no way it will open. TSA has been opening it recently (don't they have an X-ray machine?) and putting insufficient tape to keep it closed during UA's abusive treatment. Tonight it arrived opened. Dry ice is no longer allowed, so I go to great lengths to buy it, freeze it, secure the cooler and have it marked Fragile. The top third of it was thawed when I arrived tonight.

    If the TSA is supposed to keep us safe, doesn't that include keeping our STUFF safe? Beef brisket, Omaha Steaks, pastrami and kielbasa sausage don't exist in Costa Rica. If the TSA has tape, and they choose to inspect my cooler - fine. Shouldn't they be accountable for closing it back they way they found it? And who the heck can I complain to that will result in any change?

    I'm so wound up I can't sleep. This isn't rocket science. I'm going to wait to write to both UA and the TSA after I have calmed down. Right now (as I'm sure you can see) I am livid.
     
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  2. AZjohn

    AZjohn Silver Member

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    Dang Ken, you sure haven't had much luck with the newUA this year.

    I personally can relate to your story about bringing food and drinks back from the US. I do this a lot here in Switzerland because you just can't get the good stuff here. But, though it sounds like we do the same thing (my soda of choice is root beer) I never had any issues at all (thank God).

    My suggestion, get rid of those "Fragile" stickers, they don't seem to do any good and just might be a big bull’s-eye for some jerk slinging stuff around. Another thing that works for me is I use those hard shell luggage cases. Not the real expensive ones, just the one from Price Club. I have had a few damaged and just threw them away after a couple year, but everything inside remained in one piece.

    I know TSA goes through it because I get that little white sheet of paper inside everytime. And, I don't blame them because I'm sure they don't see bags like mine (well, what's inside) every day and should be kind of suspicious. So I just make sure that the luggage I use they can close the latches just fine and don't have to tape anything.

    I sure hope you have better luck in the future!
    John
     
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  3. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    Glad to hear I'm not the only one in the world who deals with this. I have tried the "no Fragile labels" theory, too, but it has made no difference IME. My soda of choice is caffeine-free diet beverages, including root beer. Although we can often find diet root beer down here, it costs over $1.00/can - even in bulk. Walmart just started carrying my favorite: Caffeine Free Diet Dr. Pepper, but it is always flat after the various temperature changes it must go through in transit.

    I use a large Coleman cooler with wheels and a handle extension. Although it closes snugly, it has no latch. The tape is insurance against it opening during the abuse. It usually makes it with no issues, but not yesterday.

    Like you, John, I am all for the TSA making sure that everything on board is safe, but not at the expense of ruining things for us law abiding passengers. I see one of those white sheets you mentioned in almost every piece of luggage I bring home. No matter how neatly I pack, how well organized my things may be inside, I always find that the contents have been rifled through without respect for my things.

    Having to iron a shirt may be tolerable, but having my Omaha Steaks thawed is not. That's the only brand they allow us to bring into the country. They are expensive, but the bigger issue is that there is no place here where I can replace them at any price. The beef here comes from different breeds of cattle than those used in the USA, and it makes for tough, dry steaks. We have a chain of meat markets here that ages the beef, and although they are the best Costa Rica has to offer, they aren't consistent, nor do they ever rise to the minimum standards of US consumers. A little extra tape would insure that I always get what I paid for.
     
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  4. AZjohn

    AZjohn Silver Member

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    Ken, maybe get one of those one of those belt things I sometimes see around luggage. Adjust it so it's snug around your cooler and when the TSA agents have to clip it back on it will be secure??

    Here in Switzerland they really go out of their way to assure there is no American beef of any kind getting through the boarders. The max each person is allowed in 0.5 Kg (around one pound). Now, all I can share is sometimes it's hard for them to check every bag. :rolleyes:

    And I swear the beef here is really strange tasting. I guess because it's all organic fed and no chemical or DNA messing around is allowed. Whatever it is, it just doesn't taste right and really not worth the money they charge (I can see all our vegetarians friends shaking their heads now....lol:p ).

    Cheers
     
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  5. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    What a great idea! I will definitely be buying one of those. My next rant, therefore, will be how the strap on my cooler got caught on UA's baggage conveyors and spilled $300 worth of food. ;)
     
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  6. iolaire
    Original Member

    iolaire Gold Member

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    Not that it would solve your liquid problem, but have you tried to carry on frozen meat?

    Another option, could you start your return route through a market like SEA, where they deal with lots of frozen food (fish)? I'd expect the tsa to be much easier on coolers there.
     
  7. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions. My cooler yesterday weighed 66 pounds, and I was flying from DFW to SJO via IAH. SEA isn't often an option for me, nor is carrying on my groceries.

    Fortunately, this is the first time that I have had TSA fail to close the cooler to the point that the food was thawing. In my view, that should never happen, however, as simply taping it back the way it was would prevent it. I only wish that UA's abusive handling was equally rare. I truly don't understand why an airline wouldn't train their baggage handlers to simply treat each piece of luggage as if it were their own, then insure that it is done.

    I was really tired when I got home last night, so I was more angry than I would normally have been. Both UA and the TSA will hear from me about this, but I'm not going to let it destroy any more of the valuable time I have here on Earth. I'm going to write much more factual, less emotional letters and let the cards fall where they may. If only people would act they way I want them to. ::heavy sigh:: ;)
     
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  8. Mapsmith
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    Mapsmith Gold Member

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    Just a question, but you probably have already checked.
    Can't Omaha Steaks FEDEX to Costa Rica. I would imagine that they may have some regular customers overseas, and have the necessary export licenses (and gravitas) to make shipping their steaks internationally realistic.
     
  9. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    I'm sure they could, but I'm equally sure that I couldn't afford them if they did. The only affordable means of getting things between here and there is USPS or Correos Costa Rica - each county's respective post office.

    Additionally, I can bring food in with me when I'm traveling, as I can many other personal goods. Items shipped outside of personal travel are taxed at the value perceived by the customs agent. I once had a vendor send me a CD with some product photos - just a simple self-copied CD - and paid $5.00 in taxes. $35 worth of toys for my dog cost $200 in taxes. I don't order ANYthing anymore. I bring everything or I do without it.
     
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  10. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    Not for within 4x of the same price as an extra bag.
     
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  11. tommy777
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    tommy777 Co-founder

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    I often bring wine from Italy and also food from my mom in Norway and to be honest with you, UA, SK, LX or LH have never broken anything. Then again, I don't use Briggs & Riley, which are soft bags, so not even close to being the best bags to transport fragile items in.

    I've got this big, heavy super hard Samsonite I've used for years, perfect to pack wine in. There's no way a can or anything glass would ever break in it. I just bought a Rimowa 30" as well, also hard shell, great bag.

    So my advice to you is to buy a hard shell bag instead. UA (or their handling agents in Costa Rica) can do whatever they want with the bag without breaking what's in it.
     
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  12. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    @tommy777 - you may be right. The Briggs and Riley has a hard shell bottom with a bottom compartment that is not at all soft, but isn't protected from pressure coming from the top side of the bag - other than all the stuff I put in the soft, larger top portion. I put the cans in that bottom section. The cheesy loaner is rigid plastic, but definitely not rigid enough. It is beaten up after just two trips.

    I need to find something indestructible, but large and light. I'll check out the Rimowa and see if it will work. This is the first time I have heard that name. Oddly, I used softer square duffels that I bought at the Container Store before they started cracking down on measurements (it was 66 inches total) and rarely lost a can. I love those bags, but can't risk the oversize charges x 3. They were big enough to hold a bog cooler AND they kept it closed without tape. The bottom is rigid plastic, and that seemed to absorb enough of the abuse to keep the cans safe. I would put clothing or paper products around the 12 pack boxes to absorb side impact, and that worked well.
     
  13. Counsellor
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    Counsellor Gold Member

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    Sorta off-topic, but maybe a solution you could try.

    From your description, it may not just be the breed of cattle that is causing the problem, but rather that the cattle are grass-fed, not grain-fed. Grass-fed (usually range) cattle normally have less marbling in the meat; less marbling means less fat distributed throughout, which in turn results in tougher, dryer steaks when prepared in the American style, since American style preparation usually presumes marbled beef.

    This used to be a problem in Europe as well, since in the old days grain wasn't "wasted" on beef cattle, so they developed ways of preparing the meat that worked with the beef they had available. This included marination and other "tenderizing" methods, but it also included different butchering (different cuts) and slower cooking.

    What you might want to consider is getting European-style cuts and preparing them the way Europeans do/did (you can find cookbooks). A good chateaubriand can be a real treat!
     
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  14. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    I wrote to UA today after giving myself time to calm down and write something intelligible. The good news is that they responded same day. I guess all the emails that built up during the transitional period are now on permanent hold, as I had 6 that were never answered.

    The bad news is that this is the rather canned reply I received:

    Dear Mr. KenInEscazu:​

    Thank you for your email.​

    The experience you describe does not reflect of our commitment to​
    quality customer service.​

    We strive to provide optimum care for all of our customers’ belongings,​
    and I am disappointed to learn your luggage appears to have been handled​
    inappropriately. If necessary, please be sure to file a claim with our​
    Baggage Resolution Center (BRC): 1-800-335-BAGS (1-800-335-2247).​
    Incidents of damaged luggage should be reported to the airport Baggage​
    Service Office immediately after the arrival of your flight, as this​
    will allow our staff to see the damage and decide if the bag needs to be​
    replaced or repaired. ​

    Your assessment of our services is a valuable resource, and I will​
    include your comments in a report that is distributed to senior​
    executives for internal review and necessary corrective action. For more​
    information, please visit our website: http://www.united.com

    As a 1K, you have attained a high level of honor within our company. We​
    want to make every reasonable effort to ensure you receive the service​
    you expect and deserve. I will include your comments in a report that​
    will be shared with our senior management team for internal review and​
    necessary improvements.​

    Thank you for your business as a Premier 1K and we look forward to the​
    privilege of serving you again..​

    Regards,​

    James Baggage-Schmooze​
    Corporate Customer Care​

    I had asked for compensation, as I can't replace some of the stuff that was broken, and my bag is now stained inside. I can clean it, but fortunately I have better things to do with my time. Anyone who actually read my complaint would know that my bag wasn't broken. Gee thanks, Mr. Schmooze.
     
  15. sfogate
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    sfogate Gold Member

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    All checked bags are subject to some pretty harsh treatment. Bags are stacked upon one another,both in the carts and inside the baggage pit/bin. Softsided bags do nothing to protect items from being damaged neither does a fragile sticker. Do yourselves a favor and use a hard sided bag. We do accept bags containing dry ice but you must have your bag vented and only have 5 pounds of dry ice and you must declare that your bag does contain dry ice.
     
  16. AZjohn

    AZjohn Silver Member

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    Could you please give more details regarding "vented"?
    If I make a few small drill holes in my hard case, is this acceptable as vented? Or do we need to purchase a special container?
    Thanks
     
  17. Andycat

    Andycat Silver Member

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    I had a flap ripped off a garment bag on a flight in late September. I didn't notice it until after I'd left the airport and was getting on a cruise ship so didn't have time to return to report the damage. I called UA and made arrangements to deliver the bag for repair on my return.

    Upon return, the baggage agent had no record of the phone call and said I would need to call the baggage hotline, but that I could leave the bag with them. Baggage hotline said too much time had elapsed and there was no option to escalate.

    I've tweeted, posted on Facebook, e-mailed, and now postal mailed details to UA. 3-Nov will be 10 days from when they received the letter (I sent return receipt requested). If I have no response by then, I'll be filing a DOT complaint at http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/escomplaint/es.cfm
     
  18. jswong
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    jswong Gold Member

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    What an unpleasant experience!

    My experience just a few days ago on Thai was quite different. Flew LHR-BKK in first on an award. I checked in a 20 inch B&R which was about 3 years old. It arrived missing a wheel (I shudder to think about the force required to do this). Anyway filed a claim. TG arranged for a baggage repair company to come to my hotel (staying at the St Regis where the concierges were wonderful). Not surprisingly they decided that they could not repair the luggage

    Ultimately I was given the choice of a replacement bag (no thanks... I can just imagine what would have been provided) or Cash. I was asked the age and cost of the luggage which I recalled was about 250 USD and I was given 7500 Thai Baht which was delivered to the hotel

    The concierge team made most of the calls and contacted me while I was out and about several times and I gave them a good tip. Also grateful to TG for their very speedy handling of this all

    Replaced it with a Rimowa :)

    Jeff
     
  19. estnet
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    estnet Gold Member

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    My condolences. Do u think the large plastic bottles would have a better chance of standing up to UA's ( mis) treatment?

     
  20. sfogate
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    sfogate Gold Member

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    I would accept your bag with holes drilled into it as being vented. There has to be a way for the dry ice to vent/escape from whatever it's packed in. That's why we do not accept styrofoam coolers but will accept the plastic hard ones IF they have that drain hole.
     
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  21. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    I have been told repeatedly that I can't take dry ice in my checked baggage. Period. Why the inconsistency?
     
  22. 2wheels

    2wheels Silver Member

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  23. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    Thanks for the link. You are right, but it also says that they want to charge me $200 between USA and Costa Rica. I had forgotten that part. Plus they want it labeled like it is produced in some kind of factory.

    I'm sure that they will have some gobbledeygoop reason to justify such a ridiculous charge, but it is purely just manufactured justification to charge us more for nothing more. My cooler was prepared painstakingly to avoid the use of dry ice, but even if it HAD dry ice in it, it was darned sure vented by the time the TSA got finished with it! ;)

    I spoke with the baggage manager at DFW about my still unreturned B&R bag last Friday. The conversation turned to the incidents that resulted in this rant. He told me that it is just luck of the draw when it comes to UA inspection post-TSA. According to him, UA baggage employees should catch issues like the TSA's poor closure of my cooler, but it's about a 50/50 shot of getting an employee who isn't (his word) "lazy."
     

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