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View Full Version : "United Breaks Guitars" - Sons of Maxwell song about their terrible experience with the airline.


Le Ministre de l'au-delà
07-08-2009, 03:35 PM
The article is at this link (http://www.cbc.ca/arts/music/story/2009/07/08/united-breaks-guitars.html?ref=rss) and the video is at this link (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo).

And people wonder why I either send my guitar with a courier or rent one at my destination...

WordMan
07-08-2009, 04:05 PM
The article is at this link (http://www.cbc.ca/arts/music/story/2009/07/08/united-breaks-guitars.html?ref=rss) and the video is at this link (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo).

And people wonder why I either send my guitar with a courier or rent one at my destination...

This is making the rounds on the guitar sites. Worth seeing or is the title and the effort enough to make the point?

Telemark
07-08-2009, 04:34 PM
Not bad, but Tom Paxton did it better 20 years ago.

http://play.napster.com/track/11059969 - link to Napster to play "Thank you Republic Airlines ..."

GargoyleWB
07-08-2009, 04:53 PM
This is making the rounds on the guitar sites. Worth seeing or is the title and the effort enough to make the point?

The music is horrid (I can't stand nouveau country), and went on too long (repeating verses and choruses), but the video was cute and funny.

Auntbeast
07-08-2009, 07:44 PM
I enjoyed it and his voice. It was kinda long however, but I do oh so love people striking back at "the man."

Le Ministre de l'au-delà
07-08-2009, 08:33 PM
Yeah, I can't say I feel a compelling need to hear the song again, but the video is cute, and I love it that I band I had never heard of before is having their revenge on a major airline.

I have to admit that I have a huge chip on my shoulder, having had instruments mistreated in transit, having had fights with them at the check-in counter ('No, I will not sign anything that says that you are only liable for $200. damage. The instrument is worth $800., the case is worth $100. and if you won't let me take it on the plane even though we both know it fits in the overhead bin, your airline is assuming responsibility for it. And by the way, the suitcase that we aren't fussing over has a suit, tux and tails in it, and the total value of that is into five digits - don't think I wouldn't sue for the full value if you tore them up!'). I don't fly unless I have to any more - I'll take the train or drive.

The sad thing is that in Europe, the baggage handlers fight over who gets to walk a musical instrument to the plane. My guitar teacher talks about touring France and Germany, and having really interesting conversations with baggage handlers about what kind of guitar he had, and what music he liked to play with it. Then he got back to Canada, where Air Cattle-Prod lets the instruments bounce down the luggage carousels to see how many times they'll flip.

Sorry for a rant - the article covers it much more succinctly than the vid, but it's still kinda fun...

An Arky
07-08-2009, 09:00 PM
Thank GOD my band's appeal is too exclusive to require air travel. :D

If I absolutely had to fly with it, I'd get one of those big ass (not mejum ass or little ass) rolls of bubble wrap and wrap it about a foot thick.

atomicbadgerrace
07-08-2009, 09:06 PM
I do hate it when "regular people" get a pass and exemption to published company policy just because they can do something like write a song that becomes a viral video. Reminds me of Adam Savage's cell phone bill.

Neither this guy nor Adam Savage deserve a pass.

Le Ministre de l'au-delà
07-08-2009, 09:25 PM
I do hate it when "regular people" get a pass and exemption to published company policy just because they can do something like write a song that becomes a viral video. Reminds me of Adam Savage's cell phone bill.

Neither this guy nor Adam Savage deserve a pass.

I'm sorry, I just don't understand you. Do you think it's acceptable that the airline's baggage handling wrecked a $3,500. instrument? And that the airline has refused to deal with the complaint up until this video?

It's not like the musicians have much choice - even when I've bought a seat for my guitar, I've had to fight to get through security. If I'm not allowed to take it on the flight, then they have to assume responsibility for it. If they will do neither, they don't deserve our business.

And, yes, instead of someone else's guitar, that could have been your best suit. Or your laptop. Or your dog. No, I don't know who Adam Savage is, but I'm totally on the musician's side on this one.

Magiver
07-08-2009, 09:33 PM
I do hate it when "regular people" get a pass and exemption to published company policy just because they can do something like write a song that becomes a viral video. Reminds me of Adam Savage's cell phone bill.

Neither this guy nor Adam Savage deserve a pass. A company cannot negate it's legal responsibility with a written policy.

atomicbadgerrace
07-08-2009, 09:37 PM
I'm sorry, I just don't understand you. Do you think it's acceptable that the airline's baggage handling wrecked a $3,500. instrument? And that the airline has refused to deal with the complaint up until this video?

No one commenting on this incident was there to witness what was done to the instrument. Baggage is routinely banged up every step of the way; from check in to claim. It's how the baggage handling system works. Every airline will advise you that checking in a musical instrument is a bad idea, especially if improperly packed. Most airlines I know of make specific exclusions for musical instruments from their baggage liability.

The airline should refuse to deal with the complaint, even now. They're following their published policy regarding baggage claims. For one, this guy checked something that the airline is probably not liable for. Two, this guy waited quite a while after receiving his instrument to even file a claim. I'll concede that the ground handlers shouldn't have been tossing this guy's guitar around as he described (if that's how it happened--again, we're getting one side of the story here, and I sure wasn't there to witness it), but there exists some due diligence on the part of the passenger, as well.

It's not like the musicians have much choice - even when I've bought a seat for my guitar, I've had to fight to get through security. If I'm not allowed to take it on the flight, then they have to assume responsibility for it. If they will do neither, they don't deserve our business.

Then vote with your wallet, because that's how the game is played. Without making special arrangements, I doubt any commercial US airline is going to assume liability for your musical instrument as a checked item. If that doesn't fly with you, you don't have to play.

And, yes, instead of someone else's guitar, that could have been your best suit. Or your laptop. Or your dog. No, I don't know who Adam Savage is, but I'm totally on the musician's side on this one.

If it was my best suit, I'd make a claim as soon as I got it, if it was damaged to a degree necessitating repair or replacement. I wouldn't check my laptop -- even if the airlines assumed liability for it (which they don't) -- because I wouldn't trust it being handled. I would never check a dog.

I'm really not on the musician's side of this one, even after hearing his version of events. He's pissed because United actually upheld their part of the agreement--and he's getting a free pass because he's good at giving negative PR to get his way.

A company cannot negate it's legal responsibility with a written policy.

And what is it you believe United's legal responsibility to be

JRDelirious
07-08-2009, 09:46 PM
Not bad, but Tom Paxton did it better 20 years ago.

http://play.napster.com/track/11059969 - link to Napster to play "Thank you Republic Airlines ..."

Exactly what I thought of the instant I saw the thread title :cool:

Magiver
07-08-2009, 10:17 PM
And what is it you believe United's legal responsibility to be The same as if I went down the row of overheads and ripped them off their hinges in an act of wanton destruction. We're not talking about a scuffed piece of luggage. The guitar was properly stored in a hard case and per the description in the post the case was seen being mishandled. The airlines do not have carte blanche to destroy your possessions.

atomicbadgerrace
07-08-2009, 10:30 PM
The same as if I went down the row of overheads and ripped them off their hinges in an act of wanton destruction. We're not talking about a scuffed piece of luggage. The guitar was properly stored in a hard case and per the description in the post the case was seen being mishandled. The airlines do not have carte blanche to destroy your possessions.

There's no evidence that the airline did any such thing. I'm not jumping on the "United sucks" bandwagon just because the guy who's got a huge stake in the incident says they were mishandling his bags. It's equally likely the ground handlers were doing their job just fine. Bags aren't treated like babies, and one man's "toss" is another man's "throw."

There is no "proper storage" when it comes to musical instruments being treated as luggage. Airlines routinely exclude them from liability through contract for this very reason. Any number of things can happen to an instrument, even "properly stored," from the time it goes on the baggage belt at the ticket counter until it's picked up in another city. Manual security screening can be an issue, belt jams, items being stacked atop one another, other baggage falling while in flight, etc.

Not that I distrust the guy, but consider the other side. This guy claims to have witnessed mishandling to the point of abuse, but doesn't even open the case upon receipt, and makes a claim for damage some time later.

Absent proof of any wanton act of destruction or negligence, I can't fault United for following their policy. But I can fault this guy for trying to get around the rules by shaming them into settling.

Princhester
07-08-2009, 10:36 PM
I'm sorry, I just don't understand you. Do you think it's acceptable that the airline's baggage handling wrecked a $3,500. instrument? And that the airline has refused to deal with the complaint up until this video?

You aren't looking at the big picture. The more careful your standards of handling, the more it costs. Handling things mechanically and with little specific personal care costs very, very much less than bespoke careful handling of delicate things.

What you want is for me to pay more so the cost of handling your higher than average value, more fragile than average instrument gets covered.

Explain to me how this is fair.

Magiver
07-08-2009, 10:58 PM
There's no evidence that the airline did any such thing. I'm not jumping on the "United sucks" bandwagon just because the guy who's got a huge stake in the incident says they were mishandling his bags. It's equally likely the ground handlers were doing their job just fine. Bags aren't treated like babies, and one man's "toss" is another man's "throw."

There is no "proper storage" when it comes to musical instruments being treated as luggage. Airlines routinely exclude them from liability through contract for this very reason. Any number of things can happen to an instrument, even "properly stored," from the time it goes on the baggage belt at the ticket counter until it's picked up in another city. Manual security screening can be an issue, belt jams, items being stacked atop one another, other baggage falling while in flight, etc.

Yes, there is proper storage of an instrument. He could have had it in a soft case. It should have survived normal baggage handling that includes belt jams and flight turbulence. People who fly are limited by overhead storage as to what they can travel with.

Not that I distrust the guy, but consider the other side. This guy claims to have witnessed mishandling to the point of abuse, but doesn't even open the case upon receipt, and makes a claim for damage some time later.

You appear to have information not relayed in this thread. According to the article he immediately alerted airline employees and nowhere does it say he waited to file. I'd ask you for a cite for further consideration of your point.

Absent proof of any wanton act of destruction or negligence, I can't fault United for following their policy. But I can fault this guy for trying to get around the rules by shaming them into settling. There may be more to the story but there isn’t much excuse for mishandling luggage. Airlines move freight in addition to luggage and are expected to transport it intact.

atomicbadgerrace
07-08-2009, 11:05 PM
Yes, there is proper storage of an instrument. He could have had it in a soft case. It should have survived normal baggage handling that includes belt jams and flight turbulence. People who fly are limited by overhead storage as to what they can travel with.

You're right -- it probably should have. But the airlines know that it might not, and contractually limit their liability accordingly.

Then people who fly with fragile items should be prepared to either
a) Accept the risk associated with it (conveyed by the airline's clear release of liability for such items), or
b) Choose another means of conveyance if (a) is not acceptable

You appear to have information not relayed in this thread. According to the article he immediately alerted airline employees and nowhere does it say he waited to file. I'd ask you for a cite for further consideration of your point.

Sorry, from the author's mouth (http://www.davecarrollmusic.com/story/united-breaks-guitars) (bolding mine):

When I got to Omaha it was around 12:30 am. The plane was late arriving and there were no employees visible. Although I was told later that it wouldn’t have mattered, I should have taken my hard case out of the padded protective exterior case to examine the guitar at the airport but I didn’t. The guitar case looked ok and we were tired, went to the hotel and then to sleep for our early morning pick-up by the tour managers the next day. When they picked us up in the early morning we would not be back in Omaha for seven days. It was later that day at sound check that I discovered that the base of my Taylor had been smashed.

He alerted a flight attendant during his connection. Despite "no employees visible," there's always an airline representative available at the airport when a flight is arriving or departing. Such is the reason for "Luggage/Baggage Service Offices."

If I were to travel with a Very Expensive Thing, and saw it being mistreated to the degree Dave describes, you better bet the first thing I'd do is open it up and check it out as soon as it got back into my hands.

There may be more to the story but there isn’t much excuse for mishandling luggage. Airlines move freight in addition to luggage and are expected to transport it intact.

There's no evidence of mishandling the luggage, either. We've got one man's amateur perspective, as seen from inside an airplane.

Robot Arm
07-08-2009, 11:25 PM
Baggage is routinely banged up every step of the way;...Yes, it is.

Why?

I understand that accidents happen. And I understand that an airline wouldn't want to be on the hook for damaging something valuable. But it's like they've adopted that attitude so deeply that nothing can be their fault. There's really no reason for any luggage to be thrown (or even tossed) around like a beach ball; even less when it's clearly something like a guitar.

I'm reminded of an interview I read with Michael Palin. He was talking about the inspiration for the Dead Parrot Sketch. He was taking his car to the mechanic, and no matter what he said was wrong with it, the mechanic's reply was "oh, that's bound to happen," or "you've got to expect that with this model." It's like nothing was ever wrong; nothing was ever his fault. United, those baggage handlers work for you. You are responsible, and you can tell them what to do. If an accident still happens, we can live with it. But please, don't treat the suitcases like punching bags and then shrug and say "nothing we can do about that."

Princhester
07-09-2009, 12:22 AM
United, those baggage handlers work for you. You are responsible, and you can tell them what to do. If an accident still happens, we can live with it. But please, don't treat the suitcases like punching bags and then shrug and say "nothing we can do about that."

Yup, they can tell baggage handlers what to do. They can supervise the "lowest common denominator" type guys who take those sorts of jobs very closely. They can instal cameras and monitor them. They can employ more guys so there's less time pressure and need to hurry. They can do all sorts of things.

All these measures cost. Meantime, 99% of baggage is fine. In my experience (and a lot of other people's) getting it right most of the time has one cost, getting it right almost all the time has a cost that can be orders of magnitude higher.

You're fine with paying for this? I'm not. Not when myself and most others aren't carrying anything high value or fragile.

It is, admittedly, a brutal system, but it's cost effective overall.

atomicbadgerrace
07-09-2009, 01:18 AM
Yes, it is.

Why?

Because that's how the system is designed. To find a happy medium between "lowest cost" and "highest quality." As Princhester points out, the vast majority of the time, baggage makes it through without a problem. But because there are so many variables, so many automations, and so many different machines and people handling the process, something fragile can easily be broken.

But please, don't treat the suitcases like punching bags and then shrug and say "nothing we can do about that."

I've yet to see any kind of proof that the baggage in this instance was mishandled.

Magiver
07-09-2009, 01:37 AM
There's no evidence of mishandling the luggage, either. We've got one man's amateur perspective, as seen from inside an airplane. If I understand correctly there was a case inside another case. This was more than sufficient packaging on the part of the owner. You cannot write off liability simply with a written policy. If it was a $3500 guitar then the repair of it was certainly within the scope of normal liabilities that airlines operate under.

Princhester
07-09-2009, 01:53 AM
You cannot write off liability simply with a written policy.

Are you saying this by way of a moral principal, or a legal one? If the latter, can you describe the law applicable? I'm a transport lawyer but not a US transport lawyer and I don't usually do air law. However, my very faint understanding is that there are international conventions by which airlines are entitled to limit their liability for injury and property loss, and there may well also be the possibility to do so by contract or under domestic law.

So do you actually know, or are you speculating? And if the former, fill us in on the details.

Le Ministre de l'au-delà
07-09-2009, 07:20 AM
A few points -

1) How do you suggest musicians get from one place to another with their instruments? Halifax, NS to Omaha, Nebraska in one day has to be flown.

2) The laptop example from above is a good one. No, I would never check my laptop, either. However, if the airline insisted that I check my laptop or not fly, what then? Why am I responsible for the damage done to it once it is out of my hands? Substitute 'musical instrument' for 'laptop' - this is what happens to musicians all the time.

3) The policies vary from airline to airline, and are not consistently enforced. Sometimes, you get lucky and get to take your guitar on board as carry-on luggage. Sometimes, you're allowed what is called a gate check - you get to walk with it to the gate at which point a baggage handler will walk it down to the cargo hold of the plane. Sometimes, you have to go to the 'Special Services' area where it's out of your control. Sometimes, you get some special security treatment - once, they rubbed the little cloth on the soundboard of my steel string.

(Once, I got to watch someone with ten pounds of metal keys around his neck bend over my good classical and try to peer into the sound hole - I asked him politely to take the keys off before he scratched the top. He'd never considered for a second that he might damage an instrument that way. As I said earlier, even when I've bought a seat for my instrument, it has been a security hassle. Musicians traveling with instruments are often treated as a pain in the ass in North America.)

One of the really frustrating aspects of all of this is - you're more likely to get to carry your guitar on board if it's packed in the smallest, lightest, least protective gig bag. If you are denied, your guitar is now fucked. If, on the other hand, you show up with the thing protected, the airline's representatives now have a point when they say it's too big to carry on the plane. This (http://www.indie-music.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2088) is one of the best guides I've found, but the fact of the matter is that the musician is at the mercy of the airline, and the person in the airport which represents it.

4) The level of care that my instrument requires is the level of care I expect for all baggage. You may think me unreasonable - I don't care.

5) Thousands of guitars fly every day, and don't get smashed. The fact that a guitar is in a double case and gets damaged is prima facie evidence of mishandling, in my book.

6) As I have said before, my reaction to all of this is to take the train or drive whenever that is possible. When it is not, I carefully consider - do I need one of my instruments, or can I just rent/borrow one at the other end? If I feel I have to take one of my instruments, my solution is to ship it with a courier. The courier companies at least seem to care about their reputations, and I haven't had a problem yet.

7) The bottom line for me is - I think it's great if United takes a massive PR hit on this! It shouldn't have happened in the first place; then, they had their chance to resolve the issue and they blew it. They can join the list of airlines I don't want to fly.

Or, I'll put it another way - the first airline that says in writing that I can take my guitar on board with me so that I know where it is and how it's being treated for the entire flight gets all my business; even if there's no meal, even if the flight attendants are surly and ugly, even if I have to make five connections to get from Toronto to Calgary, they win! Anybody gonna step up to the plate on that one? No? Then I continue to rate airlines based on how they treat luggage, and how they settle when they do screw up. United just got a 'Fail'.

Princhester
07-09-2009, 07:32 AM
You have a special need and it's not catered for. I understand that and it sucks no doubt, but I don't think the world owes you a solution, or at least not for nothing.

I'm very interested in the answer to this question because you've just written about two hundred words without mentioning the topic once: how much are you prepared to pay? I understand you want something but till you tell me you're prepared to pay for what you want, you're just whining.

It's not a question of you being unreasonable. It's a question of being out of line with the herd. If everyone wants great handling, then no doubt that would be catered for. But what people want is cheap. Until it's their thing that gets broken, and then they want special treatment.

Sure the guitar was probably mishandled: if you think that is relevant, you're not listening.

Spoons
07-09-2009, 08:45 AM
Dave Carroll and his video were on the morning TV news in Canada today. If a national newscast is any indication, United seems to be taking a PR hit.

As an aside, I caught the Sons of Maxwell at a festival some years back. They're worth the effort if you get the chance.

WordMan
07-09-2009, 08:57 AM
You have a special need and it's not catered for. I understand that and it sucks no doubt, but I don't think the world owes you a solution, or at least not for nothing.

I'm very interested in the answer to this question because you've just written about two hundred words without mentioning the topic once: how much are you prepared to pay? I understand you want something but till you tell me you're prepared to pay for what you want, you're just whining.

It's not a question of you being unreasonable. It's a question of being out of line with the herd. If everyone wants great handling, then no doubt that would be catered for. But what people want is cheap. Until it's their thing that gets broken, and then they want special treatment.

Sure the guitar was probably mishandled: if you think that is relevant, you're not listening.

Princhester - just how special is the need? You don't hear Le Ministre saying he won't pay - he has covered different scenarios, including buying a seat for the guitar. But if the airline does NOT allow the guitar in the main cabin, the guitar is properly packed and is damaged in baggage - how can they NOT cover the damages? In other words, this isn't about paying for safe transit, its about policies that are no-win AND inconsistent. Simply folding one's arms and saying "accept reality and be prepared to pay" doesn't acknowledge the source of the frustration.

Le Ministre de l'au-delà
07-09-2009, 09:46 AM
You have a special need and it's not catered for. I understand that and it sucks no doubt, but I don't think the world owes you a solution, or at least not for nothing.

I'm very interested in the answer to this question because you've just written about two hundred words without mentioning the topic once: how much are you prepared to pay? I understand you want something but till you tell me you're prepared to pay for what you want, you're just whining.

Well, as I say, I don't see it as special treatment, I see it as how all baggage should be treated.

That being said, I do pay extra - I either buy another seat (Last times I did that, I didn't pay full fare x2, it was more like 75% or 85% for the extra seat.), rent an instrument at my destination (That's fine for practice & songwriting, okay for gigs that don't require anything special, but not very good if the instrument required is a classical or a good electric - the electric rental instruments tend to be 2nd rate copies.), or ship it by air cargo/courier (This has worked out pretty well for me over the last couple of years - it has come out to around 200. - 300. CAD when I've needed a particular instrument.)

As I've said above, it has also changed my travel patterns - if the train were a viable option between Toronto and Calgary, I'd take it despite the extra time and expense. Certainly Toronto - Ottawa or Toronto - Montréal is much easier for me on the train.

So, no, I don't mean to be whining, and I apologize if that's how it comes across. I do pay extra for my special needs - I just don't think it's fair that I have to, and when I've gone to that trouble and expense, it ticks me off to see someone else in the airport lounge who has managed to talk their way in past security with their guitar. However, trying to carry your instrument on a plane is a crap shoot, and I'm paying extra (sometimes as much as 175% of the ticket price) for the certainty.

I prefer the courier option partly because I resent paying the airline for an extra seat - that's like rewarding them for not taking proper care of my stuff. And as I say, I think the standard treatment for my guitar is what should be standard for all luggage.

GargoyleWB
07-09-2009, 10:46 AM
I've yet to see any kind of proof that the baggage in this instance was mishandled.

You seem to be asking for extraordinary evidence here...when the case was opened, the well-protected guitar was smashed. Are you claiming that if that happened to you, you would just shrug and say "must have been sunspots" and not consider the luggage handling to be the overwhelmingly likely culprit and not expect a claim with the airline to be taken seriously? When the baggage leaves your sight at check in, what possible means does a passenger have to "prove" mishandling to the level of evidence that you require?

If the airlines installed a luggage-bypass system where a certain percentage of bags were routed through a wood-chipper, would you be ok with that as long as their "accidental wood-chipper" disclaimer was properly listed in fine print on their website?

picker
07-09-2009, 11:12 AM
I always carry my guitar or banjo (or mando, but that's easy) on board. Never had a major hassle. The trick:

1) Don't ask. Walk up to the gate with it as if you always do it that way. They are trained to say no if asked.

2) Immediately buck any issues to the next level of supervisor. Be prepared to delay the plane and make a stink. Never had to, but friends have. They DO have room up front if not overhead, but it's in their best interest to try to have you gate check the instrument. Do not allow this. Simply politely and calmly insist on taking on the plane yourself.

3) Have a copy of this letter: http://www.indie-music.com/downloads/AFM_carryon.pdf (warning, pdf) detailing the negotiated agreement between AFM (American Federation of Musicians) and the TSA/Homeland Security chief in 2002. A peon won't even look at it, a supervisor will look at it and immediately clear you, in my experience. Three times I've pulled it out, and three times the supe let me on, quite quickly.

4) Be calm, polite and as charismatic as you can be. Perception is reality. Most performers have some degree of charisma anyway. Use it to your adavantage.

GargoyleWB
07-09-2009, 01:05 PM
Excellent link, picker. Often the best weapon against irrational procedures is to trump them with their own documentation. I work in the aircraft industry, and nothing is more valuable than a statement on FAA or TSA letterhead.

Ferret Herder
07-09-2009, 01:25 PM
Dave Carroll and his video were on the morning TV news in Canada today. If a national newscast is any indication, United seems to be taking a PR hit.
United corporate cried uncle. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-biz-united-breaks-guitars-video-ual-july8,0,4414385.story)

Gotta love this quote:
"This struck a chord with us," said Robin Urbanski, spokeswoman for Chicago-based United. "We are in conversation with one another to make what happened right." Very punny!

They also apparently like the video, at least for one reason: Rob Bradford, managing director of customer solutions at United, called Carroll Wednesday to apologize for the foul-up and to ask if the carrier could use the video internally to help change its culture.

Le Ministre de l'au-delà
07-09-2009, 03:34 PM
I always carry my guitar or banjo (or mando, but that's easy) on board. Never had a major hassle.

You are a luckier person than I - I've rarely got to take it on board. Even when the instrument has a ticket, I've been given the runaround and hassled. Without the ticket, well, it's just not worth it to even try anymore. Canadian rules are slightly different, anyway - they were written by someone named François Quaphqua.

atomicbadgerrace
07-09-2009, 06:22 PM
You seem to be asking for extraordinary evidence here...when the case was opened, the well-protected guitar was smashed. Are you claiming that if that happened to you, you would just shrug and say "must have been sunspots" and not consider the luggage handling to be the overwhelmingly likely culprit and not expect a claim with the airline to be taken seriously? When the baggage leaves your sight at check in, what possible means does a passenger have to "prove" mishandling to the level of evidence that you require?

Normal luggage handling can damage even well-packed things. Sometimes, the airlines pay for those things. Other things, though, that are explicitly excluded from liability thanks to various conventions and treaties under which airline baggage contracts are governed, don't often get paid for. This isn't the first time someone's checked a musical instrument against advice, and it won't be the last. And this isn't the first time a claim has been denied because the person wanted to check it anyway, and it won't be the last.

Look, I'm not pointing fingers either way here. There's no way to know if United's handling actually broke it -- we won't ever know at what point the instrument was broken since Carroll didn't report the damage in a timely maner.

It's quite possible that he packed it perfectly, and United used it for target practice. On the other hand, it's quite possible that it wasn't properly packed for the elements. I can put an egg in a hard case, and put that case inside a cushioned case, but it'll probably break on the way anyway.

The point is, we don't know. And IMHO, Carroll lost the benefit of the doubt when he failed to exercise due diligence in establishing that damage was caused by United handlers (assuming that United is even liable for such damage) and decided to shame United into giving him what he wanted when they tried to uphold the terms they both agreed to.

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