Woman says United Airlines staff 'mistreated' her over carry-on bag they claimed didn't fit

A passenger had a heated row with airline staff when they said her carry-on bag was too large — even though it fit inside their measuring rack.

Natalia Rutkowski, 27, was checking in for a flight from Chicago to New Jersey with her mother Anna, 58, when United Airlines staff told her that her handbag was too big.

The account executive from Lyndhurst, New Jersey was asked to place the piece of luggage into a test rack at O’Hare International Airport.

Rutkowski put her bag right inside the measuring rack, but airline staff weren’t satisfied. (Pictures: SWNS)
Rutkowski put her bag right inside the measuring rack, but airline staff weren’t satisfied. (Pictures: SWNS)

But even though she managed to fit the bag into the rack, staff told her it was oversized and that it would have to be checked for a $25 fee.

Video of the incident shows airline staff removing the bag and putting it in sideways before claiming that it does not fit, despite the fact that there appears to be space below it.

After speaking with various staff members, the mother and daughter were eventually allowed to board the flight home to Newark Airport with their baggage.

Rutkowski claimed the encounter was “like saying a dog is a cat,” and left her and her mother, a Russian-born maid service manager who speaks limited English, feeling humiliated.

“I had already checked my bag and was helping my mom to check in on the computer when a prompt on the screen said a United staff member had to swipe,” she said.

“At first, an old woman said, ‘No, she is not allowed to take her bag onto the plane.’ As you see on the video she didn’t have any extra baggage, and the ticket allows for one personal item.

“It was a certain dimension that the bag had to fit, but the woman didn’t even allow us to put the bag into the personal item bin to show them that it fit inside. She was extremely rude.

Natalia Rutkowski, left, and with her mother, Anna, right, who was with her during the incident. (Picture: SWNS)
Natalia Rutkowski, left, and with her mother, Anna, right, who was with her during the incident. (Picture: SWNS)

“There was a lot of fuss. I was agitated and there were a lot of people starting to stare.

“Then another employee who wasn’t working on the floor — she might have been a manager — was like, ‘What is the issue?’ She asked me to put the bag into the bin, which I did, and she said, ‘OK, well the person who swiped has to see it.’ I said, ‘This is the third time I’ve done it.’

“Then a man came over and shoved his badge in my face and took the bag out of the bin and then plopped it back in sideways so it purposely wouldn’t fit.

“I didn’t understand why we were treated like that. It was so ridiculous. It was like saying a dog is a cat.

“They told us we were not getting on the plane.

Rutkowski said she was “emotional” and “angry” after the incident. (Picture: SWNS)
Rutkowski said she was “emotional” and “angry” after the incident. (Picture: SWNS)

“Finally the last person who came over and I put it in and it clearly fit perfectly and he was like, ‘Oh, yes, it does fit. I don’t understand why we have this issue.'”

The mother and daughter, who had been at a relative’s christening ceremony that weekend, were eventually allowed to board the 7.19pm flight on Monday, Feb. 12.

“I was shaking and I literally felt like I was sweating and agitated,” Rutkowski said.

“My mom was teary. It was just an overwhelming situation. I had never been so disrespected and mistreated and embarrassed. Honestly, I was just bewildered and my mom was emotional and angry.”

“The customer was allowed to carry on the personal item,” United Airlines said. “We are following up with this customer and are reviewing this incident with our team internally to better understand what happened.”

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