United Airlines made me miss my flight to Ireland. Then it lost my luggage

Jana Freiband didn’t have the luck of the Irish on a recent trip to Dublin. Her United Airlines flight to Chicago was delayed multiple times, causing her to miss her connecting flight to Dublin and separating her from her luggage for two days.

Freiband wants to know what her rights – and United’s responsibilities – were in her situation. Could our advocates help her get United to acknowledge and compensate her for its delays and inconvenience?

Her story begins in Minneapolis, where she was scheduled to fly United to Chicago and connect there to an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin. But her Minneapolis-to-Chicago flight was delayed because of mechanical problems. She wondered if the flight would ever take off while waiting through four delays.

Five hours after the original departure time, Freiband’s flight finally departed. But when it landed, Freiband had missed her Aer Lingus connecting flight. Freiband managed to book a later flight to Dublin, but it too was delayed for another four hours.

And when she arrived in Dublin, her luggage was missing. She complained to both United and Aer Lingus about the delays and missing luggage. Although Aer Lingus’ customer service assisted Freiband with her grievance, United’s response was unsatisfactory:

“United offered little assistance,” she says. “After I filled out an online review and request for compensation, United lost the report four times, phone assistance took hours and no notice has been forwarded to me to inform me of any action to compensate me. Any suggestion of how to get United to actually take notice of the situation?”

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United’s contract of carriage suggests that mechanical delays qualify as “Irregular Operations” and that United is not liable for such delays:

Schedules are Subject To Change Without Notice – Times shown on tickets, timetables, published schedules or elsewhere, and aircraft type and similar details reflected on tickets or UA’s schedule are not guaranteed and form no part of this contract. UA may substitute alternate carriers or aircraft, delay or cancel flights, and alter or omit stopping places or connections shown on the ticket at any time. … UA shall not be liable for failing to operate any flight according to schedule, or for any change in flight schedule, with or without notice to the passenger. …

When a Passenger’s ticket is affected because of Irregular Operations caused by UA, UA will take the following measures:

  1. Transport the Passenger on its own flights, subject to availability, to the Destination, next Stopover point, or transfer point shown on its portion of the Ticket, without Stopover in the same class of service, at no additional cost to the Passenger; or
  2. At its sole discretion, UA may arrange for the passenger to travel on another carrier. United may also, at its sole discretion, and if acceptable to the passenger, arrange for the passenger to travel via ground transportation.

In the event a Passenger misses an onward connecting flight on which space is reserved because the Delivering Carrier did not operate its flight due to Irregular Operations or a Schedule Change, the Delivering Carrier is responsible to arrange for carriage of the Passenger or to make a refund.

Based on this language, United owed Freiband either a flight to Dublin or a refund for the reserved flight she missed. Since she was able to fly to Dublin on a subsequent flight (although that too was delayed), United complied with the letter of this obligation. But the delays, report losses and failure to follow up with Freiband are terrible customer service.

Because her luggage went missing on a flight into a European Union country, Freiband was entitled to the following damages:

Except as provided below, the liability of the Carrier is limited to 1,131 Special Drawing Rights [approximately $1,942 USD as of this writing] for each passenger in the case of destruction, loss, damage, or delay of baggage, whether checked or unchecked, under the Warsaw Convention or the Montreal Convention, whichever may apply.

Freiband might have escalated her complaint using our company contacts for United, but she contacted our advocacy team for assistance. We suggested that Freiband post about her case in our forums. Although she hasn’t done so as of this writing, she has informed us that United has offered her a free ticket for future travel. But is that enough compensation for nine hours of delay and two days of missing luggage?

Did United offer enough compensation to Jana Freiband for her delays and misplaced luggage?

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

  • finance_tony

    “a free ticket for future travel”

    I’m curious of the details of this. Does it rely on fares being available in a certain bucket? Any blackouts or other restrictions?

  • sirwired

    I guess it depends on the conditions of the free ticket. A free R/T any time to an international destination? That’s not bad, especially if it’s in addition to “emergency stuff” reimbursement. A highly-restricted voucher within the US, and as a replacement for the reimbursement she was already due? Not so much.

  • Bill___A

    It is my understanding that the claims for luggage are to be filed with the ending carrier, in this case, Aer Lingus – not the starting carrier. That the advocates have not apparently pointed this out makes me wonder what else happened. Were the United and Aer Lingus reservations not linked? Was the baggage not checked through to the end? Too many unanswered questions for me……sorry they had a rough trip though.

  • AAGK

    Depends on where the ticket will take her. JFK to EWR, no thanks.A bird in the hand is usually better so if she can use a ticket and the airline will offer it promptly and without restriction, other than price, I would just take the ticket.

  • Joe Blasi

    eu261 delay compensation should get 600 euro cash +


  • BubbaJoe123

    EU261 probably does apply to the Aer Lingus flight, assuming it was actually more than four hours late arriving into Dublin.

  • greg watson

    I voted no, because there was no value attached to her ‘free ticket’, or the length of time that she had to use it by. If the ticket was worth $1942 usd, & she can use it at her convenience, then she did OK

  • BubbaJoe123

    That $1942 figure is a limit, not a minimum or guarantee. If she bought clothes, toiletries, etc. for the time she was without her luggage, she would have grounds to get those expenses reimbursed.

  • wilcoxon

    If you live within driving range of Chicago and have to fly through there, I highly recommend driving (or, alternately, taking the bus or train) to Chicago and flying out of there. EVERY flight issue we’ve had in the last 15 years have been on connecting flights through Chicago.

  • cscasi

    And, is it worldwide or just inside the United States? I suspect the latter and as you said, probably has lots of restrictions and probably is only good for one year from the date she purchased the original ticket.

  • Shirley G

    Want United (or any other U.S. airline) to step up? File a DOT complaint. That’s the only way you get any kind of customer service out of them.

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