Know Your Risk When Flying Jet Blue

The airline industry is booming in 2015. The industry has reported $3.1 billion profit in the first quarter of this year. But before you hop on a plane with the huddled masses, know your risk.

In a nutshell, anything you give to an airline to put in the belly of the plane, can be destroyed and the airline will give you nothing to compensate for your loss.

I found this out the hard way when my wife had to fly for a funeral. We have a small child, he’s still a baby, and he nurses, so he went with my wife to the funeral. On the way there, Jet Blue destroyed our brand new car seat. It was literally tore apart. We got it snapped back together, but it went through a major traumatic event. The rule is that if your car seat is involved in a car accident it should be replaced. That rule needs to be expanded to include flying on an airplane.

On the way home, my wife watched as a baggage handler took our UppaBaby stroller and hurled it off the jet bridge 25 feet onto the tarmac. The fall and subsequent landing bent the stroller’s frame. It was a total loss. The stroller was a few years old, but it’s expensive to replace. One problem is that that stroller’s latest model doesn’t work with any of our attachments, so to replace what was lost would have cost about $1,200. Jet Blue offered us a $300 travel voucher. They said that that was a generous reimbursement for our loss and that because of their contract, Jet Blue isn’t responsible for any damage to any luggage ever. That includes a Jet Blue employee destroying a $1,200 stroller through that person’s own laziness and incompetence. So that leads me to believe that if that baggage handler had simply stolen the stroller, lit it on fire or drove over it with the plane, Jet Blue would have just shrugged, because according to them, they’re protected by their contract.

I’m not a lawyer, but that sounds like a bunch of malarky to me. I have no doubt that if I had taken Jet Blue to court over the destruction of my stroller, I would win. There’s no conceivable reason why the airline’s contract protects them from their own staggering incompetence. The liability clause is in the contract to protect the airline from damage as it relates to normal baggage handling. If something gets ripped or snapped off, or if a passenger foolishly puts a laptop computer in their checked suitcase, the airline shouldn’t be expected to compensate those people for their loss. But there’s no way the contract protects the airline against them from sucking at their job.

And while travel vouchers are nice, do I really want to fly Jet Blue when they can’t even load the luggage into the plane? That’s the easy part. Who are they hiring to keep the planes in the air?

So if you travel know that you’re checked items could be shot full of bullet holes, smashed to pieces with sledgehammers or ground into a fine dust, and the airline will just smile and point to their contract. And if you do have a damage claim, just expect that the airline will just pass you from person-to-person until they finally tell you “no.”

Before flying make sure your renters and homeowners insurance policy is up-to-date. That’s the only way you’ll be compensated for loss. Passengers are not only paying top dollar for tickets, they’re subsidizing the airline industry by agreeing to these absurd contracts.

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