United Sued over Lost Luggage – I Want My $25 Checked Bag Fee Back

We won’t keep you in suspense. The lawsuit has been dropped – the man got his bag back – eventually. It’s how he got it back that makes this interesting.

United Airlines Loses a Bag

The story begins with Dr. Charles Wheelan, who teaches public policy and economics at the University of Chicago and Dartmouth – he sued United Airlines in May over a lost bag.

The checked-bag, it should be noted, was lost on a flight from Toronto to Manchester, New Hampshire – back in March.

He spent weeks calling United, but got nowhere. Is this starting to remind you of the “United Breaks Guitars” guy?

Remember the “United Breaks Guitars” Guy?

Perhaps you’ll recall that singer-songwriter Dave Carroll got no satisfaction from United when baggage handlers broke his guitar – until he created a music video about the airline that went viral and became one of the internet sensations of 2009.

But back to Prof. Wheelan. This lawsuit of his was no get-rich-quick-scheme. All he sued for was the $25 checked-bag fee, plus his small claims court costs of $72. He just wanted was a little justice – or, as he put it in a column he wrote about the airline for Yahoo Finance:

“I didn’t pay [United] $25 to have the bag disposed of. I paid $25 to have the bag delivered to its ultimate destination. That didn’t happen…these bag fees are irksome when the bag does go where it’s supposed to go. They’re really hard to justify when it doesn’t!” — Charles Wheelan, 5-10-10

United Airline Finds the Bag – and Refunds Fee

So, he files suit and, what do you know? A few days later he gets his bag back! Plus, an apology and a refund for the fee (and United also ponied up the money for the court costs).

Passenger Complaints Against Airlines Rise

By the way – according to the Dept. of Transportation, Wheelan wasn’t the only passenger unhappy with his carrier in May – consumer complaints against U.S. airlines rose 23% from May of 2009.

A lot of time and trouble went into this effort to retrieve a lost bag, but Wheelan has said it was worth it, “just to kind of wake them up”. Now, in fairness to United, no airline guarantees safe delivery of a bag, though they say they will make “every effort” to locate lost ones – but, maybe there should be a guarantee. Readers, what do you think?

See the Video that went Viral

Meanwhile, we have emailed and called United and have been told to expect some sort of response. We did hear from  Prof. Wheelan today, who told us he has no proof about this, but “I suspect that the bag would never have turned up were it not for the lawsuit” followed by the article he wrote about it.

Now sit back and enjoy a rousing encore of, “United Breaks Guitars“.



Published: July 12, 2010