Airline damage to bikes

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14 replies [Last post]
Anonymous's picture

Just got back from a lovely trip to the south of England, complete with 200 miles of amazing country riding.

Unfortunately, American Airlines decided to test its new baggage compactor system out on my Ritchey BreakAway. The top tube is now an A-frame.

I purchased excess value insurance from the ticket agent, but the airline refuses to pay up to fix or replace my bike. They say they will replace the damaged suitcase but not the bike.

Does anyone have any experience in getting an airline to pay for damage to a bike?

Anonymous's picture
Rob M (not verified)
Airline Gold

If you have no luck with the airline, check the fine print. I like to complain to as many people as possible, it may not get me what I want, but at least it will cost the Airline a few bob in postage, time and if you are really good legal fees. Try these guys:

Department of Transportation,
Office of Consumer Affairs,
400 7th St., SW, Washington, DC 20590;
(202) 366-2220

Aviation Consumer Action Project,
Box 19029, Washington, DC 20036
(202) 638-4000

Air Transportation Association
1301 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20004
(800) 497-3326

Also you were flying out of the EU. Thank you Brussels:

Directorate General of Transport and Energy
Rue de la Loi
Wetstraat 200
1049 Brussels

Fax (32-2) 29-91015
[email protected].

An just for completeness and because you were flying from the UK:

Air Transport Users Council
CAA House
45-59 Kingsway
Phone: 020 7240 6061

I hope you have filed a claim form, once you leave the airport it gets much, much, much harder. Do you have home and contents ins. as much as it will suck you may have to make a claim.

Oh, and if it was United kick them in the arse for me.

Anonymous's picture
Ron Thomson (not verified)

Did they charge you to transport the bicycle?

Anonymous's picture
Gaylen Hamilton (not verified)

no, it comes apart and fits in an airline approved suitcase.

Anonymous's picture
Gaylen Hamilton (not verified)

Thanks for the very thorough list. I'm assuming that I'll be resorting to a letter writing campaign by the end of this.

Anonymous's picture
af (not verified)
Also contact American Airlines customer relations in TX.

You can find it on AA website. They might offer something that the claim route doesn't.

You can also bring a small claims court action quite easily.

Anonymous's picture
Rob R (not verified)
Your claim...

You should also use the travel mags as a last resort. They (Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler) are always on the look-out for obscure travel issues that need the Ombudsman's work (CN Traveler in particular). You have a good back story and if insurance agency and the carrier fail to give you an adequate resolution or answer you should write up your story. Beware however, that as soon as you accept any sort of compensation from an airline the case from their end is closed and resolved - so if you don't get a compensatory package that you think is worthy of the damage rendered, push harder and call in the cavalry (Delta delayed some of my goods when I moved to Spain a few years ago, and I learned this the hard way).

Good luck - and would love to hear how you net out.

Anonymous's picture
Smiley (not verified)
Half full

You're somewhat lucky: it happened during your return trip :)

Anonymous's picture
bill (not verified)
how to insure bike on plane?

Your experience begs the question of how to insure a bike against damage by an airline.
I learned last year that even a special rider on my apt. insurance would only cover my bike if it were stolen, either at home or away.

Anonymous's picture
David Schlichting (not verified)
Damaged Baggage

"First of all, forget all the letter writing to these various agencies. At best, it gives some governmental statistical freak something to do, but otherwise is blowing smoke. Your contract of carriage is with the airline; the airport authority, departments of transportation (in either country) are irrelevant.
Trust you have photographed the damage.
Your claim needs to be sent in 2 directions:
1. The insurance carrier from whom you purchased this excess value insurance. What is a ""ticket agent?"" did you buy this from the airline's ticket staff at the airport, or was this a policy sold by a travel agancy? My experience is that airlines are not in the insurance sales business (although some of these travel insurance companies have been known to set up incentive programs with airline ticket offices), so this is some ""aftermarket"" policy. If so, it should not be the airline's judgement as to paying out. Read that documentation.
2. AA's customer relations department. I would not expect that staff at the carrier's baggage service office at the airport is empowered to settle big claims. If you have not done so already, write AA's customer relations department, provide documentation as to the value of the bike. This gets a paper trail. When they reply and blow off your claim that BICYCLE could not possibly be worth $3,000, call them and speak to a manager. Here at SWISS, we follow the normal standard for international baggage claims which compensates by WEIGHT (peanuts per kilo) for lost or destroyed baggage. Yours was an international flight and you may be offered the same. When I referred to contract of carriage above; this is in the fine print of your ticket. Any compensation above this is probably the result of your negotiating skills and ability to provide good documentation.

Good luck and sorry for your loss

P.S. You can get some money out of this; we have settled a few of these claims ourselves...I've been consulted by our customer relations people about valuations.

Anonymous's picture
Gaylen Hamilton (not verified)

Thank you David, for the helpful advice. I've sent documentation to AA's customer relations department. We'll see how it goes from here.

Anonymous's picture
David Schlichting (not verified)
Airline Approved

"There is probably no such thing as ""airline approved."" Airlines cannot sit together and approved much of anything. Probably this meets a generic size limitation.
Here at SWISS, we are probably similar to most carriers' policies on the North Atlantic (not the same to other regions):
Size: 70 linear inches (length+width+height)
weight: 50 pounds for economy class

Some bike cases exceed that 70 inch thing, hence the sidebar wherein it reads that a bike boxed in a hard case counts as one of your 2 permitted pieces of baggage, even if it exceeds the 70 inch noted above.
Or you get a checkin agent who only knows domestic rules and nails you for an excess baggage charge.

Know the carrier's rules before you pack."

Anonymous's picture
Bob Ross (not verified)
"re: ""Airline Approved"""

">>There is probably no such thing as ""airline approved."" Airlines cannot sit together and approved much of anything. Probably this meets a generic size limitation.<<

Right, there is no such thing as ""airline approved"". What there *is* (at least in the U.S.) is a set of standards and recommendations developed by the Airline Transit Authority. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of people mistakently think this is the same as ""airline approved"" and/or that there are ""ATA-approved"" shipping cases & luggage...and, worse still, it seems a lot of luggage companies capitalize on this misconception.

The ATA only provides design criteria and a series of tests that a shipping case must pass in order to meet that standard specification. It is up to each case's manufacturer to document the test data demonstrating that product's compliance with ATA spec.

So, what does this all mean to our poor OP with the damaged Richey? Er, well, not much... *unless* the bike carrying case you used was certified by the manufacturer to meet or exceed ATA spec 300. If your case can be demonstrated to be in compliance with that specification, you have a good chance of recouping damages, if not from the airline, then from the case manufacturer. (And chances are good the case company will subsequently go after the airline, or vice-versa, right after they settle with you, but that's not your concern.) Yeah, it still means lots of formal correspondence & lawyers & stuff. No easy answer, I'm afraid.

(Thanks for bearing with me while I did this brain-dump.)"

Anonymous's picture
Eva Wirth (not verified)

If you are an AA Advantage member call 800 433 7300 and speak with customer service. I have found their people to be very helpful to me in the past. Perhaps they can suggest another course of action you can take.

Anonymous's picture
Rick Isham (not verified)
TSA Inspection

You might save any TSA inspection notices, as TSA may have opened the suitcase and unpacked and repacked your bike. There are some stories circulating about damage to repacked bikes after TSA allegedly improperly repacked the bike after inspection. The advice is to have the inspection in your presence, if possible, so that you can observe the repacking. This also introduces the situation where the airline and TSA can point fingers at each other and say it is the others fault.

Also, we had a claim denied for luggage damage during a recent flight because we left the airport without reporting the damage. I guess that means that you have to do a full inspection of the bike before leaving the bagagge area. When I ship my bike now, I take close-up digital pictures of all the tubes, packing and boxed bike to back up any claim that needs to be made. The last two times I shipped by FedEx and didn't have any problems with damage.

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