A United Airlines passenger from New Zealand found himself stranded at a San Francisco airport for 20 hours this week; not because of weather, or mechanical issues, or any sort of attempt to reenact the 2004 Tom Hanks comedy The Terminal. No, his prolonged stay in airport purgatory was thanks to a United employee who mistakenly removed the man’s carry-on bag from his flight.
The man, Ben, had flown from Nashville to San Francisco and was supposed to continue on home to New Zealand from there.
But when his first flight landed at San Francisco International on Tuesday, Ben noticed that the bag he’d stowed beneath his seat before departure was no longer there.
Turns out, a flight attendant had removed the luggage and left it in Nashville, believing it belonged to a passenger from a previous flight.
Ben detailed much of the next 20 hours on his Twitter account:
Without his bag, Ben says he was without a phone charger, identification, or money.
While Ben was able to borrow a phone charger, his mission to be reunited with his bag and get answers from United’s customer service were less successful. He contacted United on Twitter — and presumably at SFO — about this bag’s whereabouts. A United rep told New Zealand publication, NBR, that the bag was checked luggage and mistakenly taken off the plane in Chicago. This, Ben says, was “as close to a lie” as possible.
Ben clarified the situation later, noting that a flight attendant had indeed removed the bag. While he says he wasn’t angry with the crew member, he was upset with United’s handling of the situation.
In fact, he replied to several Tweets noting that the situation began with a simple, but avoidable, mistake and that he “felt” for the crew member.
United replied on Twitter, apologizing for the incident and informing him they were trying to get the bag back to him as soon as possible the following day.
But hours later, Ben said he hadn’t heard much else from United.
Eventually, he Tweeted that United had decided to send his bag home to New Zealand, despite the fact he couldn’t actually meet his bag there.
The airline notified Ben his bag would arrive in SFO around noon Wednesday.
And it did. However, by this time he had left the airport. He claims the airline didn’t offer to deliver the bag to him, so he had to schlep back to SFO.
In the end, Ben received his bag, but had some stern words regarding United’s customer service and thanks for those who followed the saga and offered assistance.
A rep for the airline confirmed to SFGate in a statement that the bag and Ben had been reunited, and that it was reaching out to him to apologize.