United Loses BASE Gear

(art courtesty of @iamboat)

Well, it was a great trip to Lauterbrunnen. So great I didn’t even have time to blog about it for the three weeks I was there, because I was so busy flying my wingsuit off giant cliffs and shooting lots of awesome/hilarious (at least to me) video footage.

We finally got to jump the Eiger, right before the first snow, getting a bonus helicopter ride to the mushroom from a friend who was making a 3D Imax wingsuit movie (not about us!) and then packing up and hiking right back up to get an amazing two-for-one Eiger day.

It’s funny (well, there are a lot of words I could use for this particular story, but we’ll go with funny), because I always do have this weird superstition about the last jump of a trip. Which was only reinforced when a friend of mine broke his foot on HIS last jump of the trip in Lauterbrunnen this summer.
For all three weeks, I had no scary incidents, no close calls, or anything. Which is pretty good when you are base jumping all day every day. So as usual, when it came time for the final jump of the trip, I couldn’t help but think something could happen. But as usual, I didn’t want to think that in case me thinking it makes something happen. So as usual, I made a point of not thinking it, and then my brain started to hurt.
I don’t like to be ruled by superstition, so I came up with a very clever plan to outsmart the powers-that-be by INTENDING to do a final jump on my last day, and then NOT doing it (haha! gotcha!). Oh, I am so smart sometimes! Until I realized that, being all-knowing and all-seeing, the powers-that-be would know I had that plan and know that my second-to-last jump was actually my last jump, and make THAT be the flight where disaster would strike….and then my brain started to hurt so I just decided to go jump.
So anyway, on my last flight of the trip, I decided to be extra careful. I didn’t even wear my helmet camera, to keep it all simple and clean. And it was a great jump!
The most perfect final flight in Lauterbrunnen I could ask for, from the spectacular Via Ferrata exit, just as the light was starting to dim, after a full day of flying like a bird off of limestone cliffs in glorious Switzerland! Could this life be any more perfect?
Oh, I felt so silly for all my superstition, about the last flight of the trip being the one where the hammer suddenly falls, ha ha ha!!
So yeah. Three weeks in Lauterbrunnen, awesome friends, awesome jumps, awesome everything, just your standard routine month of tossing yourself off cliffs.
Insert JAWS movie theme music here.

We arrived in Zurich airport the next day and checked in 3 bags at the United Airlines counter. Two BASE rigs, two wingsuits, a paraglider, a bit of climbing gear, body armor, warm clothes, etc. When we got to Washington Dulles to go through customs, only 1 bag came. How do you lose two bags on a single, nonstop flight from Switzerland? My brain could not comprehend this.

And then it dawned on me. The awful, sickly realization that I had totally let my guard down after that Via Ferrata wingsuit flight, “my last flight of the trip”. See, that was the second-to-last flight of the trip. THIS flight, here on the United Airlines jumbo jet with movies and vegan meals and seltzer water, THIS was the last flight of the trip! NOOOOO!!!!!

Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the air again.

So here I am 10 days later, still no gear. No information. Nada.
Though there has been some speculation.
(art courtesy of @mark_cushman)

Much phone calling and harassment has resulted in an email from United, saying we have to wait for two months (TWO MONTHS) before we are sure it’s gone. And they will pay $3174.20 of the $12418.28 this crazy-expensive flying gear actually costs. (Yes, I have receipts).

So, by my math, that means I potentially will get to pay $9244.08 for the privilege of allowing United Airlines to lose my base gear. And they’ll let me know in 60 days if they’re going to even keep looking for it. And I thought base jumping was risky. Yeesh, does the danger never cease?

I was a hell of a lot safer tossing myself off a cliff in a nylon squirrel suit. It’s awfully hard to base jump with no parachutes though. Thanks United! You’re the best!

  • michael

    that’s SOOOO lame. united airlines LOST YOUR GEAR, they should pay for the FULL cost of it! especially since you have the receipts to show the worth of the equipment.

    i hope they find your stuff. i won’t be flying united anytime soon.

  • Abbey

    UGGH!!! Giant corporations tend to have no decency when dealing with their paying customers. In light of a recent horrible experience James and I had dealing with UPS (who I will NEVER ship with again. EVER) I can tell you that A) they make you wait 60 days in hopes that you will forget and/or let your feeling of being wronged fizzle out, and B) only extreme annoyance and persistence by you on the phone is going to amount to anything. Neither of these things are particularly healthy for you, the wronged party, if you’re trying to live a happy easy-going life. But if you want your shit you gotta get pissed and take no prisoners. Sigh.
    I’m so sorry that happened, Steph! Good luck getting your gear back. It’s probably trying with all its might to get back to you, even if United isn’t 😉

  • Greg

    I can’t believe United lost your gear, but only want to reimburse you for 1/4 of its cost. That is robbery. While I think it is probably effective for those of us in the flying public to begin boycotting United…it hasn’t seemed to bother them in the past..probably because a boycott just looks like more generic revenue loss due to no particular reason. Here’s a addl idea: I’m certain there are talented musicians who are also climbers AND basejumpers….how’s about a contest to create a song describing how awful it is to be used and abused by United Airlines..when your passion is literally FLYING!!!! What was United’s evil motivation? Hmmmm? Fear that Steph’s mode of flight might threaten their market share? General jealously because Steph’s mode of flight is so much more fun (and reliable) than United’s?

    After that last song by the guy who got his guitar destroyed, I’m sure some emails to all the media that covered *that* story would generate a new round of “human interest” reporting of the type:”Well, United did it again”.

    How’s about it? Anyone got a youtube link to post with a song?

  • Julien

    Mmmm… can you sing? If so you could always make a video clip about your experience… it worked for this guy! (best part is at 1:40)

    United breaks guitars

    Amazing pictures by the way – so inspiring! 🙂

  • Katie

    That superstitious feeling you’re talking about…the mind games that make your brain hurt…I feel like on every jump I’m fighting this “something really bad is going to happen. I’ve forgotten something vital.” even when I know I’ve got all I need and my gear is good and it’s gonna be fine. Did you ever fight that with just regular ol’ skydiving or just BASE? Is it gonna get better? 🙂

    P.S. I’m starting to really get the hang of sit flying & it’s really neat!

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  • dima

    there are times when you are lucky and times when youre unlucky. It is good that your unlucky times resulted in only loss of gear, it could be a broken back. it is now a turn of lucky times again %)

    btw, what’s that near your feet on the 3rd photo? looks like a pile of athletic weights???

    As regards huge corporations, as their former employee I may assure you that they INDEED DO NOT CARE

  • Ian

    Your gear will have been stolen, assuming you to be insured. Their will be no big lumps of unaccounted for luggage in an airport!

  • I’m just appalled. Never mind the fact that they’re a bohemith, it’s about treating people with dignity and respecting their property. United’s in the service business, and this is one of the worst service debacles I’ve ever heard. I definitely agree you should run a contest to make a video about it, we’ll all back you up! Good luck, Steph!

  • pog

    You are going to have take them to court, or hope that this story creates enough internet chatter for them to actually do something about it and make them look decent. Good luck, I can definitely relate.

  • Matt

    Did you buy your airline tickets with a credit card? If so, there’s a good chance that you have travel insurance that will cover the loss of your luggage. Call the number on the back of the card you used, and ask them. At $12000, it’s well worth the effort.

  • Greg

    Somebody set this to music:

    United took her money to send her bags along
    But somehow on a nonstop flight her bags have gotten gone
    How did they lose her wingsuit, her parachute and gear?
    Did you strap them on a customer and toss them out the rear?

    Oh United, why did her bags get lost?
    Oh United, you tell her to eat the cost!
    Oh United, your service aint the best! (really sucks)
    And even though she’s got receipts you won’t reimburse the rest! (give her all her bucks)

    Her luggage is her livelihood, she’s worried and can’t sleep,
    ANd now she’s sitting earthbound, but with promises to keep.
    You charged her for her baggage with your “transporation fee”
    But now that they are gone you say “Hey don’t look at me!”

    Oh United, you’ve cost her 12 thousand dollars
    Oh United, we’re getting hot under our collars
    Oh United, your customers will bail,
    Cuz by losing all the luggage you earn a #SUPERFAIL

  • Steph Davis

    LOVE the song!! Thank you so much to everyone who has emailed, linked, facebooked, called and tweeted to me and for me! I just got an email from a “united baggage claim representative” stating that united does intend to fully replace all the gear if it is not found in 30 days. Obviously I am still quite tweaked about it being missing and am slightly dubious, but this is a real light at the end of the tunnel. Our voices have been heard. You are such an amazing community. Thank you so much. Updates to follow! Xxx steph

  • Ben

    Wow… what a horrible ending to an awesome story 🙁 You might consider starting to travel with an unloaded “firearm” in your luggage (a flare or airsoft gun is enough). That way you can lock your luggage with locks that cannot be opened by anyone except you. Losing gear sucks! http://deviating.net/firearms/packing/

  • MungE

    Typical United. I’ve flown with them to the UK and was completely underwhelmed by the low class, low quality and shitty service. sorry SD. hopefully the wing companies will cut you a discount if you have to rebuy the gear.

  • Uwe Dengler

    Your thoughts about the last flight make total sense Steph. Never let your gard down. On the other hand you will not have to worry about your last jump in Lauterbrunnen next year. 🙂 There is always the flight home. The fact that one bag arrived at its destination and all the other stuff did not on this non-stop flight is absolutely weird. Obviously something is/went totally wrong here. Being on a bus to the terminal in London I once accidentally noticed the car carrying the luggage dropping/loosing pieces of baggage all over the place. Sometimes things are done in too much of a rush.

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