Airline Distressed Traveler Kits: Lifesavers Or Useless?

Filed Under: Travel, United

Airlines lose bags. That’s just a fact of life. If you fly enough, and check a bag, eventually the statistics will catch up with you.

Now to be fair, most of the time airlines don’t actually lose your bag, they just misplace it for awhile. It ends up on the wrong plane, sits in baggage purgatory, or whatever. That is to say most of the time you’ll eventually be reunited with it. Even so, it can be kind of annoying in the interim to not have your stuff.

Most airlines recognize this and have some form of distressed passenger amenity kit that they offer to passengers who have had their bag get lost. The contents of these kits tends to vary, however, as airlines seem to have different concepts of what is “essential.”

We had the chance to learn what United Airlines considers essential when our bags got delayed on our trip back from Europe. After being the last ones standing at the baggage carousel, we headed over to the United representative to report our bags as missing. The agent was sympathetic and said that they’d do their best to get the bags to us as quickly as possible. After taking all of our information, she handed us five distressed traveler kits, one for each member of our family.

United Distressed Passenger Amenity Kit

Not only is the bag small enough to fit in your coat pocket, it’s also eco-friendly. Here’s what it contained:

Shampoo, conditioner, and lotion

Well sure, these are useful. But pretty much every hotel is going to provide you with shampoo and such without even asking. So unless you were planning to stay at a hostel, or camp, I don’t really see the point.

United Distressed Passenger Amenity Kit Bath Products


Definitely no argument there. And they even give you two packages.

United Distressed Passenger Amenity Kit Deodorant

A comb

OK, I keep my hair short, but this will still be useful for some.

United Distressed Passenger Amenity Kit Comb

A shave kit

Again, I’ve frequently had to ask for a razor and shaving cream from hotels when I forgot mine, so like the shampoo, this seems to be of less value.

United Distressed Passenger Amenity Kit Shave Kit

Laundry detergent

Being able to wash the only clothes you are wearing — even if it’s just in the hotel sink — could be handy. I would rank these right up there with the deodorant in terms of usefulness. And United gives you two packs.

United Distressed Passenger Amenity Kit Laundry Detergent

A dental kit

Most hotels have toothbrushes for guests who have forgotten theirs, but I’ve never been offered a flosser. Plus, my dentist says that oral hygiene is one of the first things to go during times of stress… like losing your bag.

uniteddistressedpassengerkit0005 uniteddistressedpassengerkit0003
United Distressed Passenger Amenity Kit Dental Kit With Flossers

Shoe polish

Because if I’m missing my bag and only have the clothes on my body, I’m totally worried about making sure my shoes aren’t scuffed. 

United Distressed Passenger Amenity Kit Shoe Polish

Here’s the complete kit:

United Distressed Passenger Amenity Kit Complete Kit

How would I improve this kit?

It’s always amazing to me how just a clean pair of socks can boost my morale after stumbling off of a red-eye flight. If I could request one clean item of clothing, I’d probably ask for a pair of socks. Well, maybe underwear, but I don’t really want to think about a one-size-fits-all version of that….

Bottom line

Most airlines have some sort of distressed passenger amenity kit for those who have been separated from their checked baggage. United’s kit has about a dozen items of varying degrees of usefulness.

I suppose it’s the same kit they offer to passengers who get stranded at the airport during snowstorms when the hotels are fully booked. In those situations, I can see some of these items having more value. But for those that are headed to a hotel, you’ll probably have access to many of these items anyway, making much of the kit redundant.

Still, the deodorant and laundry detergent is somewhat unique and certainly appreciated. The shoe polish on the other hand — well, let’s just say that shiny shoes probably aren’t at the top of my list of priorities when I’ve been wearing the same clothes for three straight days….

What would you like to see included in a distressed passenger kit?

  1. Remarkable… On a the amenity kit.. Would like a small stick note with direct contact line to traced Baggage team . Or a link to tracing sites,

  2. Interesting, i didn’t know airlines (let alone United) offered those things. So the canned drink was or was not included? I was going to say a water bottle and food bar might be nice bonuses. A mini packet of baby wipes would be handy as well. Overall, though, a nice touch.

  3. We got stranded overnight without our bags on New Years Eve at IAH when United was still continental and we were given distressed passenger amenity kits. That was the same year that because of one security scare or another, we weren’t allowed to take any carry on bags, so we needed this stuff. Unfortunately, by time we got them, they only had two left for the six of us

  4. I used the UA kit last year when my bag was delayed and it was incredibly useful – the laundry detergent and the oral care bits. Hotels provide shampoo so that’s not really necessary.

  5. Last year the Delta kit in Atlanta had a stretchy t-shirt that would be suitable to sleep in. Dental kit. Also had a bottle of water and a granola bar or some sort of trail mix.

  6. I travel HLO only as much as possible for many reasons but when i have to check a bag (ie for longer trips) i ALWAYS still pack my in my hand luggage what i would need for a weekend away including a few changes of clothes and basic Toiletries. So if my luggage is delayed a few days its not a problem.
    What are you taking in your hand luggage if you only have the clothes on your back??

  7. While I think airlines should have a few “standard” items in kit like deodorant and detergent, they should also carry a stock of “as needed” items a passenger could request like:
    Contact Case & Solution
    Feminine Hygeine Products
    Diaper & Wipes
    Hand Sanitizer

  8. Yesterday I was given one of these by Qatar Airways. It includes many of the same items mentioned as well as a pair of their business class pajamas. I thought the pajamas were a great idea.Even though Doha was my home port and I didn’t need them in the end I felt they were still really useful and quite generous.

  9. I remember Lufthansa losing my bag on a trip to Cairo. Lufthansa got the bag to Cairo a couple hours after I landed, and the ground staff promptly “lost” it again. It was on a GAdventures trip so we were staying in really basic hotels – a distressed traveler kit like this would’ve been great. The hotel didn’t have any of those kinds of supplies.

    A fresh change of clothes into pajamas would’ve been amazing.

    By the next day, I still didn’t hear if they found by bag yet – and we were taking an overnight train to Luxor that evening. I was getting nowhere with calling the lost luggage line in Egypt. After my tour guide called and offered them a good baksheesh (tip aka bribe), they magically found my bag and even got someone to drive it out to the train station – they showed up right as we were boarding the train.

    That was not my year, out of about ~100 flights, my luggage got lost 3 times. Not once did I get one of these kits (BA, Lufthansa, and Turkish).

  10. I think a t-shirt and socks would be great. You can buy toiletries at most airports and hotels, but clothing wears down quickly.

    Maybe some destination specific items like cheap flip flops or mittens, or at least directions to a mall (or its equivalent) where one could buy replacement essentials.

  11. Delta includes a shirt and a proper stick deodorant (not those wipes that UA includes). First thing I buy when UA delays a bag is deodorant. Delta’s is also in a reusable zipper bag.

    The laundry detergent is just a blatant attempt to minimize their liability to try to get people to buy fewer things and bill them for it.

  12. When I was delayed because of weather, missed my trans-Atlantic, and had to overnight in Philly last year with AA, I got both the American and US Airways kits. Basically identical and contained hotel items, but it was entertaining to get two.

    I got a “SkyTeam” kit in Rome once after Air France lost my bag. It had a cheap t-shirt which was nice for sleeping. But what I really wanted was reimbursement for necessary purchases when my bag was delayed 48hrs and that never happened.

    Just had my bag delayed by Delta in LHR and no kit was offered. (I was way too flustered to remember to ask.)

    Given my luck, I now always fly with one day’s worth of essentials. I appreciate these kits because it is some reassurance that the airline recognizes the inconvenience they are causing you. Still, socks and a t-shirt should be required components.

  13. AC provides a little container of hair gel which I have really appreciated whenever I’ve needed it. Some might laugh, but I feel a lot more presentable and ready to face the day when my hair is styled the way I like it.

    Anyway, I do appreciate these kits which go beyond the basic hotel toiletries of soap, shampoo and toothbrush.

  14. Yes, a t-shirt should be an essential part of every kit.

    I remember a few years ago Air France gave me a kit with many many (much appreciated) items – including condoms. I guess AF was thinking of everything!

  15. Hey, anyone know who makes the shampoo or bodywash? I just used them the other day and they smell awesome.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *