Kristine Brown, Assistant Manager of Luggage Service for Northwest/Delta, said "we're done" in regards to my compensation claim for the mountain dulcimer damaged on June 14th, 2009.
"The transport of musical instruments (as checked baggage) is at the customers' own risk, as our tariffs (the rules governing Luggage handling and claims) excludes liability for this type of property. As much as we wish we could guarantee that any fragile items can be transported without incident as checked luggage, our systems and the vastly differing aircraft types used to support our routes preclude this kind of guarantee."
United broke policy in offering compensation for Dave Carroll's guitar, she said, because there was evidence of mishandling (i.e. the eyewitnesses throwing guitar cases around.) My problem here is not so much the mishandling which caused the damage, but the fact that the carry-on bag had to be gate-checked when there was obviously room on board the plane for it.
In my history of flying Northwest, I've either encountered flight attendants who expressed doubt that the bag would fit, only to watch me slide it easily into the overhead compartment, or they've put up resistance, only to give in after I've politely told them that gate-checking was a dangerous proposition for an acoustic instrument in a soft case. Brown argues that their policy states there is no guarantee that carry-on luggage won't be subject to gate-checking should room become scarce on board the airplane.
I argue back that policy wasn't an issue with any of the numerous flight attendants on previous Northwest flights who allowed me to find available space for the dulcimer. A lack of consistency in their approach to policy gave me the knowledge that as long as I could find space on board a plane, I was good to go. So I've made a point to book seats in the rear of the aircraft, knowing that there is always overhead bin space back there. It's never been a problem; until now. With a flight attendant who clearly saw that there was space towards the front of the aircraft, I feel that it was whim, rather than policy, that dictated the fate of my instrument.
On behalf of Delta/Northwest, Brown said "we are concerned about your perception of this experience and as a gesture of our concern, I have issued you an Electronic Credit Voucher in the amount of $200." I suppose, in the corporate scheme of things, that meeting in the middle is as sure a victory for the little guy as anything, eh?