Flight Music: United Breaks Guitar

By | July 7, 2009

We love any excuse for a musical interlude, or a classic Youtube video. In this latest one, musician Dave Carroll comes up with a creative way to protest United’s refusal to take responsibility for the guitar they broke.

Carroll spent nine months trying to get United to do so. They admitted they had broken it, in fact “the various people he communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate him for his loss.”

The story is rather distressing on a customer service one.  Carroll witnessed his band’s instruments being thrown with careless disregard, and every United employee he attempted to tell about it did not wish to do anything. His attempts to get claims filed got him into a labyrinthine maze of customer service redirects, buck passing, and the suggestion he go back to Chicago, over a thousand miles away, to have United personnel inspect his damaged guitar.

His solution is to write three United songs and post them as music videos online. We look forward to seeing the other two when they are released. We have to agree with Dave though. United did not satisfy him, and did seem to create a system of buck-passing designed to frustrate a passenger into giving up. Not good public relations.

Conversely, United’s website also recommends that the passenger contact Reservations if checking an instrument and they require any report of damage to be filed with them within 24 hours. By not at least calling them, Dave did give them an out. Why it took months to exercise it, we do not know. United declines to be liable at all for:

Damage to fragile items, spoilage of perishables, loss/damage/delay of money, jewelry, cameras, electronic/video/photographic equipment, computer equipment, heirlooms, antiques, artwork, silverware, precious metals, negotiable papers/securities, commercial effects, valuable papers, or other irreplaceable items and/or any item where a liability release was signed by the passenger

Dave did not sign a release. And because he came from Canada, his damage should be covered under the Montreal Convention, which limits their liability to 1000 Special Drawing Rights unless the passenger pays for additional liability beforehand. That is less than seven hundred U.S. dollars today, which is less than his repair bill. There is an exception though if the act occurred by the airline or its agents “recklessly and with knowledge that damage would probably result; provided that, in the case of such act or omission of a servant or agent, it is also proved that such servant or agent was acting within the scope of its employment.”

He can always sue, we suppose.

Hat tip to The Airline Blog for alerting us to this.

Author: Guru

Guru is the Editor of Flight Wisdom and a long time aviation enthusiast.