What Should You Do When Lost Luggage Spoils Your Vacation?

Feb 26, 2020, 10:31 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 9:57 pm

OREM, Utah – Every year, millions of people hop on a plane and travel the world. And every year, millions of pieces of luggage are misplaced or lost.

Under federal regulation, airlines are required to compensate passengers if their bags are damaged, delayed, or lost. But that compensation doesn’t always come so easy.

Just ask Shelly Juber.

Her delayed luggage with United Airlines cost her time, phone calls, emails and all the relaxation she should have had on her tropical vacation.

She spent eight days in Antigua – seven of those days without her luggage.

“It was terrible. I lived a week with none of this,” said Juber, while looking at the contents of a bag she never unpacked.

Not a single piece of clothing or toiletry saw the light of day on her Christmas vacation.

The ‘Vacation’

To fully understand how she got to this point, let’s go back to December 20 when Shelly flew United Airlines.

She and her boyfriend, Lex, hopped on an airplane from Salt Lake City to Newark, New Jersey, and finally the beaches of Antigua.

They made it. Her luggage did not. So, she contacted the airline.

“I said, ‘Where’s my luggage?’ They said, ‘We don’t know,’” she said.

Shelly Jubar with the suitcase that never got unpacked on her vacation. (KSL TV)

Shelly immediately filed a delayed baggage report and hoped for the best.

That was day one.

Midway through day two it looked like her problem was solved. A notification on the United app showed her bag was scanned at the Antigua airport at 1:37 p.m.

“I’m thinking, ‘It’s in the airport! It’s in Antigua! I’ll get it today!’” said Shelly, “No, I didn’t get it.”

Day three wasn’t much better.

Day four was more of the same.

Day five, and another notification on the United app, showing her bag was scanned at the airport.


Once again, her bag was nowhere to be found.

“They don’t know where it is,” said Shelly.

Day six, she made a Christmas wish on social media, with a photo of her bag and the tag line, “All I want for Christmas is my checked luggage to be found!”

On day seven, less than 24 hours before her return flight home, Shelly called baggage claim at the airport one last time.

“He says, ‘Your bag is on today’s flight from Newark.’ I said, ‘It is?!’” said Shelly.

Shelly finally got her bag!

But what that missing bag did to her $10,000 dollar vacation came at a cost.

Policy & Compensation

“It was terrible,” said Shelly, “It was a nightmare. It’s just been a pain.”

She wanted compensation, and according to United Airlines policy, Shelly believed she deserved it.

On their website under the section on delayed bags it states, “If we can’t find your bag after three days, we’ll pay you $1,500 for the value of the bag and its contents.”

Well, seven days of delayed luggage is certainly more than three. The fact it was scanned two times in Antigua, but could not be found at the airport, had Shelly defining her luggage as “lost.”

That’s not how she said United defined it.

“It was never lost. Your bag was never lost. You got it back. It was only delayed,” she said.

Expert Opinion

Looking for a little insight, the KSL Investigators sat down with travel expert Douglas Wren, owner of Wren International in Salt Lake City, to ask what the odds were that Shelly would get the $1,500.

“Not good,” said Wren. “Not good.”

Wren said it’s rare for an airline to give out cash, and the process of paperwork required to get the money can be frustrating.

“I think it depends on the will of the person,” said Wren. “(The airlines) won’t make it easy.”

“Do you think they make it difficult on purpose?” asked Headrick.

“Yes,” said Wren, “No question.”

United Airlines’ Response

The KSL Investigators contacted United Airlines about Shelly’s claim, by phone and email. In the process, we questioned two media relations representatives. They said they would look into it.

One day later, Shelly received a $600 flight voucher in her email inbox, courtesy of United Airlines.

It was something, but it wasn’t the $1,500 in cash she believed they still owed her.

Quick side note here – by accepting the flight voucher, Shelly would also be “releasing United from any and all liability and claims.”

She wasn’t going to do that.

“They want you to give up and go away,” said Shelly. “I’m sure many people give up and go away.”

In a statement to KSL, United Airlines said:

“We work diligently to resolve delayed baggage cases directly with our customers. We immediately conducted a search for the luggage after Ms. Juber submitted the necessary information. We reunited Ms. Juber with her belongings, apologized for the inconvenience and provided compensation.”

“Let me ask you this, do you believe you’ll get the money?” Headrick asked.

After a long pause, Shelly finally responded, “No, I don’t.”

Show Me The Money

At this point it should be noted, United would not acknowledge KSL played a role in what happened next, but five days after Shelly got that flight voucher, she got a piece of mail from United.

Inside the envelope was a check for $1,500.

While Shelly was not the first victim of lost luggage, she certainly won’t be the last.

Now she hopes her frustrating tale will shine a light on what she believes is a bigger problem, claiming the airline’s efforts to make things right shouldn’t be so hard.

What Do You Do?

So, what should you do if you show up to your destination and your bags do not?

First, report it to the airline and do not leave the airport before doing so.

Also, know your rights.

If a passenger’s checked luggage is lost, delayed, or damaged, airlines are responsible for up to $3,500 in compensation. A web page from the U.S. Department of Transportation has the details.

Also, travel expert Douglas Wren said, get travel insurance. You don’t necessarily have to insure the trip, just insure yourself. He said you can spend $20 to $25 and get travel insurance at zero cost to the trip, meaning if you cancel the trip you’re out the money.

But if you go on the trip and have a mishap, you will be compensated for lost or delayed baggage, a delayed trip, even medical evacuation if you get sick or injured.

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What Should You Do When Lost Luggage Spoils Your Vacation?