100,000 miles, $194 and a one-week delay — and you offer this?

To fly from San Francisco to Paris last month, Kenneth Cook forked over 100,00 miles and paid a $194 fee 10 months before his scheduled flight. The routing wasn’t ideal — it sent him via Denver and Frankfurt, but for that, he was getting choice seats in the front of the plane.

The least he expected was the see his luggage at the end of the journey, and that if he didn’t, the airline would take care of everything.

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It didn’t.

As he sipped his glass of champagne, waiting for his Denver-bound flight to take off, the captain made an announcement that “delays of over an hour were anticipated, due to the need to remove 10,000 gallons of fuel, which required getting a truck to the gate,” he says.

He tried to tell a crewmember that he would need to get off the flight and reschedule, but the attendant was “grossly incompetent” and failed to get the bag off his original flight.

His new flight took him from Heathrow to Paris on Air France.

Of course, my luggage was not in Paris. I followed the [claims] process with the AirFrance staff, and received a tracking number, a T-shirt, a razor and a tooth brush, with the information that, if I didn’t have luggage in 24 hours, I was authorized to spend up to 100 euros.

As I was in Paris only overnight, they were going to deliver my bag to my hotel in Avignon.

The bag didn’t arrive within 24 hours, and Cook had to keep moving. He caught a train to Goult, France and when he arrived, he bought a few essentials, including 3 polo shirts, socks and underwear.

“I hoped for the best,” he says.

That proved to be overly optimistic. His bag didn’t arrive until a week after his arrival in France.

When I received my alternate routing in San Francisco, I was handed a card apologizing for the inconvenience, and offered “compensation” if processed online. They offered a choice of two discount coupons (with imitations) or 3,000 frequent flyer miles. When I tried to escalate, I was pushed into a message capturing queue.

Mostly, Cook is puzzled. The refund for the missed clothing must be processed through Delta, which is an Air France partner in the United States. However, he’s also been offered a separate compensation through United. What’s more, since his flight was delayed by more than three hours, EU 264 might apply to his situation.

“I feel United really messed up on this, and 3,000 miles is insultingly puny,” he says. “While I earned this trip, it did, in the long run, cost me significantly to accumulate that many miles, and it did cost me to redeem the award.”

Is your head spinning yet? Mine is.

I suggested he push this issue with all the airlines involved (and really, there are too many) which he did.

Final outcome? Delta and Air France quickly refunded the $124 he spent on clothes. He was happy about that. United upped the amount of compensation to an electronic certificate for $100, good for a year.

“Even my travel agent, with whom I shared this information, found the amount paltry and insulting,” he says.

Is it enough? Well, technically, United was only transporting Cook from San Francisco to Denver. And under U.S. regulations, it doesn’t owe him anything. Carrier #2 — and not to confuse the issue — is Lufthansa. It didn’t suffer any delays and didn’t lose his luggage, yet it probably owns his original ticket. That ticket was transferred to Delta and Air France after the delay. Yet at the same time, Cook is a United frequent flier and used his United miles to buy the tickets.

So is this enough compensation? From one perspective, it’s more than enough. From another, it’s hardly enough. But I’m not really sure which perspective to take.

108 thoughts on “100,000 miles, $194 and a one-week delay — and you offer this?

  1. Hardly enough by far. The man spent a week in France on 3 polo shirts and some underwear? He deserves a medal to have only spent $124. He should’ve been authorized to spend a lot more to buy a week’s worth of clothes. Bravo on him for not whining about the experience, getting on with his trip and only focusing on the deficient offers from the airlines.

    (I once had my luggage delayed for 24+ hours on an around the world trip and believe me, that was frustrating enough…)

    Not sure how much the airlines should compensate him because he spent so little on clothes, but I’m thinking 20-25K miles, enough for a domestic r/t. He could’ve easily spent $500 on clothes and they should’ve been on the hook to reimburse. Hopefully they’ll do right by KC.

  2. “his flight was delayed by more than three hours, EU 264 might apply to his situation.”

    Which flight was delayed? Other than the first flight (which clearly is not covered by EU regulations since it’s a domestic flight on a domestic carrier) no other delayed flights were mentioned.

    1. If all the flights were on the same ticket would the EU regulations apply?  I don’t know.  On a multi-flight ticket, would domestic flights have US rules, EU flights have EU rules, but who governs the flight between?  Sorry, but I am ignorant about this.

      1. A US carrier from a US airport to an EU country doesn’t have the EU Passenger Rights protection, same in return.  The carrier has to be an EU based carrier.   

  3. Yikes – what a mess. I hate to be one of these folks who calls for a lot of governmental interference and regulation but the situation with codesharing means that they all have a get out clause. I do feel really bad for him, but he is probably not going to get much more than he was already offered.

  4. I am confused, he was on his DEN-FRA flight, and walked off and had himself re-booked?  Why would he do that?  The only airline that currently fly’s DEN-FRA is LH, and he says he was on United?  Then he switched to Delta/Air France and flew DEN-LHR?  The only current airline that fly’s DEN-LHR is BA.  So I am so confused by what flights he was on.  Sadly, I think walking off an international flight is going to make it almost a certainty that your checked bag won’t make it.  And why would he walk off and re-book over an hour delay if he was already sitting on the international portion?
    I do commend the OP for being reasonable in his shopping, I think he was too reasonable, he could have and should have bought more.  I disagree with the people who spend thousands of dollars when their bag is delayed, but clearly the OP went above and beyond to mitigate his damages, but I am not sure how much I blame the airline either when he walked off his flight at the last minute and re-booked himself through multiple other carriers.  However I am glad he got reimbursed for what he was out, and his trip must have been difficult given no luggage.

    1. I am having a tough time following as well. The story reads that he was waiting for his DEN bound flight to take off when the delays began. Next thing you know, he’s on a flight from LHR to Paris on AF. (Assume CDG?)

      It also says he received his alternate routing in SFO, so I assumed he flew SFO-LHR on UA and LHR-CDG on AF? But then it states the ticket was transferred to DL and AF after the delay, so he must have taken a DL routing to LHR and then AF to CDG? It also says UA only took him from SFO to DEN. So..UA SFO-DEN and then a DL routing to LHR and AF to CDG?

      Does DL only come into play when talking about the AF partnership on the LHR-CDG leg?

      Chris is right, head is spinning. Going to revisit after more coffee.

      1. From what I can figure out, he was on the plane (in 1st class, hence champagne) on the ground in SFO, when the plane was significantly delayed for takeoff, which would have caused him to miss his connection in Denver.  So he got off the flight and got rerouted on a new flight that connected in London instead of Denver (presumably the rerouting was done via the original airline, as he doesn’t discuss incurring additional plane fees, etc.).  But they never unloaded his back from the SFO-DEN plane.  

        1. UA does not serve champagne in first class on domestic flights, so if he was sipping champagne, he certainly was not on UA from SFO-DEN.  Champagne is only served on international flights.  

          This story *really* does not make sense.

          1. unless it was a codeshare or maybe a holdover continental flight? I flew continental business first domestically a LOT in my old job and remember champagne as an option (largely because I always took that option!).

          2. “BusinessFirst” is the name of a cabin where there are lie-flat seats, typically on international routes.  I am not aware of traditional CO using that service on domestic routes.  In any case, SFO-DEN is UA hub-to-hub.

    2. “As he sipped his glass of champagne, waiting for his Denver-bound flight to take off…”

      He wasn’t on the international portion yet. He was on the ground in SFO waiting to go to Denver.  But what I don’t understand is why he didn’t stick it out, delay or no, and let the airlines do the work of rescheduling and getting him to Europe. This was an extended trip and he was spending the night in Paris anyway before heading to his final destination, so it sounds like he should have been able to take some delay without the main chunk of his trip being affected. And he likely would have had his luggage sticking to the original plan.

      I’m really confused by what exactly happened after he got off the plane in San Fran. He doesn’t mention buying new tickets, so he must have been able to switch flights and transfer his miles to cover the new itinerary?

    3. I know you are an Expert on UA awards. Can he have taken an LH transatlantic on UA awards. Isn’t that a codeshare? Is that allowed when UA has it’s own SFO-FRA flight?

      I really think the ticket was on LH stock. Me thinks he got a credit card award ticket (i.e. Capitol One, AMEX, or Chase Sapphire. etc.).
      That is the only way he could have got one reissued the same day and create such weird [flexible] routing.
      If that was an airline award ticket, he probably would be stuck at Denver or SFO. What you think?

      1. You can get Star Alliance awards through United, even on competing routes. They are typically only available on LH, though sometimes they are available on AC.  The rate for a first class saver R/T award between the US and Europe is 135,000 miles (as of the re-alignment which was Q1 or Q2 2011).  So either he went business class, which would be 100,000, or he was using some type of credit card like you mentioned.  I do find it hard to believe that they would have re-booked him on Air France if it was if it was a UA Mileage award, but you never know.  I’ve been rebooked on American and Frontier before (Pre 3/3 Systems merger).  I’ve heard from fellow frequent flyers that United refused to re-book on another carrier since 3/3 due to system limitations, though I don’t entirely believe that it’s a system limitation.
        Oh, and as far as fuel, I have had several flights where they had to dump X,XXX pounds of fuel due to weather, routing, etc.  I would hardly call that an escalating delay 30 minutes is usually the longest I have seen.  It does take longer to empty than fill, but if he was sitting on an SFO-DEN domestic flight it was mostly likely an A320/319 or B752.  The 725 holds barely over 10,000 Gallons, and the ABIs hold less than 10,000.  So I assume he heard pounds and is saying gallons.

        Edit: Removed info that Tony cleared up below.

        1.  I went to United MP website and chose DEN-PAR. The LH447 flight appeared on the PARTNER flights.
          I can get Saver Award First for 50K and Standard Award First for 125k both have only $34.70 tax.

          Not sure where he got [more] than 100k and $194.

          When I entered SFO as my origin, I could not get the SFO-DEN-FRA-CDG route and partner flight section looks real puny.

          This is so weird.

          1. I got the info off the Star Alliance award chart.  It’s on page 3: https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/news/United_Award_Chart_2012-03-03.pdf  It says 50,000 miles per way, which it also lists on page 2 as Untied Saver awards.  When you choose the award, it says 50,000 until you choose the return, then it bumps it up to 100,000.  At least it did for me when I tried.
            The 50,000 one way you see is the price for Business. In the merger with Continental, they renamed business class to “Business First” and first class to “Global First.”  It’s quite confusing. They also charge the business rate for first class in a 2 cabin aircraft.  So if it’s a 2 cabin international plane like the CO ones, it will only have Business First and cost 50,000 miles, if it’s a 3 cabin international plane like the UA ones, it will have Business and Global First.  Than you connecting flights will all have Domestic First (Which I believe CO calls Business) regardless of the international flight being in Business or First.  Very confusing I know. So booking under what says First/Business First/Business is technically the old Business Class.  If he was booking a 2-cabin LH flight, it would only have what LH calls “Business” and “Economy” and cost 50,000 miles each way.  If it’s a 3 cabin LH, it would offer Economy, Business, or First.  LH still has very straight forward names for their cabins.  I flew EWR-MUC on LH once on an award, It was amazing compared to anything UA offers.  The food, the service, everything, was so much better. I hope to do it again one day, Business was so good on LH, I don’t care about first.  Unfortunately, very few star alliance awards are ever available.
            The OP may have called UA to book the SFO-DEN-FRA-CDG, they can do some creative bookings like that over the phone if you ask them.  You can also get stop overs for up to two days in each direction and still have it count as part of your one-way.  So you could do DEN-FRA stay for two days, and then FRA-CDG, stay for a week, then CDG to YYZ, stay for 2 days and YYZ to DEN, and only pay for one R/T ticket.  You can also throw in 1 open jaw while you’re at it.  Its nuts, and too risky in my book, if something goes wrong, it could have a lot of problems.

          2. I fly them around 125,000 miles a year, personally know a former FA as a close friend, was fraternity brothers and still friends with their director of in-flight experience (Who I have not heard hide nor tail from since the merger was official), and it still took a long time for me to figure it out (what little I know).  I can see how it would be confusing as heck for a regular non-frequent flyer to figure it out.  I think the OP was savvy in this case, and it still bit him in the butt.
            Also the new United requires cover sheets on all of the TPS reports, in case no one got the memo 🙂

          3. Never did much on UA. As a NYC person, UA didn’t have much to offer me or my clients. CO did something for us since they have pretty decent flights from EWR. Hence, that’s the only reason I’m even paying some attention.

            I need UA flights to haul my inland pax to intl gateways but that is causing continous headaches. Changes galore. Your time is eaten up contacting clients.

      2. Fully interchangeable between UA/LH.  Since this was an awards ticket I have NO IDEA why he would have been offered (if he was) Delta/Air France to replace?  Too many questions on this one! 

    4. Agreed – WAY too many questions on what flights, where the delay was, who booked the new schedule, etc etc etc.  Too foggy for a good answer here!

  5. I don’t understand why he had to get off the flight because of a delay.

    Why did he change flights?

    There is a lot missing from this story.

    1. He got off his flight because he would have missed his connection.  And he got re-routed through a different city.  Seems pretty clear to me – I’m actually having trouble understanding why people are so confused. 

      1. I’m glad you can see it! What was his new itinerary? The carriers flown make a difference in who has liability in a bag claim.

        never mind…Chris posted itin below.

      2. I guess I am confused because nowhere is it mentioned that he would miss a connection because of this delay. I am actually having trouble understanding how you determined his flight times from reading the article.

      3. Because if he was on a free ticket on UA/LH, WHY did he end up on DL/AF?  Just not something you would see, as UA has to pay out cash for that ticket.  And he really is unclear about how long the delay would be, and why they couldn’t just re-route the SFO-DEN flight. 

  6. I think a lot can be surmised here from (a) the lack of clarity as to his actual flights; (b) the fact that this arose out of his desire to get off a plane he was on due to a one hour delay (did he allow less than 1 hour for an international connection???);  (c) his rushing to label a flight attendant incompetent for not getting him off a plane that had a 1 hour delay and somehow rebooking him (not his/her job); (d) BEFORE the luggage was lost and he was given an alternate routing, he was already demanding more compensation

    It seems he was scheduled to do SFO-DEN-FRA-CDG, which is clearly a United/Lufthansa ticket.
    How he got to LHR is anyone’s guess, but it doesn’t seem like he ever went through DEN. If he was put on the nonstop SFO-LHR on United and had the audacity to complain he wasnt being given enough compensation for moving from a 2-stop to a one-stop, again, telling.

    1. How many one hour delays turn into rolling delays of another half hour, then another, and another until the delay is three hours?  Hind sight is great and we don’t know if the original flight departed in an hour.  My guess is that he assumed it would be way more and bolted at the first opportunity.  Self -centered and rude if the delay was short –  very wise and pro-active if he was right.  I know I have been in situations where I waited but later wished I had done this.

      1.  If every passenger demanded to get off a plane and have their luggage removed when there were a 1-hr delay, every 1-hr delay would turn into a 4+ hr delay.   Proactive and self-centered and abusive are not mutually exclusive.

  7. If I understood, perhaps I could sympathize.  I’d like to know what everyone else asked about – why a one-hour delay caused him to leave the plane on which he was already drinking champagne.  If there had been a weather delay in FRA, would he have demanded a parachute?

    Alarm bells went off when I read the comment about a cabin crew (I think?) member being “grossly incompetent.” That type of language is reserved for do-you-know-who-i-am types and entitled fools, usually.  Perhaps the crew were as confused by his, thus far, ridiculous and convoluted story as a lot of seasoned travelers reading this.

    There is way more to the story.  I’m not even sure which cards from the Elliott deck are appropriate here.

  8. I think he was in San Francisco on the Denver bound plane when the delay struck.  He thought he would miss the connection in Denver to Frankfort (as well as the Franfort to Paris) so he wanted to be proactive and get off while he could still re-route another way.  Maybe there are more choices to get to Paris from San Francisco than from Denver?  Seems that he got to Paris quickly with this maneuver.  He was only in Paris for 24 hours so if he had delayed he might have missed whatever he had to do there, while catching up on the rest of the trip.  Seems to me to be a very good move.

    My only comment is that if someone can live for a week on three polo shirts, some underwear,  and socks all for $124, why did he check any luggage??  He should have had a carry on bag.  He is the lightest traveler and most frugel shopper I have ever met. 

    He was not compensated nearly enough but I do wonder if one should expect ones luggage to follow when one deplanes.  I had heard that it would not and with his original routing there were plenty of places where it could detour and be lost. 

    1. He deplaned in the US, right?  As I understand the TSA issues, his luggage *should* have been pulled from the cargo hold.   Luggage (which could in theory hold a bomb) isn’t supposed to fly unless the passenger is on the same plane to keep terrorists from getting their luggage on the flight and then bailing before the door closes to make sure they aren’t caught in the blast.  Exceptions are made for luggage rerouted by the airlines, but not for many other reasons, right?

      1.  no, positive bag match went out of style after 9/11.  it may surprise most people, but bags weren’t routinely screened before then. now we have 100% screening, wherein every bag has gone through the CTX or been searched by a TSA agent, and so as long as they pass the tests, they are allowed to go on any flight.

  9. First, the OP is an idiot if he thinks they are going to hold a flight to find Mr. Entitled’s bag in the hold when it’s already delayed. Everyone else has flights to make too.
    Second, UA has multiple routings a day to CDG from DEN. Before he pulled his I’m so important routine, did he call UA?

    Ultimately, I think UA did enough. They didn’t have to transfer his ticket to DL & AF but did.  This got him to Paris on the day he wanted. His luggage got misrouted. It happens. When he started to move, it takes a while for it to catch up. $100 seems to be appropriate for what amounts to inconvenience due to delayed baggage.  I don’t see why they would owe him any more.

  10. First, congratulations to the OP for scoring a 1st class ticket to Paris for only 100K miles.  There is probably only one seat offered by UA per day for that.  Most are closer to 200K these days.

    I do have a difficult time understanding why he bolted.  I do know that UA is always overly optimistic for delays of this kind (I went through a similar situation in LAS where a similar amount of fuel had to be removed from the plane and it took closer to 4 hours while the pilot kept saying it would only be a “few minutes”).  Would he have missed his DEN connection?  I know Lufthansa only has one flight out of DEN to FRA most days.  But was the connection that tight?  I can’t duplicate his route today on the UA mileage redemption page, but anything offered that does go through DEN has connection times of not much more than one hour.  But there are dozens of options from SFO to CDG that are much more direct than what he got and have much better connection times (but probably were not available for a mileage redemption opportunity).

    And I don’t really think he deserves more compensation.  After all, he was the one who left the plane and demanded rebooking on a different flight.  If he would have stayed on the original flight and missed his connection due to the fuel issue, UA would have put him on another flight and probably gotten him to Paris with only a few hours delay.  I feel UA/Delta/Lufthansa or whoever “owned” the ticket should have been quicker to refund the expenses incurred because he was without his luggage for a week because there is no excuse for it taking that long for his luggage to arrive even with the flight changes.

    1. On your comment about award ticket availability, since the merger with Continental it seems that UA has far more saver award tickets available. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to find saver awards to South America and they’re nearly impossible to get until a couple weeks ago I found two saver awards to Buenos Aires for 60k each. This felt like a total coup! They even had saver awards for FC flights. I’m cheap so I booked coach. 😉

      1. I have found with UA post-merger that you need to get tickets at one of two points… Right after the load in the inventory at 360 days out or two weeks out. Either time frame its easy to get the saver awards.

  11. “…the attendant was “grossly incompetent” and failed to get the bag off his original flight.”  It’s a GROSSLY INCOMPETENT guess and unfair to UA personnel. We can also guess the luggage had been unloaded but didn’t make to DL/AF flight, the processus can be very long because of security reason and it involved different authorities, it cannot be blamed it on any particular Airlines. Blame it on the last minute self-volunteer change reschedule.

    1. Maybe what we have here is a “GROSSLY INCOMPETENT” PASSENGER.
      Question:Why take an SFO-DEN-FRA-CDG routing for about 17 hours when you can take a nonstop 10h25m flight?
      Answer: because the Air France nonstop flight does not have an F cabin.
      He just had to take FC even if it adds 2 stops  🙂

        1. Then having UA sign over their award ticket for the last segment in this siutation just doesn’t make sense especially in a situation of not wanting to wait.  Something is very strange here.

        2.  Could this be one of those credit card miles award?
          The routing SFO-LHR-CDG without LH on LHR-FRA/MUC-CDG is very weird on Star Alliance.

          1. This would make more sense.  I was thinking UA FF miles, but with credit cards, you cash in your earned points for an award ticket, so yes, that could be endorsed over as those have a cash value.

          2.  Also on a completely new [re]route, I believe you need to recheck your bags and get new tags. I could be wrong but this is what happened to me.

          3. I did have some reroutings due different reasons and most of the times my luggage are re-tagged and followed me (I don’t have to recheck). The only times my luggage don’t arrive at destination with me because of  the TSA security process takes time, not the fault of the Airlines. And I understand that, it belong to the today hassle and reality. By the way, I doubt the OP don’t have a little carry-on which have all the thing he need. He just want to squeeze the Airlines for more compensation.

          4. Good point on the hand carry. I am still a bit perplexed on the checked luggage. If someone just got up and deplaned, he still would not have a new itinerary. Even the airlines would be clueless as to his next routing. So, baggage handlers would have to keep his bags in purgatory. In his case his original flight was around noon or 1PM, I think, but the flight he eventually took was at night. If an airline unloaded your bags, where would it be sitting for 6 or more hours without a definite routing still? For this reason, I would prefer to claim my bag, perhaps get some stuff moved to my carry on, and recheck the bag to my real known flight.

          5. Except Chris states that he used his UA FF miles…2nd to last paragraph, last sentence.

          6. Yep…darn!  Now back to square one and trying to understand how an award ticket gets signed over to a carrier that isn’t part of UA’s ff program. 

          7. I wonder if he booked way in advance and used his CO miles…would that have made a difference? I don’t recall their partners.

          8. CO switched to Star Alliance over 2 years ago, and by the timing in the story he would have booked it July 2011.

  12. What is the compensation for?  The loss of use of his delayed luggage for a week, while he purchased other clothes?  He was reimbursed for those.

    What is this, a “pain and suffering” compensation for not having his personal belongings?  Exactly what was his additional monetary loss?  

    He was moving around day to day.  If he had not gotten off the original flight, or stayed put in France, his luggage most probably would have been there for him.  So his actions contributed greatly to this situation.

    As for the travel agent’s comments, do you expect the agent to side with the airline and not the agent’s customer?

  13. Maybe it’s just me (haven’t read the other comments yet) but, he was sitting on a plane (with his suitcase in side the cargo hold), it’s delayed an hour and he walks off, demanding his suitcase?  Did I read that right?

    I don’t know he even deserved the $124 reimbursement for the chain of events he set into motion with his inability to sit there for an hour while the airline did their thing.

    Once the cargo hold is closed, doesn’t it stay that way until the plane gets to the destination?  I’m just guessing here but, closing the cargo hold is part of pre-flight safety checks, is it not?  I’m not seeing a bit of gross negligence in any of this but what I AM seeing is an OP who’s a bit of a jerk for demanding they get his suitcase out of a full, closed cargo hold and is then shocked when things don’t go exactly the way he wants them to.

    To play his sole trump card, “But I EARNED those miles…”  A lot of us earn miles, some more than others, and I don’t think he deserved any special treatment.

    1. I agree here.  Also, can the cargo hold be reopened and luggage unloaded while fuel is being removed?  Wouldn’t this be more hazardous than while the plane is being “fuelled?”  Have never had to think of this before.  Yet again, wouldn’t trying to find the luggage of one individual cause more than 1 hour’s delay for all passengers?

    2. but as Tony pulled up the flight was almost 3 hours late – so if he did NOT get up and get off the airplane he would have MISSED his connection in DEN and would have likely gotten to JFK where he would have spent the night for the AM flight to Paris . . . 

  14. I thought it was illegal for a passenger to travel without his luggage for security reasons?  Hmmm.

    This clearly shows the reason why you do not any longer get a short connection for international travel – while it might be possible for an airline to find room for one person on the next flight somewhere . . .. there is usually only one flight a day from a non-international hub like LAX,JFK,ORD etc so you will not be flying onward that day.  Moreover – he spent 100k miles for an international premium class ticket –


    The fact he paid money and miles is pretty common – American wants $300 each WAY to use premium class tickets.  And thats just for an upgrade. 

    Also a lesson here is when taking the milk run using free tickets [which is yet another way they try to discourage turning in your miles – 2 or 3 stops anywhere that often has non-stop service] ALWAYS take a morning flight – this way if things get screwed up you have choices –

    As for the EU261 compensation . . . United sold the ticket originally – they had the irregular operation – they are on the hook for the comp -= they issued a ticket for an international flight.

    1. Accept that the irregular operation occurred on a US domestic flight so EU261 doesn’t apply. I’m not sure it would even apply on the DEN to FRA leg if it was a UA flight (I’ve seen both arguments).

    2. May be the OP complain true purpose is to blackmail UA to get bigger compensation by saying the Airlines flying illegally his luggage without him.

    3. If he booked award tickets 10 months in advance on UA and only paid $190 those are likely just the taxes he paid and not actual flight costs. Doing a quick flight search I see flying from SFO-FRA-CDG is already $163 in taxes. For 100k points you can fly first class on a saver award on a two class plane, full award travel would have been 200k points. Also, since he booked an award ticket he likely didn’t have the option for a direct flight at that award level. 

      1. Direct flght?  If you mean nonstop, only AF has nonstop flights from SFO to CDG.  Everything else is a connection.

    4. I believe (but could be wrong) that, PPBM (Pax Positive Bag Match) is not required for domestic flights except DCA. So when he got off the flight for SFO-DEN, maybe the UA staff did not bother to unload his bag. I suppose it would be unloaded in DEN and then LH will make sure of the positive match.

        1. Another possibility was his bag was UNLOADED at SFO but he did not claim it. He essentially got re-issued a new ticket at SFO and MAYBE he needed to re-checked his luggage again at that point. Emphasis on the MAYBE.

    5. I was on a flight from Heathrow to LAX. One passenger did not board so his luggage was removed right before we left. Also this past April I had a VERY short connection in Heathrow onward to LAX. Had arrived only 1 hr before from Amsterdam. I would never have made it without help but my luggage got on with me fine.

    6. How about he wanted the flights he ended up on anyway but they were not available for the miles he wanted to spend?  Since SFO LHR CDG is a usually shorter route time wise than SFO DEN FRA CDG, who would NOT want that routing?  The fueling delay was just a convenient excuse to try to get what he originally wanted.  The fact that he then had lost luggage to be compensated for is just icing.

    7.  no, it isn’t illegal for bags to fly without their human.  since 100% screening was implemented post-9/11, bags can be placed on any flight.  even before that when airlines had PPBM (Positve Passenger Bag Match), it was only on a select number of bags that were matched, not all.
      some airlines still stick to that system, and pull bags when the passenger doesn’t board.  but there are no legalities involved.

  15. There is a lot missing in this story but it seems that all the events were put into play because the OP did not want to wait one hour for fuel to be unloaded. An hour delay is neither unusual or long in todays world of travel. I think, based on what has been told, the OP was fairly compensated for what he brought upon himslf by walking from the original flight.

  16. Here’s his itinerary:

    Original routing: UA316 (Denver)/LH447 (Frankfurt)/LH1036 on May 8-9, leaving SFO at 1pm.

    Actual routing: UA930/Air France 2281 to CDG.

    He was in first class, flying on an award ticket.

    My head is still spinning. I would make a terrible travel agent.

    1. So where does Delta fit into all this? He files his claim with the last airline he flew  . . . .

      AT least UA cut a stop out of his schedule – and once they got him to LHR he had TONS of options to CDG.

      This also proves that even if you check a bag anywhere – you should ALWAYS have a carryon with:

      change of clothes
      something to sleep in
      all of your necessary toiletries
      necessary drugs or contacts/glasses etc ‘
      anything of value [electronics etc]

      I have what looks like a very large rolling brief case that can easily contain everything I need for a 2 days trip – and it fits in the over head or under the seat of an RJ or turboprop and it rolls.

    2. As suspected, he got moved from a two-stop SFO-DEN-FRA-CDG to a one stop SFO-LHR-CDG.   Unclear why Delta paid a dime.  Did the bag make it to Europe on Lufthansa? Did it make it to the AF plane at all? There seems to be too much griping here unrelated to the issue of baggage. If the bag made it to CDG with the complainant (a) KUDOS to United, and (b) then the only thing that matters is what happens once he was in CDG. If the bag was flying around the world on United/Lufthansa flights without him, then AF and Delta have no responsibiltiy.

      1. The last carrier on the PNR is responsible for the luggage claim. Since AF got him to CDG, they get to handle the paperwork and follow up with UA. AF lets DL handle all of the follow up in the US. It doesn’t matter the route the bag actually took, only the flight he arrived on.

        This actually helps the consumer. Can you imagine the finger pointing game otherwise or what would happen if one of the airlines on the itinerary didn’t service your final airport?

        1.  Whoever had the technical blame in the end is not the same person who should be getting the moral outrage.  Air France got him his bags.  Whether a one week delay or not is reasonable depends on the factors I laid out.

        2. Interesting since AF never really tagged his bag or had possession of his bag since the bag never made it to the LHR-CDG leg nor the SFO-LHR UA leg. The bag was probably in DENVER. From there it had to catch up with him.

    3. Me too.  That’s why I read your blog, so that I’m not a *total* ignoramus when it comes to weird travel.  And, why I lined up a competent TA (based on criteria discerned from reading your blog) for my next complicated trip overseas. 

    4. Comments seem to not be loading.  Again, UA does not serve champagne on domestic flights.  If this customer claims to be “sipping champagne” on SFO-DEN and needs to lie/exaggerate about this type of detail, then I am not buying the rest of his story either.

      1. Chris doesn’t attribute this statement to Mr. Cook.  Perhaps that comment was an erroneous assumption on the part of Chris.  Or, Chris invoked “poetic license.”  Again I find it outrageous that, with 100K miles, a non-stop SFO – CDG flight was nowhere to be found unless, perhaps, he was willing to ride in economy all the way. Next time just tell the airline to “shove” their miles and buy a fully refundable ticket with cash (credit card.)

        1. That is a decent point….Chris?  Was that his part of the story or yours?  Because it is very misleading in either case.

          As to the rest of your comments, you are off base.  The only airline that flies non-stop SFO-CDG is Air France.  He used Star Alliance miles.  Air France is not part of Star Alliance.  So there simply is no non-stop that exists, let alone anything for you to feel outrage about.  But he probably feels it is nice that you want to use his credit card to buy a fully refundable ticket.

  17. Re: EU 264 might apply to his situation.

    Umm… is he Iranian ???

    EU 264 is about:
    COUNCIL REGULATION (EU) No 264/2012 of 23 March 2012
    amending Regulation (EU) No 359/2011 concerning restrictive measures directed against certain persons, entities and bodies in view of the situation in Iran.


  18. EDIT: This was meant as reply to @Joe Farrell – but Disqus is being difficult.

    Mind sharing the manufacturer of said very large rolling brief case and model/style?  I have a lovely bag of similar size but no wheels and the darn thing gets pretty heavy when schlepping it across an airport between concourses.

    1.  I will be happy to send you a photo and a name / model number if you contact me at comanchepilot [at] gmail [dot] com

      It is so popular that someone going to the east coast for job interview for 2 days borrowed it over the weekend and is scheduled to return it tomorrow –

  19. Well, he didn’t get enough compensation, but he would be too old to care by the time he got this one unravelled.  Chaulk it up and move on.

  20. Again, UA does not serve champagne on domestic flights.  If he claims he was onboard UA SFO-DEN “sipping champagne” and has to lie/exaggerate about even that detail, I’m not trusting the rest of his story.

  21. Need airline emp to help us here

    Last 8MAY,
    UA316 was scheduled to depart SFO 1:00 PM and arrive DEN 4:34 PM.
    The next flight LH447 was scheduled to depart 550PM. The minimum connection time is 35 minutes.

    Looking at the historical records, the airline filed the below changes (at SFO Pacific Time):
    12:55PM Estimated Gate Arrival Changed From 04:44 PM To 05:14 PM
    1:18 PM Estimated Gate Arrival Changed From 05:14 PM To 05:29 PM
    1:32 PM Estimated Gate Arrival Changed From 05:29 PM To 05:44 PM
    1:56 PM Estimated Gate Arrival Changed From 05:44 PM To 05:59 PM
    2:13 PM Estimated Gate Arrival Changed From 05:59 PM To 06:09 PM
    2:21 PM Estimated Gate Arrival Changed From 06:09 PM To 06:29 PM
    2:34 PM Estimated Gate Arrival Changed From 06:29 PM To 06:44 PM
    2:56 PM Estimated Gate Arrival Changed From 06:44 PM To 06:59 PM
    3:06 PM STATUS-Active  Actual Gate Departure Changed To 03:05 PM

    So by 118PM, he would have had an “illegal” connection (since the scheduled arrival was changed to 529PM). My question is about INVOL reroute. At what point can the passenger invoke it? Can someone already boarded simply stand up, deplane and ask to be reaccommodated?

    I don’t know the SOPs at the gate. Please explain. Thanks.

    By the way, I don’t have much sympathy about his misrouted luggage under this kind of situation. If you stand up and deplane, then your bags can easily get misrouted. The last time this happened to me, the airline unloaded all our bags at  the carousel (at the same airport we checked in), we claimed them,  and then re-checked them in again. All old bags tags had to be removed. (Note this was at JFK, in an international customs area, so you can imagine the complexity of reclaiming a bag you just checked in an hour ago.)

  22. There are very specific international laws on amounts to be paid for lost luggage, and the final airline assumes all liability for delivery, whether their fault or not. Take more action!

  23. Chris,
    I think you need to step in here and clear up the exact sequence of events.
    From reading the article it sounds like the following:
    Original Booking with United:
    Flight From SFO->DEN was delayed.
    Rebooked by United on Delta and Air France
    Fight went fine.  Luggage was lost in Transition between the airlines.
    I assume that Delta and AF Paid the Luggage because United did indeed transfer the luggage over to them, they just failed to move it timely.
    United paid him for the original delay in vouchers.

    While it sucks for him that his luggage was lost, Delta and AF did what they were required to do, and outside the original delay, United didn’t relaly do anything wrong here.  It’d be hard to ask for United to cough up more money for a mistake that they didn’t cause.  It’d be difficult to get anything further out of Delta or AF because he wasn’t their customer and bought his tickets using UNITED miles…

  24. As soon as I saw the headline in my e-mail – and even before I clicked on the link – I knew United was involved.
    I am divorcing myself from United as soon as I use up my miles.  Good luck getting additional compensation from United.
    There is a better chance of peace in the Middle East.

  25. OK, I’m going to have to follow up with Cook again. I told you this was confusing! 

    I think the bottom line for Cook is that with so many airline partners, it’s hard to know who is responsible for the substandard experience. He believes that whoever is responsible could do more.

    I think we probably have enough information to make that determination, and I can see many of you have already voted.

    I understand that some of you need more details on how he got to Paris. I’ll try to get those and will post an update when I get it.

    By the way, I’ve been traveling for the last few weeks, and Disqus is acting up (I don’t have a way of seeing the comments immediately when they post), which why I haven’t been as responsive. I’ll try to do better. 🙂

    1.  While you are chatting with him, why don’t you ask what the FA did wrong to be branded as “incompetent”?  Because usually it isn’t up to an FA which bags do or do not get pulled from the hold.

    2. This is Kenneth Cook and I’ll try to clarify the information. Unfortunately, I didn’t see this posting until a week ago.

      First off the booking: At 6-foot plus, I elected to use 100K miles to get a business class round trip from SFO to CDG. There were no available seats at that time staying purely on UA. I linked to the LH affiliate site, and there were seats galore. I chose flights that were midweek,
      and got decent seats on the 2 UA and 4 LH legs. The award booking was assigned both UA and LH locators.

      Now the eastbound leg: on boarding the UA flight in SFO, I was offered California sparkling wine in business class, as we had about 30 minutes to scheduled push back at 1pm. At 1:15, the captain made his announcement: 30 minutes for a tanker to arrive, 30 minutes to unload the excess fuel. My connection time in Denver was 75 minutes. With another hour at the gate, the flight attendant told me to grab my gear and see a counter agent for rebooking. I was third in the queue to speak with the agent. He looked at my ticket (brushing my proffered luggage claim aside and ignoring my request to have the luggage removed) and told me to step aside. I complied, and watched as he dealt with the domestic fliers with connections in the central and mountain
      states regions first. I waited until last, an hour later, as the plane was
      pushing back. [In an hour, I believe my luggage could have been retrieved.] He released my seat and it was assigned to another passenger much earlier on in my wait. He then booked me on a UA flight to LHR at 7:35pm, leaving me to chill my jets for 5 hours in the business lounge. At Heathrow, I was to change to a AF flight to CDG. The gate agent assigned that routing – I just stood there and watched, as I was finally going to be able to get to Paris, I hoped.

      I labeled the gate agent grossly incompetent as I watched him jump from one task to another, never focusing on completing a rebooking straight through. I saw him handle about 15 other passengers, some of whom walked off to a concourse station and other gate agents. He may have been new, he certainly acted harried, and he was never polite or gracious. I particularly (quietly) resented his instructions to step aside without some explanation, other than “I’m going to take care of these other people first.”

      With 20-20 hindsight, I could have stayed on the plane, but there was no guarantee that there would have been a business-class seat available on a DEN-FRA or DEN-CDG flight, and I was never given that option. I
      was instructed to debark.

      My carry-on included my medications (one of which has to be
      kept chilled, so included icepacks,) books, camera, journal, pens,
      identification, travel information, a small toilet kit and some water. I was
      not carrying a phone or a computer, as the house I would stay at in Goult does not have Internet.

      Regulations for lost/delayed baggage assign responsibility to the terminating carrier, hence AF (and Delta, its US partner) to recover and deliver.

      Compensation: United initially offered 3K Mileage Plus miles or two small. I replied that this was absurd. They countered with the $100
      travel voucher. What I anticipated? 20-25K MP miles. Where it stands? No change since their last offer. Email sent to United’s CEO remains unanswered.

      Unfortunately, I still have 100K+ at MP, so another business trip to Europe may happen. Lesson learned: wait until I’m off the refrigerated meds, pack some clothing in the backpack. Still, the next award trip will be AA. Hopefully it will be a better trip.

      1. The kind of ticket you had, the routing of your flights, or the transaction you had inside the airplane or at the gate is irrelevant. All your case is about is DELAYED LUGGAGE on an INTERNATIONAL flight. That said, any compensation is based on the Montreal Convention. Since nothing was lost or damage, then the airlines barely owe you anything. The COCs of the airline may bind them for something else (i.e. some expense reimbursement). But that is voluntary. Sorry.

  26. why on earth do yanks think that is something goes wrong, it’s someone else’s fault apart from their own & they should be compensated ?

    Bloody lawyers. Shakespeare said centuries ago that we should shoot all the lawyers.

    No better time than the present.

    + Above is all the more reason to not check in bags.

    1. I wish I could like this post more than once!

      No offence to the lawyers.

      I like the part about why everyone has to blame someone else when something goes wrong and wants compensation for it. Sometimes stuff just happens.

  27. The bottom line is that Cook had a right to expect his luggage would be at his first stop in Europe.  That didn’t happen and THEN the airline had him waiting a WEEK!  He deserves to be compensated in CASH–not in worthless vouchers or miles.  Having said that I would have NEVER checked ANY bags—even with the original itinerary.  Two connections is, essentially, ASKING to have your luggage lost.  Changing the itinerary, once your journey has begun, almost guarantees it.  This is another example of how airline miles are close to being worthless.  Cook handed-over 100,000 miles, and he STILL couldn’t get a non-stop SFO – CDG flight!  Add to that the aggravation of having to wait a week for his luggage.  I’d rather purchase a fully refundable “economy plus” ticket; fly non-stop; tell the airline to keep their stupid miles and to put them where the sun doesn’t shine! 

    1.  But if it is his fault that his luggage didn’t arrive, he doesn’t really have a right to expect his luggage to be there. When he changed flights without consulting the airline first, there’s no reasonable expectation of his bag flying with him.

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