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Belongings damaged by other passengers: what recourse?

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mrpooky

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Hi,

I apologise if this has been covered before. I assumed it would have been, but I did some searching and couldn't find anything, but perhaps I didn't search for the right thing.

I'm interested in what avenues one has if one's hand luggage, or something inside it, has been damaged while in the overhead compartment, by another passenger on a plane. Consider the following scenario:

I get on and put my laptop bag in the overhead compartment. For the sake of argument, let's say I'm in a bulkhead row, so can't put it under the seat in front of me. Boarding continues and a few minutes later another passenger looks around, finds not enough space for his bag, so starts to try to shove it into the same overhead compartment.

After take off I stand up, remove the other passenger's bag to get to my laptop, remove my laptop bag, and replace the other passenger's bag in the locker. I sit down and try to use my laptop, only to find the screen is broken.

What options do I have regarding claiming the cost of damages?

Morally speaking, it seems clear to me that the other passenger damaged my belongings, so should have to compensate me. Legally speaking, however, I suspect that I have no recourse with that individual or the airline, and would have to revert to a travel insurance claim. This seems even more likely if I didn't actually discover the damage until after landing (say, the following work day).

Would anything change if I had been in a non-bulkhead row, stored the laptop under the seat in front, and the passenger in front had damaged it with his feet? Or if it wasn't a laptop, but instead some other personal belonging?

(This is actually a hypothetical situation, but I have often wondered about it.)

Thanks!

mrpooky.
 

opusman

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The airline won't take any responsibility for your carry-on luggage. I believe your only recourse would be launching a civil action against the other passenger, which would be decided on the balance of probabilities. So you would have to prove with 51% certainty that the other passenger was at fault.

Of course obtaining the other passenger's name and address in order to launch the action may prove just as difficult as I doubt the airline would give this to you without a court order.

Travel insurance seems easier :)
 

ftm

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I'd also be looking more at the insurance options. Travel insurance, or home insurance if applicable.
 

medhead

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I travel with medical equipment. I've had one instance of damage following a crew member shoving things around in the overhead. I was able to fix the damage and mentioned this in feedback to the airline. They provided an ex gratia voucher.

Recently I've had another passenger do the same sort of shoving. That passenger provided their business card on request. No damage in any case, chucked the business card once confirmed.

Doesn't directly answer the question. But it might be easy to get the other persons details.
 

under the radar

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yep...contact Judge Judy....or I think Small Claims Tribunal in OZ could be an option...but without the televised 'glamour' :D ...but you will need to prove the damage occurred due to the other persons actions... or maybe claim thru the products warranty (if the warranty covers such acts)...or claim thru your (travel)insurance (if your insurance covers such acts)...or maybe the 'offender' will admit guilt there and then on the spot...and pay you for the damage on the spot :D:shock:
 

RooFlyer

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I'd suggest that, unfortunately you have no effective recourse whatsoever against another pax or the airline in that situation.

What happened? The equipment got broken due to negligent and thoughtless manhandling of your gear in the overhead locker by some-one else.

What's the problem? How do you prove to the level necessary that that's where and how the damage happened? Or that it was that particular action that did it? Or that it wasn't damaged before? Or partly damaged, such that a reasonable, light touch in the overhead locker merely contributed. If so, how much contribution? Computers are delicate; what reasonable precautions did you take to prevent damage while the object was in a 'public' space? Have you flown before and observed people juggling stuff in the overhead bins? You have? Yet you still put your computer there? etc etc etc

Insurance claim.

Perhaps better still: Laptops are small (light) enough now that they will go into most seat pockets and FAs no longer seem to worry about them there. That's where mine goes (but not applicable to all fragiles, obviously).
 

mrpooky

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Thank you for your replies, everyone. They pretty much matched what I expected, but as it is a question that has been bothering me for some time, I still think it was worthwhile asking, and perhaps it will help someone else in future, too.

I had actually meant to ask about finding out the other passenger's name, but I forgot, so I'm glad opusman brought that up. It occurred to me that if a passenger doesn't want to tell me his or her name -- the likelihood of which I can only imagine would increase if he or she has damaged something of mine -- then that would effectively limit the individual recourse approach.

Would it be any different if the damage were caused by an airline employee? I had assumed that it would be an easier path in that case, given that the perpetrator would be much more easily named, but from medhead's post I'm now not so sure that there would be any joy there, either. Perhaps a travel insurance claim and airline complaint after the fact, hoping for some sort of 'gesture' similar to that received by medhead, might be the best thing to hope for.

Edit: @RooFlyer: the seat pocket is a good idea, although it is expressly forbidden on Qantas: all of the flights I've been on lately have specifically mentioned that laptops may not be placed in the seat pocket during take off and landing. Also, many laptops are still physically too big to fit.

mrpooky.
 
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opusman

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If the damage was caused by an airline employee then I imagine you would have a claim against the airline itself. Airline employees should also provide their names on request.
 
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