We travel a lot. We travel for work and we travel for family, but we are in the air several times a year. We love it. My husband and I are great road trip buddies, but at the moment flying is so much easier than attempting to drive long distances with Penelope. After a disastrous and nervewracking shriek filled drive to Atlanta from Chicago, we try and fly if the trip is going to be any longer than 6 or 8 hours in the car.
When we DO fly, our stroller is part of our essential airport survival guide (maybe more on that later). We have an older UPPAbaby VISTA , and between the bottom storage, and the ease of pushing the stroller one handed, flying without it isn't really an option for us. I'm a chronic over-packer, and we don't usually check a bag if we can help it, so it all comes with us and our Vista really is quite the reliable pack mule. Uppababy sells an airline travel bag that they guarantee against damage, but my husband looked at the price and figured it wasn't important. HAH. That was before our stroller showed up at the gate after our flight from Chicago home to Vegas like this:
Yup. That's our Vista, minus the bar that holds the footrest portion of the fabric. …yaaaaaaay. 🙄🙄🙄
Yeah. This is the point where I began the inner meltdown. Apparently ACTUAL meltdowns are frowned on in public places, so instead we sprung into business mode and started going through the paces of "what now?" But really: if an airline breaks (or looses) your stroller, do you know what to do? Well friends, now you do. Before you get angry; before you panic; before you stress over the cost of replacing it; do this:
- Report the damage at the baggage claim office.
- Seeing my husband photographing our broken stroller, the gate agents directed us to the baggage claim office where we filled out a form with information about the stroller, its cost, and how long we'd owned it as well as personal contact information. This is the same sheet we'd have filled out if luggage had been lost.
- Fill out the requisite forms.
- On the back of our baggage claim form, there was a url to a page on the airline's website where we downloaded their "Customer Property Claim Form" to fill out. Almost everything the airlines do is online or via email – I assume – to cut back on employee costs. It's annoying not to have a phone number to call or a human being to speak with, but that's the nature of this particular beast.
- Submit proof of purchase.
- The form itself was easy to fill out, albeit time-consuming. It outlined on the first page everything we'd need to submit in order to process the claim:
- ITEMS NEEDED TO PROCESS YOUR CLAIM (To be provided within 30 days from the date the report was filed)
All claims for compensation, delay, loss, pilferage, damage, must include a completed Customer Property Form and all the required documents as listed below:
- Copy of flight itinerary *I printed this off of the website after-the-fact by pulling up our reservation number and information.*
- Original Baggage Claim Check(s) *This is the little sticker that the airline hands to YOU after tagging your bag. Our stroller was gate checked, and we still were given this tag. Since our stroller wasn't lost, I just submitted the numbered tag they attached to our stroller.*
- Completed Customer Property Form
- All individual items with a value of $50 or higher must be substantiated with original proof of purchase indicating value *This is where things can get tricky. If your purchase was several years old, or you purchased it secondhand, you may not have this. Do what you will, but I've heard of people creating receipts themselves. We habitually keep receipts, so I luckily had ours tucked away. I did NOT submit the original receipt as I didn't want the original lost because I need it for stroller warranty. I photocopied it with my ID.*
- Copy of your current ID (driver’s license or state ID)
- Claim form must be notarized with seal, for claims $500.00 and higher. (Required for U.S. residents)**Additionally this airline asks that – for damaged items – you include an estimate of repair or a note from a luggage shop stating your item cannot be repaired. Since luggage shops don't work on strollers (and the piece that broke was plastic…. and missing), I emailed UppaBaby Customer Service, and spoke with Kate – who was super awesome – and had a letter emailed stating that the piece was not reparable, was not covered by warranty, and what it would cost to replace. I did NOT ask for the value of a brand new stroller since UppaBaby has seat "upgrades" for my stroller that cost just under $200. I figured It was much more likely that the airline would agree to cover the cost of the seat than they would a brand new Vista.**
- Mail it certified mail.
- This wasn't part of the instructions and it may not be necessary, but I'm a pessimist and just in case they wanted to claim that they didn't receive our paperwork (or receive it in time), I wanted documented proof that they did.
- Cross your fingers and wait.
- Despite our worst thoughts, we got an email from Luciano at customer support stating our claim had been assigned to him, and that they would be mailing us a check to cover the seat replacement. We haven't received that check yet, so I'm not claiming victory against Goliath, but I'll keep you updated. We were also given a travel voucher for $50 on a future flight, BUT that voucher needs to be used to book a flight before the end of August. The flight doesn't have to be before that, but the flight needs to be purchased before that. Given the crazy nature of most people's lives, I'm willing to bet that 90% of those vouchers to unclaimed. But while a cheaper flight might cover the cost of my time spent digging through receipts, filling out forms, and running to the post office, I didn't submit the claim for cheaper travel; I just wanted my stroller seat replaced. If we get the check, I'll be perfectly happy with the outcome.
*Update as of August 1st, the check came and has been deposited. We are super thrilled to put this mess behind us.*
PLEASE keep in mind that every airline is different. The contract of carriage varies, as do the items "insured" when you fly. Personally, I think an airline breaking a gate checked stroller or car seat and NOT replacing it is 100% bogus, it does happen. There are so many horror stories (and I heard a LOT of them from friends and other moms when I posted in my local mom group asking for advice) that it might scare you from taking your stroller with you on vacation. I was always the cavalier mom who would advise other moms to "just do it," but after 10 or so flights with our stroller, it happened to us. For some people, it happens on their first flight with their strollers.
Unfortunately, there's no clear cut solution.
- Some families just travel without their stroller.
- This was a great option for us when Penny was 3 mo and tiny, but now that she's 18 mo and 25 lbs, it's not as feasible for me to wear her everywhere.
- Some families rent strollers.
- A good option if you're headed somewhere that stroller rental is "a thing." Around Disney, for example, there are SO many companies that rent great strollers at affordable prices.
- Some take the risk.
- This was us. It didn't bite us in the butt until quite a few flights, but it bit and bit hard.
Before our next big trip in October, I'll definitely look into purchasing the official travel bag for our stroller because of how often we travel. It's a huge cost, and it stinks, but it's better than having to replace our stroller if it gets broken by an airline that won't replace it (unfortunately, UppaBaby can't cover LOST strollers, bag or no bag). I'm also looking into the travel bag for our new convertible car seat, as well, because I DEFINITELY don't want to replace our carseat, either.
Travel on, good mamas, and may the gate check odds be ever in your favor!