In September 2015, I flew from Honolulu to Los Angeles to Bogota, Colombia in United First Class and Avianca Business Class. Here is a Trip Report of Avianca Business Class, and the post explaing how I booked the award for 27,500 miles.

The trip was very pleasant until I opened my golf bag in Bogota and saw that my driver’s shaft had snapped.

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This was my first experience with damaged baggage. It ended up working out quite well for me as Avianca gave me $400 for my ten-year-old driver.

The Process

The first thing I did was fill in Avianca’s online claim form as soon as a I noticed the broken driver. I filled in Avianca’s form instead of United’s because the last airline you fly is responsible for delivering your baggage in good condition.

After I filled out the form, I got an email from Avianca. I’ll print our two-month, 27-email correspondence below with their responses in bold.

I received your claim regarding the damage of your driver when flying from Honolulu to Bogota with a layover in Los Angeles on flights UA1229 and AV123 last September 21st and 22nd. As per our today’s conversation over phone, allow me to inform you that in order to continue with the evaluation of your claim, I would appreciate if you please fill out the form here attached with yourdriver description specifying how it was packed, additionally, you must send us some pictures where we can see the damage presented and you shall attach the purchase invoice if you hold it.

We appreciate your attention and we will be waiting for the documentation requested.

[I sent the attached form, which just asked all the same questions as the form I filled out online.]

Thank you for the information, may you send me some additional pictures?

I’m looking forward to your answer for giving you a response.

That is the only picture I have. I have since left Bogota, and I didn’t carry the useless broken driver head with me.

[Five days later, I had no response, so I followed up.]

I submitted the form more than three weeks ago. Please make arrangements to compensate me and update me on those arrangements.

The Denial

Thank you for the information, however, it is important to note that in the unlikely event your baggage is mishandled, gets lost, damaged or you lose any items, you have, you should provide us with all the evidence needed in order to evaluate your claim, if you don’t, the Airline couldn’t accept responsibility and shall not be liable for any compensation thereof as our liability is limited in accordance with the provisions of international conventions, we are not responsible for claims that exceed the applicable limits.

For this reason, according to the information already mentioned, we couldn’t grant to you any kind of compensation for the inconveniences presented; we want to thank you for taking the time to contact us and bring this matter to our attention, please do not hesitate to contact us for any further assistance or comments at www.avianca.com.

What are you talking about? I provided a picture of the driver. Why would you want more pictures?

We need further evidence of the inconvenience.

What evidence?

You took weeks to respond during which time I traveled more. I was not going to carry a broken golf club, so I have disposed of it. The picture I sent clearly shows it is broken and you have my flight records. If I am not reimbursed hastily, I will escalate this.

I understand that you couldn’t carry everywhere with a broken driver, but you could have hold some pictures as evidence.

The Threat

I sent a picture. What’s wrong with it?

If your next email doesn’t offer compensation, I am filling out a US DOT complaint here: https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/air-travel-consumer-reports

The Backpedal & First Offer

You didn’t send a picture, you sent me a screenshot as you can see in the file’s name. [Scott: Really? His argument has devolved this far. It’s almost like he’s paid by how little compensation he disburses.]

Why are you just mentioning that now? I sent it as a screen shot to reduce file size. Here is the full 1.8 MB image. [I attached the same image in the different format.]

What is the compensation offer?

I’ve reviewed your claim once again with the information reported by you, for this reason, in order to compensate you somehow for the inconveniences presented, we offer you as compensation the value of USD 180 credited to one bank account of your choosing, this process may take around 5 to 6 weeks; or if you would rather we could give you instead of transaction, the amount of USD 220 by an EMD (Electronic Miscellaneous Document) voucher that we would grant to you as a compensation that may be used in Avianca, Taca, Lacsa, Taca Perú or Aerogal as mean of payment of:

-Air fares, fuel surcharge, ticketing fee/administrative  service and service charge.

-Air segment of Avianca Tours plans.

-Fare difference or penalty fees for changes requested on  reservations.

-Excess baggage.

-Special services which some fees apply.

-Purchase of upgrade to travel in Business Class cabin.

-Purchase of Lifemiles miles to Life Miles Corporation for redemption of benefits.

The Counter Offer

I cannot buy a replacement for the broken driver for $180. I would like $450 or 45,000 Avianca LifeMiles.

The value offered is the top compensation offer we could give you.

Based on what?

Where can I buy the driver for $180?

I need $450 to get a replacement or 45,000 LifeMiles to be equally satisfied.

The compensation offer made was based on the documentation provided for its analyzing.

What specifically caused you to offer $180? Where can I get a replacement for that price?

The answer, of course, is that I can’t get a replacement anywhere for that price. Its retail price is $450. I will accept $450 or, if it’s cheaper for you to offer 45,000 LifeMiles, I will accept that.

After evaluating your claim, allow me to inform you that top amount we can give you as compensation would be USD 400 by transaction to your bank account, for this payment process it’s necessary that you please fill out the form here attached with your bank account information, also, you must send us a bank statement, screenshot or a bank account confirmation provided by your bank, please remember, this process may take around 5 to 6 weeks.

Resolution

The flight was September 21, the deal was struck November 16, and the $400 was in my bank account by December 9.

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Tips

Based on my one data point, here’s what I’d recommend to people whose baggage is damaged.

  • Take photos of the damage.
  • File a claim with the airline immediately.
  • Look up the value of the item. In my case, that was hard because this old driver isn’t sold new anymore, but it used to go for $450 according to what I found online.
  • Don’t take no for an answer.
  • Don’t take their first offer. They have some discretion to go higher. Make your counter-offer.
  • If the agent is being unreasonable, threaten a DOT complaint. Airlines seem not to enjoy dealing with them.

Bottom Line

My driver was broken when traveling United and Avianca from Honolulu to Bogota, and three months (and dozens of emails) later, Avianca gave me $400.

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