United Mistakenly Removes Carry-On Bag, Stranding Man At Airport For 20 Hours

Yes another United fiasco. But I’ve got a question.

The man, Ben, had flown from Nashville to San Francisco and was supposed to continue on home to New Zealand from there. But when his first flight landed at San Francisco International on Tuesday, Ben noticed that the bag he’d stowed beneath his seat before departure was no longer there.

How the fuck do you not notice your bag, with your wallet and passport, is no longer at your feet during a 4 hr flight? I’m in my bag for reading material, snacks and electronics continually during a flight. Maybe he took some medication. Does sound like an exceedingly crappy day, at least he lives somewhere very nice.


In all likelihood he put his passport and other ID in the bag he put in the overhead. Dumb? Yes. Always keep your IDs in your small carry-on at your feet. But not even in the same league as United’s little Gestapo emulations. Just a normal mistake by a probably overworked steward(ess). Let’s not dilute the word fiasco.

Same way I do. I conk out before the flight attendant safety speech, and wake up again when the plane touches down. I especially do this during long trips when I’m sleep deprived.

I’m guessing he fell asleep almost instantly, and also put his bag under the seat next to him, not the seat in front of him, because that seat was empty. That way, he would have been too out of it to notice the flight attendant took the bag, and the flight attendant could have thought that it wasn’t his bag. That’s not the only scenario, but in my mind it’s the most plausible.


Did it say that? If so I missed it. The main article said clearly “bag he’d stowed beneath his seat”. Not next to him or in the overhead. I’m jealous of your ability to pass out on planes, I’m terrible at it and have had some nasty flights wishing I could sleep. Last month I was on a red eye to Iceland right next to the head in the middle of the plane. Way worse than being in the back row.

My reading of the story was that’s exactly what he did. And it was a fiasco for him at least, though I will admit not on par with being beaten unconscious.

I keep my IDs and at least one credit card on my person. That way, if something like this happens,* I’m only a little fucked and not all the way fucked.

*it has.


My passport may be in the bag but my wallet never leaves my person. Perhaps the passport should also.


On second read, he said it was under his seat, not under the one in front of him. That’s unusual. The flight attendant might have assumed the person behind him left it, because people usually put their bags under the seats in front of them.

Then again, if that’s not correct, the flight attendant had no excuse.

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@LearnedCoward I noticed that too, but gave him the benefit of the doubt that it was a typo or misstatement. With the way planes are packed these days even if he tried to put it under his own seat surely the passenger behind him would inform him of his mistake? And since he was a Kiwi in TN it was not his 1st ever flight.

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I thought Kiwis were flightless.


I would say never do that. Always keep them in your pocket (except when going through TSA when they have to be in your hand). There’s slightly less chance of the pants or shirt that you’re wearing getting misplaced, stolen, or accidentally shipped off on the wrong flight because a flight attendant assumed they were left behind by another passenger (at least without you noticing). Also, inner pockets only, it’s easy to take off a sweatshirt or jacket and lose it when traveling between different climates.


Fair point and sage advice. I keep mine in pocket, but lady pockets aren’t, on average, as spacious. But yes, the closer to your person, the better, most especially when traveling internationally. A more general rule could be keep your passport and ID as near as you practically can.


Here’s an awful passport story that I heard while resolving a slightly less awful passport story. Guy was taking his daughter to Spain from Boston and catching the international flight from JFK after landing in LaGuardia. Somehow between LaGuardia and JFK he lost his passport and had to Rent-A-Car, go back to Boston get documents, and return to the New York State Department office to get a same-day passport. Waiting in line his teenage daughter had a face on that would freeze lava.

We were waiting in line because we discovered that no one will let my son on a plane with a passport that expires the next month. Whoops. Missed a day of Iceland. Honestly, no great loss. That place is bleak. And they eat their ponies.

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For a happier passport story:

I recently flew down to Austin for a wedding.

We had checked in online and so just had to stop at the Air Canada kiosk to print luggage tags.

The kiosk required that we scan our passports. I did so, and then turned my attention to attaching the luggage tags.

After going through security, I checked to make sure that I knew where my passport was… and it wasn’t. Wasn’t in my bag, wasn’t in my jacket, wasn’t in anything I was wearing or carrying.

I went up to the gate agent and asked if one had been turned in, and it hadn’t, but they called up and had them look for me. Sure enough, it was on the ground near the kiosk. They scooped it up and returned it to me, with my thanks, and everything proceeded from that point as normal (with a few added jokes, like I “checked” to make sure I had my passport every five minutes).

I’m not always the biggest fan of Air Canada, but I must admit that, when it mattered, they came through for me.


I, for one, would never dilute a fiasco. (Or rather, what’s in the fiasco.)


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