When Airlines Mess Up 

lost luggageIf you’ve ever had an airline lose or damage your luggage you’ll have plenty of sympathy for Canadian musician Dave Carroll, who’s found a creative way to vent his frustration after (he says) United Airlines smashed his $3500 Taylor guitar and refused him compensation.

His first YouTube video ‘United Breaks Guitars’ has gathered five million views since it was posted in July and he has just lodged the second video of a promised trio, devoted to Miss Irlwig, the last United employee to rebuff him.

Along the way he’s given thousands of disgruntled United Airlines customers an avenue to publicly air their gripes, magnifying the public relations nightmare for the airline.

Early Morning Chorus

One recent business blogger noted he’d boarded an early morning shuttle bus from his hotel at JFK airport. “Barely awake, I heard the driver call for airlines and terminals. Someone piped up “United” and the immediate rejoinder from the rest of the passengers was a chorus of the song ‘United Breaks Guitars’”.

After the song began racking up YouTube views United caved and offered to pay up. Carroll declined and suggested that United give the money to charity.

The thousands of comments Dave’s posting has drawn underlines how common the experience of lost or damage bags is.

As globe-trotting comedian Bob Hope once quipped “I’ve been to almost as many places as my luggage.”

Tips to Avoid Claim Problems

Dave acknowledges he made his “broken guitar” claim late – days after he’d found the damage – and Traveller magazine notes the key for a traveller with lost or damaged luggage is simple: don’t leave the airport without making a claim. Waiting as little as three days can sometimes invalidate your rights.

If you’ve waited fruitlessly at the baggage carousel for suitcases which never arrive, before you leave the baggage reclamation area ensure you report the loss, and insist on filing the complaint even if you are told that your bag will be arriving on the next flight.
You will be given a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) to fill in. Do this on the spot and ask for a copy. This form, together with the baggage receipt you were given at check-in, (the assistant usually sticks this to the ticket or onto your passport) are essential if you want to make a compensation claim from the airline or from your travel insurance. Your PIR is not a claim in itself, so you must still make a claim in writing within seven days.

Compensation for delayed arrival of luggage
If you are on your outward journey, be sure to ask for some cash for immediate supplies. The airline may suggest you buy the supplies and they will refund on receipt.

Agree to the spending limit in advance and don’t expect too much generosity as airlines take the view that once your bag has turned up you will have future use of its contents.

On your homebound journey, the airline will not be so forthcoming since they will assume you have everything you need at home. At best, when the bag does finally turn up the airline will deliver the bag to you at their own expense.

At worst, it will take up to twenty-one days before the airline admits that your bag is lost. In this case, you are eligible for compensation, but you will have to write in again.

Follow these guidelines and you shouldn’t need to repeat Dave Carroll’s experience. Then again, those millions of YouTube viewers would also have missed out on the fun.