Back in July, Huntington Beach-turned Japanese CTer Kanoa Igarashi posted a video that incensed the masses. Fresh off a World Cup bender in Russia, Igarashi opened his board bag that traveled with him to J-Bay to find every last board in his quiver broken in half. Every. Last. One.
“Got my board bag back after being lost for a week!” wrote Igarashi on Instagram. “Which angry fan in Russia broke my boards at the airport?”
Later, Igarashi commented on his own post explaining why he intentionally would not name the airline he flew, or which one lost his board bag.
“I’m not going to say what airline it was because most of the times (sic) it’s not even the airline’s fault!” he said. “Could be the people that handle the baggage from the (sic) certain airports. Anyways! Life goes on!”
That’s certainly taking the high road. But when you’re a professional surfer who gets an entire quiver for free – or at least priced at an extremely-discounted rate – and you’re fresh off the side-trip of a lifetime where you were able to witness a World Cup final, it tends to be a little easier to take lumps like these. For the everyman who doles out their hard-earned only to open a board bag and see an entire quiver smashed to oblivion, that pill can be a little harder to swallow.
But Igarashi’s comments raise an important question. It’s true that luggage passes through many pairs of hands and machines in transit. So to lay the blame on an airline when the break was really done by a conveyor belt or airport employee, say, would be inappropriate, right? Wrong.
Not only do surfers pay exorbitant fees for their board bags, which go directly to the airline, according to the US Department of Transportation airlines are in fact liable for lost, delayed, or damaged luggage.
“If a passenger’s bag is damaged because of rough handling, airlines will pay for the repairs or negotiate a settlement to pay the passenger the depreciated value,” explains the USDOT in a post on their website. The only caveat, of course, is the most successful claims will include receipts quantifying the value of the damaged bag and its contents. In other words, it might not be a bad idea to keep receipts from your shaper somewhere you won’t lose them.
Back to the notion of not using Instagram to out an airline for poor baggage handling. From John John Florence’s tiff with JetBlue to Bob Hurley and Kelly Slater’s tumble with Hawaiian to Alex Gray’s American Airlines fiasco, over the past few years, there have been a number of very public shamings of airlines. Each has had mixed results.
JetBlue and American Airlines each addressed the respective complaints – likely more swiftly than they would have if it were anyone else – but beyond that have made few changes to their fees. Hawaiian, on the other hand, updated their policy. Although, it’s unclear if the Instagram flogging they received was the main driver.
So, should Kanoa Igarashi release the name of the airline responsible? If past instances are anything to go by, the result is he’ll probably be compensated for a baggage handler’s negligence, but it’s unlikely the airline will make any substantive adjustments to ensure the rest of us (and our boards) don’t suffer the same fate.