United Airlines Passenger Checked A Bottle Of Tequila. Someone Took A Shot Before It Hit Baggage Claim.

This United Airlines passenger checked a bag with a bottle of tequila. It came back opened and partially consumed.

  • You can’t bring this through security because it’s a liquid and in 2006 there was a plot to bring liquid explosives through airport security in Britain (even Britain is moving past this rule).

  • So you’re stuck trusting the airline and security staff with your booze.

  • Your alcohol doesn’t always make it unscathed.

Language in this video, from a very unhappy passenger, is very much not safe for work (or for work from home):

It’s had to pin this on United, but they’ve appeared to accept responsibility for similar incidents in the past. When you check a bag with an airline, the airline is responsible for it even though they aren’t the only one that touches it.

You may have seen the slips that TSA sometimes sticks into bags saying that they’ve opened and inspected it, for instance. And when there is more than one airline on your itinerary, it’s the last airline before your destination that is responsible for it even if they aren’t the one that loses it.

There are plenty of stories I’ve seen about items being taken out of checked luggage, or entire bags being stolen (sometimes at baggage claim by another passenger – again, not the airline!). But it’s the last airline on your itinerary that’s generally on the hook.

Earlier this year a United Airlines passenger checked a bottle of expensive whiskey and got it back one-third empty. Until then I’d never seen a claim of a baggage handler drinking on the job between the time a bag is checked and when it is loaded onto the aircraft, or between the time it is unloaded and brought to baggage claim.

I wasn’t even sure when they would do it? Is there someone sitting, hiding, inside the baggage conveyance system of the airport, pulling checked bags off the belt knowing there’s alcohol inside… downing one third of the bottle, zipping the bag back up and sending it on its way? And why on earth would someone be taking one third of a bottle of scotch, instead of just taking the bottle of scotch?

However United took responsibility for the one-third missing $100 whiskey with a $200 travel credit. Perhaps an employee wasn’t drinking on the job quickly but instead poured a third of the bottle into another container (all that fit in the container), which kept them from getting caught with a stolen bottle, or even with a bottle of whiskey on the job.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Employees usually aren’t rifling through luggage. I’m sure the TSA saw it when it went through checked bag screening. I’m not accusing the TSA, mind you, but there’s virtually nowhere an airline employee can go that’s not on camera. They’re everywhere.

  2. Neither article seems to specify, but I would presume that there is a strong likelihood that someone flying with tequila would be coming back from Mexico, and someone with whisky from Scotland. If it is the case that these were international flights, would it not be plausible that CBP might have had a look and a test (via actual testing kit)? I’d agree that this would be an unpleasant surprise, but the converse would be to make it well-known to smugglers that anything resembling high-end liquor would be given a free pass…

  3. Anyone who would lawfully open the bottle would leave a note of what has been done. I have got them in my luggage before. A criminal opened this bottle and the owner has every right to be upset.
    Also about the NSFW designation, if you live in a city and have a wide group of friends, you will hear this type of speech. Designating it as NSFW makes it seem discriminatory about some people’s speech patterns.

  4. For the rest of us, there’s Duty Free.

    Yes, checked luggage is risky, given low-class, thirsty, luggage handlers.

    I had an electronic device stole once a long time ago. So I know. Still. I sometimes pack a bottle for convenience of not shopping for my prefered label at arrival.

    Just s reminder that there are thirsty luggage handlers, whether airline staff, TSA, corrupt foreigners, et al.

    I hope Rich Mac continues to fly, and just looks back on this stolen shot as a funny experience.

  5. This United Airlines passenger checked their sealed bottle of tequila before boarding. However, while the bottle of tequila was in the airline’s custody, someone opened the bottle and secretly consumed the whisky before baggage services returned the checked passenger baggage. This passenger is fortunate the drinker did not add a replacement volume of urine or other body fluids to the bottle to conceal drinking alcohol while on duty with an airline.

  6. Pshaw . This is UA performing its quality control of libations passing through luggage. Apparently they are very good at this. Cheers!

  7. “raising concerns about the security and integrity of airline baggage handling.”

    Are there really travellers who think their checked bags are the slightest bit secure? What exactly would you bring or purchase on a trip that you’d put in a checked bag where it could disappear? We have carryons for valuables, if we’re dumb enough to travel with anything valuable. There’s no hope for humanity with this level of naive beliefs.

  8. Secure your booze in a proper travel container and you really shouldn’t have a problem. I’ve flown tons with the free case of wine (with a proper travel box) Alaska lets you fly with and have never had an issue with tampering.

  9. Being honest, if you look at the bottle in the video, it looks like hardly any was taken, much less “a shot”. I wonder if there was an odor of spilled tequila anywhere around it. Maybe the pressure changes got to it and it popped a bit.

    Now, I’m not saying that it _wasn’t_ a baggage handler that did it, but I’m also saying that it looks more than a bit suspicious to me, since there isn’t very much missing.

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