What to Do When an Airline Loses Your Stroller
Travel with young kids can be hard. Traveling with young kids by yourself is harder. Traveling by yourself with a young special needs kid I can only imagine is harder still. But, people do it, and just by looking you often can't tell if someone has a special situation going on or not, but you don't really need to know that in order to be helpful and compassionate. It sounds like helpful and compassionate were unfortunately not the words of the day for a mom who was recently traveling on Air Canada with her (adorable) three-year-old daughter from Vancouver to San Francisco to get some specialized treatment.
You can read her entire account linked below from her Facebook post, but essentially what it sounds like happened was that her child's stroller somehow didn't make the flight, and the process to figure that out took hours in the airport, resulted in her being told to stand at the boarding area for an extended period of time instead of being 'permitted' to go and change her daughter's dirty diaper, and left her having to carry her 35 pound daughter and luggage through the airport to baggage claim where she was told her stroller was...but it wasn't. At the end of it all they had no stroller, were exhausted, frustrated, and it impacted the reason for the trip, the next day's therapy.
My two-year-old weighs a little less than this three-year-old and it is already very, very, very hard to carry her in my arms for an extended period of time. Doing that plus managing any luggage would be virtually impossible. This mom's three-year-old has cerebral palsy and cannot walk, so without the stroller, or the use of an airport wheelchair, she had to be carried.
What to Do When an Airline Loses Your Stroller
While it is too late to help out with this situation, I want to offer up some advice regarding what to do if the airline loses your stroller in the future.
- Check at the airplane door after deplaning as gate-checked strollers are typically off-loaded on the jet bridge just after you exit the aircraft. Don't leave that area until you either have your stroller, or the staff is 100% certain that no more gate checked items are coming off the airplane.
- If you cannot physically get your child beyond the gate area without a stroller for whatever reason then request wheelchair assistance and/or a golf cart to get you through the airport. I had to do this when my oldest daughter was four-years-old. We weren't traveling with a stroller at that point, but she was so tired after a red-eye flight she physically would not walk, and I could not carry her and our bags through the airport. You may have to wait a bit for this request to be honored, but airports do have wheelchairs, and larger airports probably have golf carts that can help out those who can't physically walk the necessary distance through the terminal. Some airports also have strollers, though that is not as common.
- Check at baggage claim. Some people do check strollers, so it is entirely possible for a stroller to end up at baggage claim. The strollers don't always come off at the same location as the regular bags and may be found with other bulky checked items like car seats, skis, etc. in a different part of baggage claim.
- If the stroller is in neither of those places, talk to the airline representative in baggage claim. They may be able to track down your stroller using your claim ticket. If they aren't able to locate where your stroller is, stay calm. The airline may have strollers they can loan you to use while yours is being tracked down and hopefully delivered. Don't leave the airport without having the airline document that you do not have your stroller, and ask if they have a loaner.
- If you have to leave the airport without a stroller and you need one, go directly to somewhere where you can buy one and save the receipt. While airlines do sometimes fight against being responsible for damaged strollers, if the airline lost your stroller, there is a good chance they will pay for your replacement. If they don't, the credit card you purchased your airline ticket with may have your back under a lost or delayed baggage benefit. If your stroller is only a couple of months old, the credit card you purchased it with may also have you covered under a purchase protection benefit.
- Stay in contact with the airline about your lost stroller and baggage claim. The odds are high that your stroller will ultimately be returned to you, but of course, some things do just ultimately end up in airline baggage purgatory and never make it back home. At the end of the whole ordeal, you should either get your stroller returned, reimbursed for your new stroller, or potentially both if you had to purchase a new stroller while the other was delayed.
In the case of the mom and three-year-old mentioned above, the stroller did resurface a few days later, but that was never really the problem or solution. Things happen, but if the airline had done everything to make it easier for the family while they worked on the stroller situation I would bet things could have gone very differently. The mom should have been "allowed" to immediately go change her daughter's diaper, and the airline should have arranged a wheelchair or golf cart to get them to baggage claim to continue the hunt for the stroller. If the stroller was not at baggage claim, she should have been encouraged to go straight from the airport to purchase a new one that would be reimbursed. Sure that would be inconvenient, but it shouldn't have been an event that made the mom feel that her daughter was not treated with dignity.
I also want to add that some airlines do allow a small collapsible stroller to be brought onboard and placed in the overhead bin, so that is another option if having a stroller at the ready is essential for your situation.
Have you ever had a problem with an airline losing your stroller? If so, how was that handled?