Do Strollers Get Damaged on Planes and What to Do About It?

When you’re travelling by plane with a young child or a baby, taking a stroller can make life so much easier!  And let’s face it, most pushchairs worth having (and using a lot) aren’t cheap; most strollers also won’t be allowed on the plane with you as carry-on, to protect and keep a watchful eye on. So that’s a little daunting and you are likely thinking…

Baby in a pushchair

Do strollers get damaged on planes, and if so, what do you do about it? 

Unfortunately, yes, airlines do damage strollers in transit.  Policies can be ambiguous about damage too. The best thing is to take precautions to protect your stroller from damage in the first place.  If damage does occur, you ought to review your airline’s policies on damage, take photos for evidence of the damaged stroller and file a claim.  We’ll take you through 3 simple steps on stroller damage to help you understand the process:

  1. why it happens;
  2. how to prevent it;
  3. what to do about it;

It’s mind-blowing to think that a pushchair can get damaged in such a short time of a flight. To understand better let’s look at the root cause.

Why are strollers damaged?

Although there are no statistics on strollers damaged by airlines, we do have information on wheelchairs damaged in transit.  A whopping 701 wheelchairs were mishandled in the US alone in December 2018, according the US Government transport department [1] 

A stroller, like a wheelchair, is a mobility aid with lots of moving parts that can easily get damaged in transit.   Luckily for us parents, although the damage to a stroller is a MASSIVE hassle, curbing our mobility, it doesn’t totally stop us from getting around (like it does with a wheelchair user). But we can still learn from mobility experts fighting for wheelchair users.

According to disability activists, part of the problem comes from airline staff viewing wheelchairs as objects – like luggage – rather than crucial equipment that allows disabled passengers to move independently. [2]

The reason pushchairs, wheelchairs and luggage get damaged is often due to a combination of:

  • financial & time pressures to get the flight off on time- meaning loading and unloading a plane needs to happen quickly;
  • the heavy work of luggage handlers is not very well paid;
  • fitting everything in the belly of the plane is Tetris and then things can move around quite a bit, especially during turbulence.

It’s not really baggage handlers don’t care, it’s that they don’t have time to care!  

Luggage handler

Pushchairs, when folded, are an awkward shape, often wedged into place using other baggage.  (We’ll talk about ways to address this later & how to make the luggage handler’s job easier and protect your asset.)

Who is responsible for pushchair damage during a trip?

You contract is with your airline when flying.  It should be simple to figure out who is responsible.

Both the USDT * and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that airlines are responsible for damage to luggage (and wheelchairs) once they accept them for carriage. Even if the damage is caused by airport baggage handlers, the airline must compensate the customer. [3]

* The U.S. Department of Transportation even issued a notice to the airlines, reminding the companies that “they are required to compensate passengers for damage to wheels, straps, zippers, handles, and other protruding parts of checked baggage beyond normal wear and tear.”

Confusingly, every airline has its own particular policies concerning damaged strollers. The list of items insured on the flight varies, as do the carriage contracts. In an ideal world, a stroller that got damaged during travel should be repaired or replaced by the airline. However, in reality, some airlines do not take responsibility for the damage and many only cover a part of the cost, taking into account the wear and tear.

For example, Jackie in an online forum said: “Whenever we fly with Qatar airways they make us sign to say no claims can be made for damages against stroller or car seats.” 

If you have a particularly expensive stroller and are concerned check the airline policies in advance so you can weigh up whether and how you want to take that pushchair with you.

Read on to find out how to protect your stroller on a plane and what to do if damage happens.

How to Protect Your Stroller from Damage During Travel

How to Prevent Stroller Damage During Travel?

The best course of action is prevention.  It is safest to protect your stroller as well as you can.

1) Leave the stroller at home

The most obvious way to prevent your stroller from getting damaged is by not taking it in the first place.

Argh! – you’re thinking- Is she crazy?!

It might not be for everyone, but do you consider taking a baby carrier instead and downsizing in the amount of baby paraphernalia you carry around with you for those just in case moments.  (Here’s some info on taking baby carriers on a plane)

Strollers at Helsinki Airport, Finland

TIP:  If you have an expensive pushchair, double-check your travel insurance to see if you are covered for any loss or damages. Check what your possible excess is too.

2) Take a travel stroller instead

Another option is to take a much more streamlined, umbrella-fold travel stroller instead of your full bells and whistles pushchair.   I know this isn’t always practical, especially if you are going for a longer trip. But there are definite advantages to travelling with something that is made-for-purpose and therefore less likely to be damaged en route.

Remember, you don’t necessarily need to buy a dedicated travel stroller new. Some friends or family might have one stored in a garage that they’re not using. You could borrow it perhaps or you could look for a second-hand one off Ebay or your likes.

3) Protect you stroller 

At the airport you potentially have two options- checking your pushchair in at the check-in counter and then it goes through the airport no more luggage handling system; or you take your stroller through security to the boarding gate with you and gate check it.  

Keep in mind though- If your stroller is large and will not be allowed in the cabin or checked at the gate, you’ll have to check it with the rest of your luggage at the check-in desk. This depends on Airport and Airline policies.  Very often, if your stroller is over 9 kg/ 20 lb you won’t be able to gate-check it, especially if you’re flying with American Airlines and airports like Zurich you won’t be able to take a travel system which comes apart to more than one piece. (We touched on some of these in the article about taking with double pushchairs through the airport)

If you have a choice there are two schools of thought on which is best: 

  1. Check in at the counter as you will have a more relaxed time of getting through the airport with fewer things to deal with at security. You will have ample time to wrap up and protect your stroller, ensure luggage tags and fragile sticker are attached.
    Lots of airports also provide complimentary strollers to use at the airport
  1. Use it at the airport and take it through to the boarding gate and gate check before boarding your flight.   It’s convenient to have your own pushchair with you. The theory is that at gate-checking, the luggage is usually handled more carefully since there are passengers around. You will be in control of your stroller for longer periods of time and can ensure it receives the care it deserves. On the other hand, gate-checking it’s can be more fraught with the time pressure of having to pack it up quickly as boarding begins.
Gate checked strollers waiting to be loaded

Either way make sure that you protect your stroller appropriately.

What are the most common damages & how to prevent them?

From forums and our readers, we understand that the most common damage to a pushchair as a result of mishandling are:

  • scuffs and scratches
  • sun canopy and the shopping basket torn
  • plastic locking & folding systems broken
  • torn handles
  • frames bent

How do you protect your stroller on a plane? 

Use a Pushchair travel bag

The best way to protect your pushchair is using a protective travel bag. Do you need a stroller travel bag? While a travel bag is not absolutely needed, it does add an additional layer of protection against knocks, scratches, dirt and rain.  The bag will help protect your pushchair, especially the more fragile parts.  It also gives baggage handlers a better grip.

I always use a travel bag for my stroller when we travel to keep it a little safer. It also makes it easier to keep all the bits together. The bag doesn’t stop any major damage but generally helps prevent it from getting scuffed up or the foam on the handle getting ripped. I just bought a generic one from Amazon. (Sometimes they’ll give you a big plastic bag to put it in at the airport if you don’t have a bag.)” – Georgie, a good friend of mine who travels a lot with her son.

Do airlines provide stroller bags? Some airlines might provide strong plastic bags to be used as a stroller bag. While they do help keep all the parts together and the stroller clean and dry, in case of downpours, they do not add much protection and don’t give much grip for baggage handlers.

TIP: A stroller travel bag not only offers protection but also allows you to store some extra bits – coats and the likes- which you don’t need during your flight. This can lessen the blow should a heavier piece of luggage fall on your stroller during flight. 

Protecting your stroller without a bag

If you don’t have a travel bag for your pushchair there are still some things you can do to lower the risk of damage:

1) Make your pushchair baggage handler friendly!

Which means you want to have as many good handholds as possible – Consider adding a couple of extra straps to create a handle to hold onto, but not in such a way that it causes a trip hazard or can be hooked on larger items.

2) Secure your stroller closed

Make sure the pushchair cannot accidentally open out.  Use cable ties, rope or elastic bungees to hold it together,( in addition to the stroller’s standard locking mechanism!)

3) Remove any accessories

  • If it’s sticking out and can be taken off, take it off!
  • You want to make the stroller as standard square or rectangular as possible, without any awkward bits sticking out.
  • If your shopping basket from below can be unhooked, take it off, wrap it up, put it away.
  • Cup holders or anything like that left sticking out is more likely to be damaged.

4) Immobilise all movable parts 

Tie wheels together with a bungee so they don’t swivel around.  Unhook or tie down the canopy, so it cannot flip up by chance.

5) Protect the protruding parts

There are some parts that are integral and can’t be removed. Using tape, pool noodles or pipe lagging, try if you can create bumpers over some of these parts.

Tip: Fold your pushchair up at home and look at it critically: 
If you had to grab it quickly, in limited light, would you have a good grab hold? 
Where would you grab it for the most secure hold?
Are there any parts sticking out that can get wedged in somewhere? 

A realistic view on plastic luggage wrapping

Lots of airports offer plastic wrapping to protect baggage and pushchairs. While this may look a great option and the companies claim to be using environmentally friendly, non-toxic plastic that is 100% recyclable (and offer insurance with the wrapping).

There is more to the story, however: Although the wrapping is made of low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) plastic, which is indeed recyclable; only about 9% plastic is actually recycled, 79% of low-density polyethylene is sent for landfill or dumped [4].

Do you want to be adding to the plastic pollution of our planet for the benefit of that one trip?

Check your pushchair as soon as your get it back!

It’s quite important to check the stroller as soon as you get it back at the plane or in the baggage hall.

What to Do if Your Stroller Is Damaged on a Plane?

So at your destination, you notice your stroller is damaged. Here’s what you do, besides shred a little tear of frustration 

1) Take photos of the damage

Take as many photos as reasonable of the damage. Make sure you get close-ups and some overall pictures.  It’s a good idea to snap a picture of the luggage tag too, attached to the stroller. (The details on the tag are very important for reporting the damage.) 

2) Report the stroller damage at the baggage claim office, IMMEDIATELY

Your best bet is to find the ground agent in the baggage hall who deals with your airline.  They will assist you to fill out a form – Property Irregularity Report, also known as PIR- with various information about your stroller and the damage caused. 

Make sure that you have filled out all the required forms to save further paperwork hassles down the road. 

You should be able to complete the PIR and submit a claim immediately at the airport. Though sometimes agents will ask you to submit the claim via email or in writing separately, but get the PIR at the airport anyway.

You have two alternative routes for a claim – either claim for the damage from the airline, which is the most straightforward option, (as long as their insurance covers it); or claim from your own travel insurance

Keep your copy of the PIR and your claim form safe.

It is possible that you will have to submit proof of purchase, as well, to verify the price. This can be a bit tricky if your stroller was a second-hand item, is several years old, or you do not keep your receipts. You may want to accompany any documentation you submit with pictures of the stroller before incident.

I have submitted the claim with photos of the damaged pieces – canopy, covers, etc and was asked to buy what had been damaged and submit the invoice. I got a refund in full each time.“- Mary, one of our readers

If you notice the damage after leaving the airport, call the airline customer service number immediately and complete the claim process via phone or email. Be sure to include photo evidence of the damage and any required forms, ( and you may also want to submit photos of the stroller before your flight to prove it’s condition. )

Depending on the airline- you have between 24 hours to 7 days to notify the airline of the damage and submit a claim. most will, however, ask for a PIR completed on arrival at the airport. (You can read more about the claim process at the CAA website.)

3) Follow up on your claim.

If you were able to make a claim at the airport, be sure to follow up on the status of your claim.

It is very important to keep following up. With some carriers, it is a straight-forward process, with others they drag it out and waste so much of everyone’s time. From feedback, it seems European carriers do slightly better at addressing issues (except a couple of low fare operators).

What to expect from your claim process?

There seems such a wide range of experiences. The key thread through most of them, though, is to keep on top of the process.

Donna says: “I claimed for a broken car seat and lost pram with KLM/Air Mauritius. It was a very long and annoying process requiring lots of phone calls but eventually got a full refund. We had to prove the car seat couldn’t be repaired.”

Sally:” I think it really depends on the airline. Qantas ripped my stroller hood once and they paid for the repairs with no issue. They gave me a list of authorized repairers and a reference number for my claim. I took the stroller in to one of the repairers and didn’t pay a single cent. A little down the track the hood on another stroller got ripped on a Jetstar flight (Qantas’ cheaper airline) and they outright refused to cover the repairs. I went to the same repair place, paid for the repairs and submitted another claim but they refused it three times! Good luck!

Air NZ broke ours. They were amazing. Went to the airport desk and was given a loan one, they sent ours off for repair and couriered it back to us (by which time we were in the Marlborough sounds so no small feat getting to us)” Dave

If you aren’t happy with the resolution, you can take up a complaint with an approved Alternative Dispute Resolution organisation- as approved by the CAA. – Details can be found on CAA site.

What to do if your stroller doesn’t turn up at your destination?

For those of us who are total worst-case scenario planners: Sadly, it does happen that airlines misplace strollers.  

Firstly, make sure you have checked outsize luggage delivery point in the baggage hall because often strollers are returned there instead of the regular luggage conveyor belt. 

Then go through the claims process described above for the reporting damaged strollers.

Readers also asked

Can I check a stroller without a child?

Yes, of course you can, but without a baby with you on the trip, it will count as one of your checked luggage allowances (for most of the airlines). So, depending on your ticket and the airline’s allowances, make sure you have checked luggage booked in advance to account for the stroller too. It can be very costly to buy the allowance at the airport.

If you need to take a stroller with you without a baby, consider getting a good sized stroller bag and packing your regular suitcase content in that too. Thus you avoid the cost of an extra luggage item and you have better padding for the pushchair.

…but don’t go crazy with weight! 23kg or 50lb is generally the maximum any single luggage item can weigh. (This is to protect the luggage handlers and other passenger’s luggage.)

Have we forgotten anything about strollers at the airport?

Share your experiences and your stories in the comments below!

Please share, save for later or pin for later reference

Strollers do get damaged on a plane, but you can minimise the risk with handy tips

[1] Report including wheelchairs mishandled in the month of December 2018 – transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/resources/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/333601/february2019atcr.pdf
[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/airlines-wheelchairs-damaged-america-disabled-passengers-a9217421.html
[3] CAA sources- Richard Taylor, press officer- confirmed that they expect pushchairs to be dealt with under the same procedures a luggage https://www.caa.co.uk/Passengers/Resolving-Travel-Problems/Lost-delayed-or-damaged-baggage/
[4] figures provided by Stena Recycling, a leading recycling firm- https://www.stenarecycling.com/insights/re-think-plastic/

Thanks to our readers and Facebook group members for contributions.

Monika Roozen

Monika is a mum of 3, an avid traveller, who grew up travelling the world and has continued travelling ever since. She holds a degree in animal sciences, nutrition and business administration and has consulted for several years for the hospitality industry and customer service departments. Monika loves slow travel- taking time for immersive experiences in culture and nature- sailing and snowboarding. Her personal adventures are chronicled in Inspireroo Family Travel Magazine . (Click to see their family mad ventures)

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