United Says ‘Lavatory Leak’ Soiled All of Veteran’s Belongings, Will Take 8-10 Weeks to Compensate Him

Dave Harris flew home to Colorado Springs on Friday after a six month deployment in the Mideast. He says his “whole life for six months” was in his checked bag. It contained his uniforms, “workout clothes, gifts for..family, jewelry” for his wife.

Friends picked him up. On the way out from baggage claim tot he parking lot they all noticed a disgusting smell coming from his bag. They opened the bag when they got out to the friends’ truck and discovered “it’s all wet.”

They returned to baggage claim and spoke to a United agent there. She “put her hand over her nose” and insisted they take the bag out of the baggage office because it smelled so bad. She brought out an air spray. And she told the serviceman “”there had been a ‘lavatory leak’ and quite literally the bag and all of his belongings were covered in it.

He was instructed to file a claim online. Not satisfied they went up to the United ticket counter but agents there were unhelpful. They “handed Dave a pair of gloves, and some large plastic bags.”

Here’s how a friend who picked him up described the situation,

All of his personal belongings from the last 6 months were in that bag.

Including a COMBAT FLOWN U.S. FLAG that was given to him as a thank you for his service during deployment.

It’s all covered in HUMAN WASTE.

While going through all of his belongings, on the floor of the ticketing lobby, Dave was able to get a United customer service agent on the phone (because all of the employees at the airport had vanished). And this agent told my friend that he could file a complaint online and it would be resolved in 8-10 WEEKS.

Here’s a United customer service agent with a mask on because she won’t get near the bag due to its intense smell.

According to United,

We have been in touch with the customer to apologize and compensate him for the damage to his bags. We are also looking into this situation to further understand what happened.

While United just raised the price of transporting checked bags as an active duty serviceman Dave Harris at least wouldn’t have been charged for what the airline did to him.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. This complete lack of empathy is not surprising from the corporate culture that gives us ass beatings of senior citizens in airports, killing puppies in overhead bins, having the fake police forcibly remove a passenger who was not in any way physically violent … and breaks guitars.

    United has an absolutely rotten corporate culture that seems beyond fixing. Could not pay me to fly with them.

  2. Just a small detail – it looks to me as though he is active duty (uniformed in picture), rather than a “veteran” as stated in the headline. I know you’re passing along a term from a tweet, but I think it’s an inaccurate one.

  3. Absolutely appalling ! A hazmat team should have been called and , at the very least , UA should have taken the bag and gotten it and the contents cleaned . This should not have become the passenger’s problem .@Gary – you should follow up and try to find out additional details . If this leak occurred onboard the aircraft , it would be interesting to know if the plane was removed from service and had a bio hazard cleaning .

  4. @DaveS – I am not certain the correct usage here, a bit of quick research suggests there’s some disagreement over whether active duty military are considered veterans, however since he’s just been rotated out of a foreign military posting perhaps it’s appropriate?

  5. Unbelievable that United employee was standing behind him making him load it up. She should be fired.

  6. @Blue it seems like she was the only one who gave enough of a fuck to even come talk to him… and SHE’S the one you want to fire? Everyone else got the hell out of the area.

  7. @Gary – Currently serving Service Members are also considered veterans and have veteran benefits. However, Service Member (SM) is probably a better term to distinguish someone who is an active member of the military.

  8. Manager at the airport should be fired for not stepping up and making this right. Other employees involved should be suspended (w/o pay)a week or two . What an insult to any passenger much less a serviceman.

  9. I was on an e145 about 3 weeks ago to BTR from IAH. Literally the back half of the plane smelled like poo. This plane had sat at IAH all night, this was its first flight of the day… the flight attendant didn’t say a word even though every customer in the back was holding their nose… Though her facial expressions told everyone she smelled it too.

    I complained to United, and go ZERO response. It was disgusting.

  10. I want to know if this aircraft was removed from service? As @Maxie Dean has stated, this is bio-hazard cleanup. I can only think that United didn’t to draw attention because this kind of thing can close that airport. All that waste is now airborne. Again United fails miserably. It all goes back to Munoz who is a total jackass!

  11. This is why when I hear Oscar Munzo talk about their improvements
    I don’t believe a word coming out of his mouth
    Alaska may be the only airline that knows how to reasonably make things right for their customers
    And they weren’t the airline who eliminated all over his bags .
    Agents should be empowered to do anything reasonable on the spot when something this awful occurs.Basic Compensation and cleaning isn’t enough for someone that protects and defends our country .Just being able to offer more for bumped passengers is not enough for proper customer relationship management.
    I recent flew them first class when my preferred carrier was sold out
    Everything from Uniteds boarding process to the food on board awful and pathetic
    I loved the airline in the 90s till sometime after 9-11 when they started going down the toilet without dumping it on passengers bags
    Sad tied or a tad worse than American.

    It doesn’t take dragging a pax off the plane,a dead dog ,a damaged guitar or walking over an elderly man on the concourse floor to see the horrors and potential of much worse by flying United.I’ll play it safe and run as far as I can from them
    Avoid at all costs.

  12. I’m not surprised this is how UA handles shit.
    Maybe there should be a law forcing Oscar to clean all that mess himself until the customer is compensated.
    Then see how quickly the wronged man is righted.

  13. How did baggage handlers miss this? By any chance, did an investigation take place to make sure his luggage wasn’t vandalized? Given the whole ‘take a knee’ movement and that he was in uniform, he may have been targeted. The aircraft may be just fine, which would explain why it was not removed from service. This explanation is not likely, but I have never heard of a leak into a luggage happening before.

  14. One more thing, I am reminded of the times i have been handed a cell to see if i can make it work. As i look st it, i was told that it fell in the toilet, and they dried it out in a bag of rice…… at this point i am not listening as i am off to wash my hands. Then i am told that the end user has already disinfected it. You get the picture. Just notify me beforehand so I can decide if it is clean enough to handle. Or tell me you dropped it in the hot tub, not the toilet.

Comments are closed.