Forced to check my laptop and now it’s in pieces

La Freta Carter Dalton’s son was boarding an EasyJet flight from London to Barcelona when the overhead bins ran out of space. A crewmember told him he couldn’t board with his laptop computer — it had to be checked.

You can probably guess what happened next, right?

“The luggage was placed in the cargo hold,” says Dalton. “And the laptop was severely damaged.”

A forced check-in is one of the most difficult travel cases. Period.

Why? Because down in the cargo hold, airlines usually treat every bag as voluntarily checked luggage. Their highly restrictive contract of carriage, which specifically states that they either aren’t liable for fragile items in the cargo hold or that breakable items aren’t permitted, lets airlines off the hook for roughing up your personal belongings.

Let’s go right to the fine print on this one, shall we? Bear in mind that EasyJet is a no-frills European carrier that has built a business model on fees. And there’s one other thing, too — I’ll get to that in a moment.

Here we go:

16.5.1 in respect of Hold Baggage, We shall be liable to You for its destruction, loss or damage during the time it was in Our charge and to the extent that damage did not result from the inherent defect, quality or vice of the Baggage;

20.4.12 You should not include in Your Hold Baggage fragile or perishable items, money, jewellery, precious metals, silverware, computers, electronic devices, negotiable papers, securities or other valuables, business documents, passports and other identification documents or samples and we accept no liability for them save as stated in Article 16.5.3 (Baggage, Damage to Baggage).

North American carriers have similar language, but their contracts simply excludes computers from liability. It’s a little like two sides of the same coin. Here are EasyJet’s full terms and conditions.

So Dalton wasn’t allowed to check his PC, but EasyJet forced him to. Now it won’t take full responsibility for the damaged PC because — you guessed it — he wasn’t allowed to check it.

That’s some twisted logic.

Dalton fills in a few details:

I filed a claim with the airline and provided the documentation and repair estimate from the Apple store as requested by the EasyJet representative.

The Apple store technician told our son that he had to return with the laptop within two days to be repaired or they would not be able to make the repairs before he left Barcelona.

EasyJet didn’t authorize the repairs while Dalton’s son was in Spain. Now he’s in Finland, teaching English for the summer, and EasyJet won’t help him fix the PC, according to his mother.

She wants me to nudge EasyJet to do the right thing, but there are two problems with that. First, it’s not entirely clear what the “right” thing is, at least according to the airline’s contract. Did it void its own terms by forcing him to check his computer? Or did he violate EasyJet’s terms by allowing his PC in the cargo hold, or at least failing to advise it that the bag contained a laptop?

In reviewing Dalton’s notes, it appears EasyJet was at one point willing to authorize the repairs, but now, fixing the PC wouldn’t be practical. It probably needs to be replaced, which would be a significant expense for an airline with a well-earned reputation for cheapness.

All of which brings me to the last, and maybe insurmountable hurdle: Even if I tried to get involved in this case, I’m not sure if I’d make any progress. My records show that EasyJet refuses to acknowledge my mediation efforts. In fact, the company has never responded to any of my inquiries, for any reason.

I’m not sure if this laptop can be saved.

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