United had recently redesigned its mobile app when I worked with them (circa 2015), and one of the features still missing was a system for passengers to track their misplaced bags, which based on feedback from users was up there with missing a flight as the most stress-inducing situation for passengers. One thing that I quickly learned is that is near impossible for an airline to know with 100% accuracy where a specific piece of luggage is 100% of the time, due to the complexity of modern air travel.
Missing baggage would always eventually turn up at some check point or another; the real problem was the interval between those checking points when there was no information. Besides designing an interface very simple to understand and use (for passengers on the move), I had to be careful about how to present the information about misplaced bags, and the steps that the passenger should follow for recovery.
What I did
It was very important to understand the whole process that bags follow to get on (or off) an airplane. I gathered information from Product Managers and Operations, and the successive iterations of the app were tested first with United personnel and then with actual passengers. The language of the text presented was very precise, simple and positive, and I used consistent interface elements to convey a sense of continuity throughout the whole experience.
The airline operations world is an unforgiving one. What we were trying to do was just to ease the passengers’ pain by sharing more information in a less blunt way.