Passenger Pours Out $100 Whiskey After His United Checked Bags Are Tampered With

Early last week a United Airlines passenger received their checked luggage only to find that their unopened $100 Glenmorangie single malt was returned one-third empty. The passenger blamed United baggage handlers, but I found the situation curious.

  • It’s not only the airline with access to the bag. For instance, TSA opens bags.
  • Surely the bottle must have spilled? The passenger insists it did not.
  • If someone was going to steal it, why not just take the whole bottle?

The passenger whose bottle of ‘A Taste Of Cake’, aged in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in a Tokaji dessert wine cask, found my post and shared that there was “no TSA slip” and the bottle had been “sealed” when it was packed, yet “It arrived..cap opened and seal broken. There is NO WAY it leaked….the box was dry. The cap was replaced.”

And now I also have the rest of the story. The bottle was a gift for Christopher Ambler, who posted the photo of one-third of its contents having gone missing. It was actually transported to Las Vegas by James Glendening who also found his way to the comments here. He’s in the wine and spirits industry, and had traveled to Vegas for the Bar & Restaurant Expo. And he knows how to protect a good bottle of whiskey.

I use a hardhsell Samsonite suitcase with combo locks, and I use specially made 2 part bottle carry bags with an inner sleeve of bubble wrap style material & an outer sleeve of heavy plastic that has 2 spaced rows of Ziploc style seals and then an additional velcro closure to contain leaks in case of breakage.

The Glenmorangie comes in a box, I had to remove it from the box and pack it in the sleeve so it was visibly full and with an unbroken seal when packed. When I got to Vegas and took it out of the bag to show Christopher, it was removed from the protective sleeve and the seal was broken. There was no leakage in the luggage, and pressure couldn’t have opened it and then put the cork back in, much less removed it from the protective sleeve.

The seal on the scotch was “obviously cut.” Sadly they poured the remaining two thirds of the bottle down the drain, no longer knowing or trusting what was inside.

One reader suspects that whomever opened the back poured a third of the bottle into another container. And that’s how much fit. They wouldn’t have wanted to get caught with a stolen bottle, or even a bottle of whiskey on the job. This gave them a taste.

We don’t actually know whether this was a United Airlines employee, a TSA employee, or someone else working at the airport. But it does seem like one-third of the bottle was taken, not just spilled. And United has provided $200 travel credit as an apology.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @Gary — You skipped the obvious explanation — that this could be made up bs for clicks

  2. That’s nothing – several years back I had an entire case of wine stole at O’Hare from United

    Was flying on a RJ, connecting in O’Hare. Both legs were on the same aircraft, but different flight numbers – so there was no reason to remove my wine case as it wasn’t changing planes. Wine was packed in a standard cardboard wine shipper with styrofoam inserts.

    Filed a report with United – receipts and all – was never replied to even after following up as best I could with e-mails and phone calls to United

  3. Hard a $75 dollar of port stolen from checked bags departing Vegas on Southwest. What’s purchased in Las Vegas stays there…..

  4. My son and I return from touring Spey river whiskey distilleries in November, carrying 6 bottles of unique whiskey, the type they only sell at the distilleries. Among them was a bottle of 40 yrs old Glenfarclas (bought by me for someone else) worth well over $1,000. I now feel lucky we weren’t robbed.
    (too bad I can’t insert or attach a picture of it)

  5. First of all I would pour it out too. No idea what May have been out in what was left in the bottle.

    Also a $100 bottle of liquor isn’t that high end. I like tequila and have a bottle that is almost $500. All my sipping tequilas (as opposed to one’s for margaritas) are over $100 and that is a routine thing to drink, nothing special

  6. “No TSA slip”

    They stopped doing those awhile ago.
    And BTW, why were they doing them anyways? Who cares

  7. My mom packed cheese in her checked bag. When she got her bag it had a sticker saying jt was inspected and all the cheese was gone. Next time I flew I brought a small soft sided cooler as a carry-on. TSA still confiscated some of it. Thieves.
    The reason we travel with cheese is my brother lives near an amazing cheese shop.

  8. It was a hundred dollars. Suck it up! And, it was whiskey. Now if had been bourbon. I might get that. But, this happened in 2023. And, there’s an article about losing $100? Pappy Van Winkle must be rolling in his grave!

  9. I feel bad for the person.10 yrs back I and my son were going to india for some personal business, my son bought a Johnny walker whisky from the duty free shop ,well the bag was tape shut we got off at New Delhi Indira Gandhi Int’l Airport the custom person tells him he can’t take it out with him my son being a US citizen by birth asks him why,and the guy gives him some BS and before I can intervine he opens the bottle and emptied the whole thing in the trash can, telling them you mf you want me to leave this so you can throw it away,I don’t leave my work on anyone else..
    Then he turns around and tells me mom let’s go I can’t stand these people. So in short you will find all type of people everywhere.

  10. Not accurate- I get TSA slips all the time – probably at least 25% of my checked bags.

  11. We purchased neon green luggage straps to wrap on our hard cases. Helps identify bags at the carousel, as well as giving structural security. They’re a pain to get into. We also have the TSA approved locks that have a pop up button that indicates if the TSA opened the lock. Before leaving baggage claim we always check the lock.

  12. TSA has not stopped leaving the inspection tags in bags bc one was left in my luggage less than a week ago.

  13. I had a hip flask filled with vodka and packed in checked luggage received empty. someone doubtlessly was a happy camper. I called TSA and they pretty much hung up on me

  14. There are cameras everywhere the luggage travels. I’d be surprised if this really occurred because TSA and baggage handlers know they are on camera at all times . Glad United reimbursed you . They want to keep passengers not loose them and our background checks are quite extensive. A United F/ A .

  15. I’m sorry but all of this just screams BS. First, $100 bottle of whiskey is low end. Second, none of this makes any sense at all.

  16. Wait until Les learns that bourbon is also whiskey and that scotch whiskey is the superior whiskey…

  17. I had all my electronics stolen on an American Airlines flight from Toronto to Detroit. Everything was checked in before I boarded and gone when I landed. This was 10 years ago? My Xbox 360, both controllers, cords and all my games were missing from my checked bags. All they said was electronics aren’t covered. So even though one of THEIR employees stole from me, I was just out all that money.

  18. I always put a very small zip tie on my checked luggage, not for security but I know immediately if someone has been in my luggage. Very seldom are they missing.

  19. That is not a $100 bottle, it is very hard to find and can go for more than $150 adding shipping if you can find it.

  20. As if you need more reasons not to fly United. Alaska lets you fly with up to a case of wine for free and I’ve never had an issue. Not cut open boxes, no opened bottles, no broken bottles in years of travel.

  21. Booze swiping ain’t all. Some sneak swiped my Hopi belt buckle on my way back to Tucson from my brother’s funeral in Denver. Filed claim a report ,nothing found. Who watches the watchers.

  22. For the people saying he should “suck it up”, and that it was only $100; it doesn’t matter. It’s the principle of it all. It was his, and no one had the right to tamper with it.

  23. 100 dollars??? Who cares? I mean really… Gonna drink that much up at the airport & on the plane… 5 or 6 beers

  24. For the people saying this bottle is nothing special because it’s $100, first of all, it’s the principle here not how much it’s worth. Secondly this was a very limited edition that will never be made again that’s why it was unique. Just because it’s not your prize in booze doesn’t mean it’s not something special to someone else. I always put the maximum amount of spirits in my checked luggage and so far no problems but it’s horrible to hear about this tampering, it’s obviously shameful.

  25. @Steve:
    No, they have not stopped doing TSA slips. As recently as end of February 2023, I got a “Inspected by TSA”” slip in my bag.

  26. Please don’t write “whomever opened”. It makes you sound like a YouTube commenter.

  27. Sorry to be a pedant, but I will be. I understand that there are many differences in spelling between UK and US English, but whiskey is not a generic term. Whisky from Scotland and Canada is *always* spelled “whisky by legal definition. I appreciate it is cumbersome to write whiskey/whisky when talking in general terms, but when referring the spirit from Scotland, only “whisky” is correct.

  28. Every one of these comments are nothing more than a juvenile game of “Can You Top This”. No one, literally NO ONE cares what was stolen from you bag. That isn’t the point.

    The real issue to me is that all @United could offer was a $200 travel voucher. Someone rifled through a passenger’s bag, violated his trust by stealing a gift meant for his friend, and all they could manage was a travel voucher‽ I’m not one to look for “compensation” where none is due, but this is truly a pathetic gesture on the part of @United.

    At the very least, the airline, and @TSA @TransportationSecurityAdministration should have done is cover the cost of replacing the bottle, and ponied up for the two friends to fly somewhere where they celebrate their birthdays together. Would I normally suggest such a generous remuneration? No, absolutely not! But both @United and @TransportationSecurityAdministration need to be taught a lesson. I could be mistaken, but I believer every area of the bowels of an airport are monitored by security cameras. Find the people who did this and fire them. Think of all the things which go missing that passengers don’t report. The passenger thinks they left an item in a hotel room, or they were careless and lost it, all the while some member of United’s ground crew or a @TSA bag inspector has decided to help themselves!

    Lastly, to those of you who arrogantly state that a $100 bottle of liquor “isn’t that expensive”, let it be known that when it isn’t YOUR money, you don’t have the privilege to decide what is expensive or thrifty. To the gift giver, and the intended recipient, that may have been quite a hefty sum. You simply have no idea!

  29. Checked a 20 pound bag of Maui onions on a flight to Honolulu. When it came onto the luggage carousel there were about 6 onions rolling around in an otherwise empty bag.

  30. A passenger received their checked luggage. NO. A passenger received HIS checked luggage. Passenger is singular, so the pronoun must be singular too. You’re not a writer if you can’t write a simple sentence like this correct grammatically.

  31. “whomever opened” – Lots of people think “whom” is always grammatical or something. Whom is object pronoun. When it is the subject – it is “whoever” opened.

  32. Well, Stanley makes an EXCELLENT wide mouth flask that holds 8 ounces, which just so happens to be A THIRD of a 750ml bottle of liquor. Just saying…

  33. I’d have done the same thing. Most likely someone drank out of it and refilled it with water. Still not worth the risk.

  34. For those saying that this couldn’t be real because TSA has cameras… you’re delusional. I had my bags pissed and shit in (including opening up the zipper section, then opening up my makeup bag, and then proceeding to shit in that). I got a lovely little TSA has inspected your bag slip right on top of everything. Took a lot of fighting with Delta during my honeymoon, but they finally gave in and took us to pick up a few clothes and toiletries since we had nothing in Mexico now.

  35. Too bad it wasn’t insured. A bottle that special! Makes me want to cry. Makes me angry at the temerity of people! If it makes me angry, can’t imagine how you feel. I feel for you!

  36. One more comment. Geez people! Your more concerned with correcting grammer and spelling than what the article actually was about.

    And those of you who are saying “$100 so what, spend more at the bar”. That’s the bar, lots of overhead and that’s your money! This was Glenmorangie single malt whisky! And $100 is a really good price, it can go for a lot more. It’s the principal of the thing, and a warning! If they will steal that, they will steal anything.

  37. This us an EXCELLENT REMINDER to zip tie all your checked luggage closed with unusual zip tie color.
    If they have enter bag they have to cut ziptie and if they dont leave slip you know to expect something missing. Unusual color means they’re unlikely to be able to simply replace tie with new one.

  38. Or maybe Aliens had a taste of your vintage whiskey and were smart know how re seal.a broken seal seal they are after all intelligent for being Artificial sounds like a episode for the twilight zone

  39. I’ve always been curious about the zip tie thing and why that matters? Even if they cut the zip ties and go in the bag (which they can do anyway) and then steal something, how is that any different than stealing something w a zip tie on it? Same result so why does the zip tie matter?

  40. I fly united, a lot. Never had issues with anyone going through my bag.
    Delta through TUL, the baggage bashers pilfered through my gate checked luggage.
    TSA still occasionally leaves slips, but not nearly all the time.
    All reports of theft are turned over to the FBI for investigation, and there’s more TSA employees arrested for theft than there are terrorists arrested…….

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