United breaks guitars and guitar cases


If music performance is your livelihood, you cannot afford to compromise on your instrument. Airlines are obliged to provide safe travel for you and your luggage. If the airline does not allow you to carry on your instrument, it has an obligation to return your possession intact. If your instrument case gets damaged, you cannot depend on the case to protect or carry your instrument.

CRACKED GUITAR CASE

Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers returned from his 3-week solo tour with a cracked guitar case. It got damaged on the United Airlines UA1108 flight from Phoenix (dep. 2:55 pm) to Honolulu (6:49 pm HST) on 28th February 2011.

Why does it sound familiar? I have have never had a problem with United Airlines. But I have heard of a famous song about “United breaking guitars.” In fact, just googling those three words led me to Dave Carroll’s web page about the trilogy. There you can play the song that made him famous and United Airlines infamous. The three videos are cleverly done, the tune is sticky  — even I find myself humming it when I think of United Airlines. It’s a David vs Goliath story that has made headlines.

I asked Bekkers why he hasn’t complained. He said that he had enquired as soon as he landed in Honolulu and saw the damage but there was not enough time to walk to the other terminal (to the United Airlines desk) before catching his connecting flight to Maui. Once in Kahului Airport, he discovered it was too late to report the damage. The next day he called and e-mailed to find out how to make a complaint. Three weeks later, he still has not heard anything.

Tomorrow (Thursday 24th March 2011) Bekkers catches the “red-eye” to Phoenix. Because of the cracked guitar case, he will have to keep it next to him at all times. No tape or rope will undo the cracks. Next week he flies to London and Amsterdam. Will the cracked guitar case save his Jeroen Hilhorst 2005 concert guitar from damage? No one knows. But he is not flying United.

What can we conclude from this? United continues to break guitars?  No, United now has moved on to breaking guitar cases.

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3 Comments

Filed under composition, guitar, instrument, travel

3 responses to “United breaks guitars and guitar cases

  1. Ah, a sad tale. Sorry to hear of it. I had an experience with American Airlines once. The thing is that even if you have insurance on your equipment and you are using ATA cases (such as those made by SKB which have a lifetime guarantee), there is nothing that makes up for time lost. When time is of essence, and there is damage, the only recourse you have in order to be able to play your show is to rent or borrow a suitable instrument. I used to feel very frustrated by the airline situation and now I feel that I just have to be prepared for the fact that something might happen en route. It can happen in the air, in the car, anywhere. In fact, I need to replace my SKB case because it has a crack in it. I can ship it or just swap it out at the warehouse which is in driving distance, but still that’s a hike. So it waits and right now I’m not flying anywhere anytime soon with the case. But I do have to deal with it and your post just reminded me. All the best for your guitar case!

  2. Pingback: Creative complaints of David vs Goliath | Concert Blog

  3. Thanks, Manisha. Luckily I don’t have to transport my piano. But I have had a piano break a leg on me in Spain.
    Interesting to see that the “United breaks guitar” song and video has become a Harvard Business Review Case Study: http://hbr.org/product/united-breaks-guitars/an/510057-PDF-ENG beside its mention on CNN and elsewhere! Perhaps this is a way for musicians to be heard. Treat traveling musicians with more respect, I’ll say!

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