United Airlines Lost My Luggage, Part 2: The Wait For Reimbursement

alaska from plane

Update: United Airlines lost my baggage. I eventually received my $100 voucher and the full reimbursement claim. It took many months and repeated phone calls. My advice is to be persistent and keeping calling.

You may remember that when we flew to Alaska for our epic week-long adventure, United lost our luggage, including all of our camping gear, requiring a lot of hustling to buy new equipment before heading to Denali National Park.

I’ve had some reader inquiries regarding how that all turned out, so here’s an update.

Return of the luggage

The bag never showed up in Alaska, but it finally arrived back to my home in Chicago a week after we returned. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that United refuses to waive the $25 baggage fee I paid to have them ship the pack to Alaska. You’d think that since the bag never actually, you know, arrived at its destination, they would refund the fee.

When I voiced my outrage to the United phone rep from India, I was offered a voucher for future travel on the airline.

Although my opinion of this company is not very positive at the moment, I accepted the offer, thinking that the voucher could come in handy for a short weekend flight somewhere.

anchorage united flight

I was promised I would receive the voucher within 30 days. You can probably guess that 30 days came and went without a voucher. When I called back, a second United rep from India apologized profusely and said it was on the way and would arrive within one week.

Ten days later, I called to inquire about the whereabouts of the voucher. A third United rep from India had no answer, nor could he give me a new date when I should expect to receive it.

This was the most perplexing call, as there was no attempt at any sort of customer service at all, and no proposed resolution.

Two weeks later, I called again and was told by a fourth United rep from India that the voucher had never actually been processed, and that it would now be given “priority.” I would have to give it another 30 days, though.

Day number 30 is September 23, so we’ll see if it arrives this week. That’s where things are with the voucher.

What about emergency supply reimbursement?

Now, onto the issue of being reimbursed for our emergency purchases. Since our baggage never made it to Alaska and we had a week full of camping ahead of us, we had to buy all new supplies.

When we called United to authorize these emergency purchases, we were told they would not approve buying new camping supplies but would instead approving the cost of renting them.

The rep who gave us this information was obviously uninformed about the cost of renting camping gear in Alaska.

tent campground - united airlines lost baggage policy

Had we gone to REI in Anchorage and rented a tent, sleeping bags, and backpacks for a full week, the cost would have been several hundred dollars. Instead, we went to discount department stores and bought all-new (if cheap and poorly-made) replacement items for $108.

We actually saved United hundreds of dollars by going this route. Will the company include a note of gratitude with its reimbursement check?

Or will they deny or claim entirely, based on the fact that technically we did not abide by the instruction to rent our gear?

The process of getting reimbursed for these items takes eight weeks, so we’re still waiting on that one to play out.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how things go, as well as any comment from United along the way.

United’s Current Delayed / Lost Baggage Policy

Here’s the official United Airlines lost baggage policy as of 2023. Note that it says, “If we’re unable to find your bag after five days, you may be eligible for $1,500 for the value of your baggage and its contents without requiring any documentation.”

Wow! I wish this lost luggage policy had been in place when I traveled! I would’ve gladly taken $1500 instead of actually finding my bag.

Dealing with baggage issues is a big hassle, and sadly, it’s becoming a more frequent occurrence. This is true of all airlines, not just United. But you’d hope that their customer service would be just a bit better by now.

I don’t fly United often, but I’d feel better about boarding their planes if they had a more solid track record when it comes to dealing with customers whose baggage they lost. Hopefully things will improve in the future.

Has anyone ever gone through the process of being reimbursed for lost luggage from United? I’d love to hear how your situation worked out.

39 thoughts on “United Airlines Lost My Luggage, Part 2: The Wait For Reimbursement”

  1. My family traveled from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Houston IAH on November 26, 2022. For the big 58 minute flight DIRECT we check 4 bags in with the agent inside the airport in Oklahoma City, and upon arriving to Houston, Texas 2 of our bags were missing! The 1 bag that they actually said was missing I was holding. So of course we were there for 2 hours looking for our bags and filed all the paperwork at the airport that we were required to. The following day Sunday we filed a police report with HPD. I have filled out everything that has been required of me and even hand delivered the paperwork for the missing items and the items that I had to replace immediately. HPD has even gone over all of the security footage and 2 of the cameras that would have been helpful are not working at the airport. The Detective even went & looked for himself no such luck! He even had the person he was dealing with from United call us in front of him. NOT sure who they called and no answer because it was neither myself, my husband, or our home phone! Every day we call United and are given a different story. Some days they can see ALL of my paperwork and other days they can not see anything! Even though I hand delivered EVERYTHING on December 6, 2022 at 11:53 am. The person that took my paperwork was Laura L! I am been told that it was entered into the system of the 12th of December and they started their investigation on December 30, 2022. As of today January 20th they do not have my forms and are clueless. Even though on Tuesday January 17th they had all my forms and were working on them! This is a perfect example of incompetence!!!!

  2. United lost my bag on 7/29/22. They tell me their new policy is 10-12 weeks.
    I call every week. Impossible to get any information. Very frustrating.

  3. So I have just returned from a trip on United that began on Oct. 1. My luggage was lost on the way out, and I got it back 12 days later, when my trip was nearly over. I saw this on their website:
    If we’re unable to find your bags after five days, we’ll pay you $1,500 per bag for the value of the bags and its contents without requiring documentation. This includes any fees you paid to check your bags. Contact us at the Baggage Recovery Center to get this process started.

    So after 5 days, I filed a claim for $1500 since my bag still hadn’t showed up (notice it doesn’t say that you AREN’T entitled to the amount if your bag eventually shows up). So today I called the baggage number, who at first told me that I was entitled to the $1500 and then called back to tell me, “no you are not” because the bag was scanned in Huntsville AL so it wasn’t technically “lost.” WHAT? I was nowhere near Huntsville AL and there was no additional scan for 12 days until the bag showed up in Syracuse, my original destination. So as far as I am concerned, it was “lost” to me. So don’t believe what their website says. I bet they never pay the $1500 to anyone. So if I want anything out of them, I will have to gather receipts, submit documentation, etc. What a pain, especially after thinking erroneously that I wouldn’t need to do that. At least I have my bag….

  4. I have a trip to Minnesota form Newark with my son who is hockey player. In Minnesota we found out that hockey sticks did not arrived. I did a claim and told since my son has a early game we need sticks before 7 am. Meantime, I bought new sticks in case if our will not be delivered. I was promised that sticks would be in my hotel before 7 am, but in reality we got them at next midnight. My son played with new sticks and I claimed for reimbursement for purchase of new sticks. Today I received email from United that by the policy they doesn’t cover electronics, sport equipment and medicine. As I know all air companies replace customer’s expenses if they should do it due to undelivered baggage

  5. I feel your pain! After a wonderful week in Vancouver Canada, we checked our bags on flight 1874 bound for Denver, CO. After sitting in the plane on the tarmac for over an hour, the pilot finally announced that he was having us disembark as there was a mechanical issue (most likely a computer part) with the hydraulics and they didn’t know when a mechanic could service it so please wait in the airport. We were supposed to be back to work the next day in Colorado, so I jumped on the phone and scheduled a flight that was leaving for Denver in an hour and a half. I figured our bags would not make it on the new plane, but since there are 3 flights out daily to Denver, I figured they would be on the next flight. We were hoping to catch our connecting flight to Gunnison CO yet that evening. When we arrived in Denver that night, we had missed our connecting flight to Gunnison and our bags were not on the carousel (not surprised). We went to the baggage claim agent who told us our bags WERE in Denver, but were already checked and waiting to go to Gunnison the next morning for the flight we had rebooked. Initially, I asked for our bags and was told it would be 45 minutes to an hour and a half to have them brought to the baggage claim area that night. It was already 9 PM so we went looking for a hotel room instead (which I had better be reimbursed for!) So, the next day after another 2.5 hour delay first waiting for our plane to arrive late and then waiting for a pilot, we finally got to Gunnison mid afternoon. You guessed it….no bags! Gunnison is a super small airport, so the baggage representative helped us file a claim immediately and she tried calling Denver but no one answered. She then said that most bags turn up in 48 hours and that they would deliver them to our door. She also said we would receive regular text updates about where our bags are. After 24 hours and not a word, I called the baggage claim number and the representative with a foreign accent told me the bags were still “en route” and that is all he could tell us. I have since called or live chatted 6 more times with various agents (all with heavy accents) and have not gotten anywhere with any of them. I am now kicking myself for not making the Denver baggage claim rep go get our bags and bring them to us at 9 PM at night. (My suspicion is that our bags never did end up in Denver that night and then when he did not find them, maybe he would have tried harder to locate them while we were still at the airport. Now we are at home 4 hours away, so it’s not like I can just run over there!) I did get a card for customer service from the baggage claim rep (as I was asking to have our hotel room reimbursed) and the address I got is: United Airlines, Inc., 900 Grand Plaza Drive NHCCR, Houston TX 77067-4323 and the phone number is 1-877-624-2660. If anyone has any more suggestions for getting help, please let me know!

  6. United lost my infant car seat on 8/20 which was gate checked in ORD – How is that even possible?! Airport rep said they’ll find it and deliver it to my house in a couple of days. It’s been 2 weeks now and no car seat. Filed claim with United but webpage says may take up to 6-8 weeks!

  7. I have just recently returned to my home in Southern California after a nightmare trip back home from New Hampshire. At the beginning of the trip, it went splendid it’s what happened when I got off in Chicago to catch my connecting flight home! When my phone was able to receive messages I got a big fat one from Southwest saying my trip had been canceled due to weather. Wth?? You couldn’t tell any of us that before we got on the plane??? Yes, I’m aware of the rampant delays and cancelation of flights and so on. It was drizzling some when we landed but nothing to get all crazy about and cancel a flight. Someone told me that Southeast would give you a voucher for canceled flights and maybe a refund. I thought to myself well we can’t control mother nature but let’s give it a try I have nothing else to do. The Southwest counterperson told me as such since they can’t control the weather they ain’t given squat! Nothing, nada not even a dinner voucher or even Cheez its for Pete’s sake! What? Did they try to find me flights out from another airline??? Nope. Oh but
    they were kind enough to try and offer me toiletries. I passed. So with what little money I had, I decided to belly up at a bar counter and have me a few beers. While doing this I was asking the staff about the weather there that day. They said it was beautiful and that there was an Air and Water Show that weekend that happens every year! What? How can they fly if my flight has been canceled because of the weather?! I’m no meteorologist but I’ve flown out of Boston during a snowstorm and the wings had to be sprayed all the time so they wouldn’t freeze till we were on the runway. I’m feeling like a puppet. I’ve never been in this situation before and it was stressful. While talking with the staff I told them what happened and if they knew where I could go and loiter. They were very helpful and told me where I could go and that there was a police station next to it. On my journey there I stopped and spoke to some police officers. I gave them my spiel and they were great and told me to try and rest. Just FYI not fun sleeping at the airport with the other poor soles that had their flights canceled too. It sucked! The flight home went without a hitch until I went to pick up my luggage. Some more fun! My luggage isn’t on the carousel?? So I wait until I can’t handle the wait anymore and go to baggage claims. I was told that my luggage is off the plane and somewhere on the premises. Wth?? They said when my luggage is found I could pick it up and receive a $100 voucher or have it delivered. I opted to pick it up. Don’t want any more mishaps. I was given a lost/ missing baggage receipt with their phone number to call with questions and whatever BUT I would be getting DAILY calls. Did I???? Not even one!!! That stupid number they gave me why??? When I was there the phone kept ringing off the hook and not one person answered it. I feel for the employees I do but don’t give me fluff talk about how your gonna call me every day. Be straight up! I had to call about any updates and boy I got some. I’ve been home for 7 days now and my luggage was supposedly on the airport premise, another one said yes it’s off the plane. I said where off the plane and was told they don’t know. Then another one checked my status and said looks like you picked it up and my case was closed???? Nope, not true! He asked me if my name was so and so. The first name is right but not the last. I said that person better not have taken my suitcase! He said no no we ask for ID. Oh ok your understaffed and employees can’t even handle phone control but you’re going to be vigilant about checking ID’s? Whatever. I’ve been getting the run around from my luggage being on the premises, to not, to being transferred to Nashville, picked up, and saying once found to deliver it to my family in New Hampshire! Wth Southwest! The truth hurts and sucks sometimes but get your employees all on the same page! If you can’t find it don’t make up stupid stories to appease us. Just have some empathy and say it straight up! I can’t even find a way to track my suitcase! Filing a claim today so I get to remember all that I had in my luggage AND find the receipts for the items to be compensated. From what I read they compensate for the essentials. Clothing, toiletries, undergarments, shoes, and whatever else. Well, that’s some of my things. What about the rest?? Like my suitcase that I did research on before I finally decided to buy it on sale! That looks like a no! I believe that whatever was put in it along with my belongings and the canceled flight should all be refunded! I’m so frustrated and stressed doing their job for updates to no avail.

  8. I’ve used United Airlines almost exclusively for over a decade now, and I have always found them to be very pleasant to deal with. Admittedly I am a Silver member and I do have the credit card, but the customer service I’ve experienced has always been top notch.

  9. I travel from California to North Carolina ,in June 15 2022 my plain was late ,lost the connection to Carolina ,visit my brother in hospital ,who eventually in 4 days was transfer to Nashville Tennessee .I never recover my luggage I came home ,is July 25 and I jest receive a voucher for 200 $ The content is way more the amount they offer Is been a month of terror true I been go true special I’m not to young and I have health problems to. I we’ll keep try to speak to them a least to recover as much I can from my content on luggage .I hope they have the decency to compensate for something that was not my fault .

  10. Freddy Winstead

    Came across this site while looking for our luggage. This is day 7 of our vacation and still no bag. They tell us the last place it was scanned in Spokane Washington, not in Great Falls, MT where we are.
    We are headed back home today and don’t have a great feeling of them finding our luggage or getting reimbursed now.
    Every call is answered by someone that doesn’t speak English well at all. Very frustrating. I have called them every day and will continue to do so. They will get tired of me. lol

    1. I am pretty much in the same situation. I flew on June 23rd to Montreal. On my layover back home, they finally called to deliver my luggage in Montreal. Well guess what, I’m on my way back home and not in Montreal anymore! They said they would ship it back to my home. It’s now July 22nd, no luggage. I have also called every single day. Be nice, but firm on the phone. Every time I talk to a new person I would literally rundown point by point the previous calls and what happened. Demand compensation and I don’t mean getting $100. I understand that flying is extremely iffy right now and we as customers are trying our best to be patient and wait for answers. However, we need to be compensated for our time spent trying to get a hold of customer service and not getting answers (right or wrong). While I did also spoke with many people who didn’t speak English well and I doubted they even understood half of what I said, I eventually did get someone who was better at English and I actually do feel like my case has been escalated with the Claims Desk for my still missing luggage. Best of luck to you!

      1. It has been so horrible. Days of no one answering. No one caring. Finding someone on the phone or email or text to care that united has ruined my vacation. No one cares. Not one bit

        1. United Airlines lost my luggage on 05/22. After weeks of calls, filling out forms on their website, texting agents and sending letters, I filed a complaint on the Department of Transportation website. Finally, I received an email from Mary Steckler, United Airlines, Premier Baggage Specialist / Baggage Resolution Center, who stated that she had received the complaint filed at the D.O.T. This was two months after my baggage disappeared. That was also their last communication.

  11. Deborah Jones-Desmarais

    On my first trip to Paris, United lost all of my luggage and I’ve spent the last seven weeks going back and forth with them regarding reimbursement. Last week, they informed me that they couldn’t proceed with any sort of reimbursement until I submitted receipts for the items in my luggage. I submitted six receipts within 24 hours of the request and was told that I’d receive compensation details via email within two days. Seven days later and I’m back on hold waiting for them to lie to me again.

  12. Michael Hendricks

    Here’s my sad tale. Family trip to Cancun, Mexico with United as the carrier. Dispite my pocket of prior lost luggage tags from other trips(leafing thru them to present to agent at CUN airport -“no, that one was from last month, or that one was with Delta, ect.”), I was convinced by family to check my bags. Not only did my luggage never show up, I foolishly purchased the $400 of necessary items for survival that United assured me they would reimburse(eventually saw less than 50% of that). Understand these are resort priced items…$50 generic flip flops in traditional Mayan sizing(not a size 13 to be found! Size 43 was as good as it got), $65 for a bathing suit, $8 for a small tube of citrus toothpaste, $50+ for a plain white shirt, and another $50 for a pair of too small/tight dress pants for evening dining that $400 dollars didn’t go far! And yes, I was the only male in a family of women…hard to share any clothing. Returned home to Iowa and after 2 months of daily inquires to multiple agents based in Mumbai, was advised that my luggage would probably never be located(so quit calling and ‘$200 dolla’ all you will ever see “due to current economic climate”).
    Fast forward 4 additional weeks. Get a call from Carnival Cruise Line in Vancouver, Can., they pulled my luggage off of an Alaskan cruise ship after going unclaimed for several tours. The multiple postings of my name and address both inside and outside of luggage, prompted them to finally call me. Probably also the multiple swimsuits and bright, light flowered clothing didn’t fit the climate or taste of any cruiser.
    The bag had apparently been off-loaded in Portland, transferred to a cruise ship, then off to the Aleutians! Long way from Cancun! Moral of this tale, though I got this one bag returned(beaten up and had apparently been soaked in what looked like mud and diesel, but zippers still zipping), once some baggage handler gets your bag and places the wrong tag on it or places it on a wrong conveyor it’s truly a matter of phenomenal chance that you’ll see it intact again. Travel light with a single carry-on my friends!

    1. Wow, that is a crazy story! It’s interesting that you got to find out all the details about where the bag went. I’m still curious how mine disappeared and where it ended up for three weeks before it found its way back. When things like this are happening, I can understand why travelers try to take the largest carry-ons possible to avoid checking any bags. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    2. my bag has been lost since the 15th of june 2022. On the 25th of june I filled out the refund request and it’s been 8 weeks and United airlines doesn’t even respond. I’m Brazilian, this trip was my first time in the United States. How long did it take you to be reimbursed? Did they pay the amount shown on proof of purchase in the period of the missing bag?

    3. Read this, United Arline’s lost my 2 baggage 7 months ago. They acknowledged receiving the documents they asked, but after 6 months they closed the case with outrageous reasoning stating there as no mileage information. What’s My Luggage Got To Do With It. It appears the United Airline cannot control the robbery of luggage during transfer in Chicago. Can I sue them.

  13. As with Christy I found this blog after looking up info for my claim with United, because they’ve been a nightmare to get info from directly. They busted my suitcase, but refuse to pay because their suitcase coverage doesn’t cover zippers (or wheels or handles or hinges or anything else on a suitcase). Then they left it open on the carousel, so stuff was falling all out on the belt so it’s no surprise my make-up kit and some loose toiletries went walk about. The off-shore call centre annoyed me too, I had so much trouble communicating my issues with rep, I couldn’t understand a word he said. He was really rude and aggravated, and then asked ME if I didn’t know English! (I’m from Australia!) Not to mention the trouble I had trying to give a list of missing items to a guy who didn’t understand what ‘powder’ is. Unfortunately they lost my make-up bad, so every other word was powder. Somehow I’m not confident about getting my items (or compensation) back from them. I’m so glad that when they lost my bags for 4 days in Boston, I just had them waive the baggage fees for the rest of my trip (which they’ve tried to renege on the last 2 legs) but I was just missing clothes and stuff. How can they not understand the importance of camping gear? They lost your actual accommodations, and the renting thing is ridiculous. And unfortunately like you said it would have been too expensive to rent and then try to get the cash back because you would been taking on the risk of those thousands rather than just forking out the couple of hundred. Thats my biggest issue with offshore call centres, if they don’t actually work for the company they can’t use logic and experience to bend policies to the benefit of both the company and client. It’s like talking to a computer, say A get B response, add on top of that an unintelligible accent and a lack of corporate pride and it makes me want to pull my hair out.

    1. Sorry to hear about your experience. The offshore call centers are really aggravating. There should be a way for customers to talk to someone in the U.S. who actually understands them. I spoke with a United manager at the airport at length, and he said that when he tries to call headquarters in Houston, he even gets routed through the offshore line. My advice for United customers whose luggage gets lost is to demand a really high compensation and be vocal about your experience, since there’s not too much more to do.

  14. Haha!
    I found you through google bc I’m looking for the “form” to submit to United with my receipts for reimbursement for things I had to buy for my trip. I can’t find it ANYwhere—-I was trying to explain to my husband that I literally COULD NOT understand the United agent. I kept having to ask him to SLOW down and SPEAK more clearly—-sheesh!!!

    1. I had one agent like that too. I almost asked him to transfer me to someone who spoke English. You should definitely do that if you need to. I hope your reimbursement experience goes more smoothly than mine did!

  15. So, here’s my story from South African Airways from a year ago. In a bit of an ironic twist… someone named Scott commented on the post and I quote…

    “Wow, great job sticking up for yourself. I’ve been fortunate not to lose any luggage yet. It sounds like a nightmare.”

    1. Oh yes, now I recall that saga! I’m lucky my luggage was only gone for a couple of weeks. Five months is crazy. At least you finally got your cash money. I’m starting to question whether I will ever see anything from United. I will keep calling and blogging until there is some resolution.

  16. Wow sounds like a nightmare Scott. I always try and avoid checking bags when I can because of this very reason. Obviously that’s not really an option when camping. Sorry to hear about your struggles. United perplexes me with their voucher system. I one time received a $150 voucher immediately because the tvs weren’t working on their planes (which hardly bothered me at all). Another time we were given absolutely NO reimbursement when our flight was significantly delayed due to mechanical issues on the plane (we had to abort as we were taking off – scariest flying moment of my life). It makes little to no sense when and where they give and how they process these vouchers. Best of luck in getting a big, fat one for your troubles.

    1. In the U.S. it is never a good sign when the customer service phone reps are from some faraway country, because that makes it obvious they are reading from a script and usually won’t be able to appropriately handle our problems. I’d rather speak with someone from United’s headquarters in Houston than someone thousands of miles away who I can barely understand.

  17. This is just like the time I went to London and my bag went to Ireland. By the time they hunted me down, I was leaving England for France. The baggage fee was never refunded, and I knew that they wouldn’t reimburse me for “extra” expenses so I refused to buy any clothes. Yes, I wore the same shirt for THREE days. So, there, sucky airline people!

  18. unacceptable!

    i highly encourage you to write united and include the fact that you are a travel blogger, including a link to this page or a printout of it. it is still very easy for united to make this right, before you have to head to small claims court.

    United Airlines World Headquarters

    77 West Wacker Drive
    Chicago, Illinois 60601
    Telephone: (312) 997-8000

    United Airlines Customer Relations

    Customer Relations

    United Airlines
    PO Box 66100
    Chicago, IL 60666

    1. I’ve mentioned during my conversations that I would be reporting everything that happens on my blog. They don’t care. At this point they seem to have totally given up on the PR game. Thanks for the address and phone number. Those could come in handy.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *