US Airways Stole My Laptop and Won't Replace It

US Airways Stole My Laptop and Won't Replace It

On a flight from Philadelphia to New York my girlfriend was asked, as she boarded the plane, to "check" her carry on bag and put it below the plane because there was no longer any room in the bins in the cabin. When she arrived in NYC she was asked to retrieve her bag at baggage claim. Once it was apparent her bag was not showing up, the baggage department said that her bag would be delivered to her the next day. When she received her bag, her laptop was missing.  Katy filed a complaint and received this letter.

Katy ended up losing thousands of photos that she had failed to backup (she won't make that mistake again). The laptop itself was not very valuable but that isn't the point. The point is that US Airways forced Katy to check a bag but will not guarantee the safety of anything inside. Sure, a laptop, phone, or jewelry, is easy to remove from a carry on bag (and she should have remembered to do that) but what if your carry on bag is full of camera equipment?

How can we travel safely with photography equipment?
I travel everywhere with a ThinkTank Airport Security V 2.0 roller bag filled with over $10,000 of camera equipment. On my back I carry a Lowepro Trekker 400 with more cameras, lenses, a laptop, and an iPad. I can always fit the backpack under the seat in a jam but about 20% of the time I am forced to check my roller bag because either the bins are too small or already full before I get on the plane. I cannot "remove fragile or valuable items" because the whole bag is full of fragile and valuable items.

So what are photographers supposed to do when we fly with gear? You aren't supposed to check it, but the airlines may force you to. I'm just waiting for the day when my roller bag full of photography gear never shows up at baggage claim, and apparently US Airways will not cover my loss.

I believe that US Airways should make a couple very simple changes. First, if you are forced to check a carry on bag, you should be given your bag back as soon as you land. Second, if they can't do this they should be willing to pay for damaged or stolen items. Do the right thing US Airways and replace Katy's laptop.

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81 Comments

i cant see the letter?

Matt Savage's picture

Well said.  I, along with most every other photographer, do everything I can to not door check my bag, but sometimes can't do anything about it.  I feel bad for Katy, and yes US Airways should replace her laptop at the very least.

If only the government and TSA surveilled their own as closely as they surveilled you, it might even be possible to determine where the loss occurred.

But as it's explained in the paper, it's almost impossible. Plus if it was stolen, they probably stole it where there are no cameras, no admins or no security. Go google the video that guy did of the "baggage cam" and you can see all that the baggage goes through, not "simple"

Very irresponsible air company. We'll ensure we NEVER flight with them.

Thanks for posting. US Airways should guarantee your baggage, as many other companies do.

This deserves to be spread. Unfortunately that's the way some companies take REAL care of their customers...

US Airways sucks. I used them once and it was such a horrible experience that I refuse to use them again. I hope they go under.

If you have a child they will gate-check your stroller and it will be returned to you as you disembark the plane.  That is what should ALWAYS happen with carry-ons you are made to check because that way the airline assure a greater level of security.  Only the gate and ground staff at the terminal will handle your bag.  The problem would be solved with that simple step and by implementing a service that is already in place and widely used.

To quote David Lo Pan, "No pathetic excuses."

A TSA person was recently accused of stealing an iPad. Maybe TSA stole it. 

I think I remember Scott Bourne once saying something about packing a race starting pistol in your locked luggage and declare it at the luggage counter. They will be forced to call over security and have you open your bag and show them the firearm. Then they will ask you to relock your bag and it will be given special attention so as to not lose the firearm during transport.

Scott Bourne is an idiot.

Lee Morris's picture

Hah, maybe this is the answer. More guns. 

Oh, I stand corrected. If LifeHacker says so, then Scott Bourne must be a genius. Go ahead and give this a try and let us know how it works out for you.

Having flown with actual firearms, not just race pistols, this really is a good idea.  The only downside is the fact that to transport a firearm, the "bag" must meet certain standards to fly.  Basically you're looking at getting a pelican case, or at least one built similarly. 

You declare the firearm to the check in counter and fill out a form.  They look to make sure the case meets the standards and is properly locked... Note: the lock must not be one of those cheapo crappy "tsa" certified locks, which is a good thing.  Then they tell you to wait by the counter area for a few minutes in case they need you to open the case for inspection.  I have never had to open up the case for them, however it does happen.

Once that is done, you board your flight and pick up your luggage as usual.  Definitely the safest way to fly in the US, just keep in mind this probably won't work for international travel.

Moronic anti-gun peeps aside, I've heard a about this trick before and apparently it works very well.  In my opinion, it's a BRILLIANT idea for keeping your checked gear secure from nosy TSA agents etc...

I hate US Airways and will never fly with them again. We were on our way back from Miami and were forced to gate check our bag (we had one bag between four people) because there was no room. We got onto the plane and all the bins were either empty or only half full

i know the situation sucks, and US Airways does suck for not stepping up...but this just goes to show that $600-800 a year (plus a deductible) to insure all your gear, is worth it in the event that $10k worth of stuff gets lost/stolen...

Um, you may want to consider blacking out the name of the recipient where it appears in the last paragraph as well as at the top. :)

Lee Morris's picture

Ya, I saw that. I'm not too worried about it. Just didn't want her address public. 

Ask for a written guarantee that nothing will happen to your luggage if you are asked to gate check luggage that you are entitled to take on board. Every airline that I've asked for a written guarantee from, has backed down and allowed my gear to be taken on board.

TSA say you are allowed a normal carry on size bag and an additional one of photographic equipment. Carry a copy of the TSA rules / airline rules and never have a hassle.

If space is such a premium in overhead bins etc, the airline will usually ask for someone else to have their bag moved to the luggage hold, or under a seat.

Just to play devil's advocate here, it really may not be US Airways fault (and no, I don't work for them)  Baggage is handled first by the airline, then by the airport staff, and the TSA.  They are very different crews and people, and there is really no way to know where the bag disappeared.  

From US Airways perspective, the bag may have been taken off with all the others, put into the airport's "system" and stolen from there.  They should bring gate-checked bags back up the stairs when you land, you're absolutely right about that.

Short of that, they can;t exactly go around buying everyone that says they had a bad with a laptop in it but now don't a new laptop, as there is no way to verify there is even anything missing...

It's a crappy situation all around.  I don't fly US because I think they just suck in general, and never end up being the most economical flight anyway.

All you can do is chalk it up to live and learn, and hopefully your experience helps others.

Lee Morris's picture

I agree. Perhaps a US Air employee wasn't the one who took it. And Katy could have simply removed the laptop from the bag but she forgot. The bigger issue that I see is that US Air can force you to check a bag that could be filled with anything of value and they don't want to be responsible for it. But if I no longer have it in my possession, I can't be responsible for it either. 

If you put something of value in a bag and check it purposefully that is one thing but if an airline forces you to check it, as you are boarding the plane, that is another story in my opinion. 

Yeah, I agree.  On Southwest if they have to gate-check it they always return it right when you exit...seems like making that the policy would make this much less likely to happen.

Another thing, if you've got something you just can't afford to risk checking, is to whip out your wallet and offer someone a hundred bucks to let you put your bag in their spot....I bet you'd get a taker on any flight.

$100 last minute insurance is better than nothing.

i'll post this article to facebook in hopes it goes viral. retribution & bad publicity are a motherfucker. 

Agree, tagging US Airways over and over in Twitter is something they can't stop and a lot of times gets their attention fast!  That and contacting a consumer advocate group to see if they will push it helps to.

★✰★sin(theta) = a★✰★'s picture

Horrible!

Melanie's picture

Thanks for sharing as I had no idea they would avoid assuming liability. I've had to check my carry on sometimes as well and have never been told I'm doing so at my own risk! You pay for their services and ieven if they sub-contract out the service ,they should still provide customer service the same way any other company would! 

Regina Pagles's picture

Just ONE MORE reason I will NEVER fly on the airline...

Reposted this on G+

The flight attendants once tried to coerce me into placing my bags in the belly of the plane until I 'explained' that I had several thousand dollars worth of photography gear and I wanted to know, in writing, that they would be personally liable for any damages or loss incurred...  They managed to make some room by removing some of the oversized bags that others had placed in overhead bins before me.

Since then, I have committed to carrying my gear in a bag small enough to fit underneath the seat in front of me so that I would not have an issue.

josephp's picture

1.  I'm really sorry this happened to you.  It's awful.
2.  Your boyfriend is a photographer and you don't have your photos backed up? For shame...

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