Better Call 4: A Columbus man’s cautionary tale about an airline’s damaged bags policy

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – From flight delays and cancellations to pilot shortages and lost luggage, air travel has been rocky this year. One Columbus man said he experienced it firsthand.

In February, Columbus-based photographer Stephen Conley took his talents to Fort Lauderdale for work but said he experienced turbulence before he even boarded the American Airlines plane.

“When I had got to John Glenn International, they had told me that they changed my plane, and I was on a smaller plane,” Conley said.

Because there would be less room on board, Conley said he was told he couldn’t carry-on his photography equipment as he planned. Instead, he said he was left with two options: check his bag or take another flight.

“I said, ‘Okay, I have to get to Fort Lauderdale, I need to take this flight.’ So, against my better judgment, I let them take it down the ramp and load it onto the plane, ”he said.

The plane took off, but Conley said things went south during a stop in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“For my connecting flight, my bag was brought off the ramp, sat down, I picked it up and noticed one of the clips was unlocked, and the actual lock was missing,” Conley said. “I could tell, as soon as I opened it, something was wrong.”

Conley said his equipment – three cameras and four lenses worth nearly $ 10,000 – was scattered and out of place. Most of the camera gear, he said, was broken and unusable.

Conley filed a claim with American Airlines, and while he waited for a response, he contacted the Better Business Bureau and Better Call 4.

“Within, like, I think six days, American Airlines had actually contacted me,” he said.

An American Airlines spokesperson told NBC4 that Conley’s claim “was reviewed by our baggage services team. A member of the team apologized to the customer and American issued monetary compensation for the damage. “

Conley said the airline agreed to reimburse him with $ 3,800 – the maximum amount American Airlines can pay out on any damaged baggage claim, according to the company’s website. A company spokesperson said the airline’s policies pertaining to liability for damaged bags are “in alignment with other US airlines.”

Unfortunately, Conley said, that’s not enough. He’ll need another $ 6,000 to replace the damaged equipment.

“I mean, I would love to be reimbursed,” Conley said. “I’d also like to see their policies of this type of equipment be handled differently. I’ve lost two sporting events and two weddings that I was supposed to shoot with this equipment, but I can’t do it because I don’t have it. “

To make matters worse, Conley’s equipment was covered under renters’ insurance, but because he was using it as a contracted photographer for another business, the insurance company did not cover the damage.

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