9 Feb 2012, UA803, Dulles to Narita.
Checked-in at United counter at Dulles at 9:30 AM for a 12:20 PM flight. The gentleman at the counter seemed nice and offered several large 3" X 5" "FRAGILE" stickers for the guitar case, which I gladly stuck all round the hard TKL guitar case. The gentleman put the PRIORITY tag on my guitar (since I finally got an upgrade!) and told me to bring it down to the area where they take in large and odd-shaped items to be loaded on the plane. I was very happy about the care and attention that my guitar was getting and was confident I will see it in Japan in the same care and condition.
Arrived in Narita, Japan, 4:10 PM, 10 Feb 2012. Excited about the business class service and earlier than scheduled arrival, I proceeded to baggage claim area to grab my bags and head on home. The United rep at the claims area was nice enough to hand deliver my guitar case as it arrived elsewhere due to its size/shape. On top of the case, I saw about a 1.5" surface gash. Simple wear and tear from air travel, I thought. But upon further inspection of the case, I noticed a breakage on the side of the guitar case. I took the guitar case over to the baggage claims counter to speak with the representative there. When I opened up the case and took the guitar out, the bottom of my guitar was crushed in and there was a 1.5' crack. I almost fainted (caution, pictures are graphic!). This was a Guild F412 (12 string) that I had saved up for a long time to purchase.
Seeing the crushed guitar come out of its case, the United rep immediately pointed out that because it was a "fragile item, it cannot be claimed for." Still in shock, I attempted to regain my composure to figure out what I should do next. It wasn't until about 15 minutes later, the United rep offered to fill out a damage report -- though she repeatedly stated that I could not claim through United. She asked me about traveler's insurance, which I did not have.
Once I returned home, I called the United ((800) 221-6903 from the site:http://www.united.com/page/article/0,6867,1037,00.html). As with Mr. Carroll's case, I spoke with a nice rep from India who further stated the company policy, of not being able to reimburse on checked-in fragile items that were damaged. I noted that at no time the check-in counter at Dulles stated this, nor the united.com site state this policy. Had I known about this, I would have mailed my guitar home.
Unfortunately, USAA, whom I have had the pleasure of having as my renters insurance with, could not help me at this time due to United having custody of the guitar when it was destroyed. Otherwise it would've been a quick and painless claims process. I don't work for USAA, but if the companies around the world could be half as concerned or caring about its members/customers, sites like grapevine or BBB would not exist today.
As a government employee, I am flying on United quite often, which makes me a "Premium Executive." I can say though through this experience, I do not feel as though this status is anything but name.
United needs to take care of its customers and step up to deal with its mistakes.
1 Aviation Cir
Washington, DC USA