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damaged guitar as luggage

Posted Tue September 4, 2001, by lynda s. written to AirTran Airways

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I would like to bring to your attention a problem I encountered with your airline's baggage claim/carry-on.

RE: Damaged luggage, AirTran flight #329, connecting to 880, on 6/30/01, claim ticket 360433 for Carly W
When I checked in for the above flight at the AirTran counter in Philadelphia for the above flight, I was told my guitar would have to be checked in since the overhead bins could not accommodate it. No release was signed. No "fragile" stickers were attached.
I did not receive my bags at baggage pickup in Tampa when I arrived since they were temporarily "lost". They were delivered to my temporary hotel address in Bradenton, Florida the following day and signed for by a friend. When I returned to the hotel later that day, I was very distressed to see my case damaged and my Goya Martin acoustic guitar model #G300N broken in several places, rendering it useless. Since I am a full-time college student majoring in musical theater, as well as a part-time musician/songwriter, I was heartbroken by this event.
On July 1, the evening the guitar was delivered late, I called an AirTran representative. I was told I needed to make the 100-mile round-trip to the airport to file a claim. On July 2, less than 24 hours after the guitar was delivered, I spoke to AirTran representative Jeff Packard at Tampa airport. He said the Philadelphia AirTran representatives were negligent in not tagging the case "fragile" and in not obtaining a release for damage from me. He called his supervisor Mike Eskilsson, and before me and another witness he related that AirTran was responsible for the damage. He instructed me to purchase another guitar, bring in the receipt, and I would be reimbursed in full.
On 7/7/01 I purchased a guitar and case from Sam Ash Music in Tampa. The Goya model is not sold in retail stores, and the sales representative told me a comparable model was the Taylor 310CE Mahogany B&S Spru with case for $1,300. On the same date of purchase, I brought the receipt to AirTran, and Jeff Packard, after again consulting with his supervisor via telephone, told me that a check would be mailed the following day. No check was received.
The music store has a full refund policy for only 15 days. Since I never received the promised payment, I called a couple more times and was told "the check is in the mail." On 7/17, one day before the return policy expired, my mother, Tara W, called for an update. Shelly Kimmith was quite belligerent, and told her a check for $75 had been mailed, and AirTran would not replace the damaged guitar. We returned the new guitar. A check for $75 was never received.
During the next 10-day period, I left three messages for Shelly and left another for her supervisor, Dave in Atlanta. No calls were returned.
On August 6, I returned to the airport and spoke with Caroline Pernell. Since AirTran was now dealing in poor faith and promised payments were never received, I asked for some corrective action to be taken. Caroline told me to get the guitar appraised. On 8/12, I submitted the original receipt for $400 for the damaged guitar. This guitar was specially purchased wholesale direct from the manufacturer via a distributor and did not include the price for the guitar case. The quoted price did not allow for replacement cost or inflation. As any musician will tell you, a beloved instrument appreciates with use and becomes more valuable, not less. This one was flawless before it was broken by your baggage handlers. My guitar was supposed to be shipped to Atlanta and later on I was told an appraisal would be conducted. When your valuation and mine differed, I asked for its return so I could have my own appraisal done. It has never been returned to me.
Carol said AirTran would reimburse me $150 for damages to the guitar and case, and said AirTran's liability was only 50%. During our discussion, she became more and more defensive and argumentative. I refused this compensation as unjust, since I estimate the replacement cost of the guitar and case is probably closer to $600 - $700. This figure does not include time and mileage for four trips to the airport, long-distance calls, or claim for negligence, damages, and/or the loss of use of my instrument for over two months.
On 8/12, my mother accompanied me to Tampa airport service office after we were told a check for $150 was waiting for me. No one could locate it. I asked to be called when it was located. We have yet to receive a call.
In short, I spent my college summer vacation embroiled in an unfriendly dispute, wasted time on the phone and in trips to the airport, have had no practice time, and still have no guitar. I have been lied to, given incorrect information, and had promises broken. I have been treated very shabbily by your company. With the exception of Jeff, who was always courteous and returned my calls, your staff has been less than stellar.

To be honest, I've been very dissatisfied with your airline in the past.I seriously doubt that I will ever fly your airline again, and you can be sure I will urge others to avoid AirTran Airways whenever possible.

Here's what I'd like to see happen: I would like full compensation for a replacement guitar and case comparable to the one that is now useless in the amount of $650. If you do not agree to that, I want my guitar and case returned so I can get my own estimates done. And I would like this accomplished within 30 days so that I might continue to practice my music.

Here's a little about me: I've flown five times or less in the past 12 months, mostly for pleasure. I usually buy a discount coach ticket.

I hope you are able to address my concerns. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


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