United Breaks Guitars

In light of our recent cathartic blog on airlines, this video is not to be missed. Dave Carroll was traveling to Nebraska when he witnessed United employees throwing guitars out of the cargo hold — something we have all witnessed from time to time with our own luggage. The difference is Carroll has a band and could do something about. He wrote United a song.

On his website, Carroll explains the ordeal:

In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged. They didn’t deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss. So I promised the last person to finally say “no” to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that I would write and produce three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world. United: Song 1 is the first of those songs. United: Song 2 has been written and video production is underway. United: Song 3 is coming. I promise.

What is remarkable is that, despite our political differences, everyone on this blog seems united in disgust over the reduction of service, comfort, and courteousness on airlines. They are fast becoming what the telephone company was once as an industry: viewed as a monolithic bureaucratic soul-crushing industry.

Update: The tactic of singing to airlines appears to work. United Airlines reportedly now wants to “make it right” with Carroll. Now, if only all of us had a band and a video good enough to go viral.

11 thoughts on “United Breaks Guitars”

  1. Rich asks:

    “And they didn’t have appropriate luggage for a musical instrument? Like roadies you don’t know will be any more gentle. For once I’m on the airline’s side.”

    Of course they have travel luggage for instruments, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference. I have several friends with strong heavy cases (often costing as much as the instruments – you can easily pay $1500 for a fiberglass and graphite case) for their instruments who have still had damage done to their instruments. The baggage handlers drop them from great heights, catch them in hydraulic doors and lifts, and abuse them in spite of the obvious contents or “fragile” signs.

    Ironically if you send your instrument as a set of skis, they will take better care because the airlines had to pay out so much money in the past for breaking them. Now whenever you fly, you apparently agree to waive any responsibility for damage when you take the ticket. The only reason they are attempting to compensate Dave Williams is the publicity they are receiving in the musician community and elsewhere.

    As for the roadies, if they want to keep their jobs and work in show business, they will be gentle. Some of the airlines just don’t care. United is one of them.

  2. Hey y’all Buelah,

    I aint’ got nuthin’ a’gin y’all but now that I knowed you do not like country music I will do my dadgumdest to mention it more often.

    Something is not rite ’bout a red necker from Tennessay not likin’ country music. But, I bet you like hillbilly/folk/traditional/mountain music.

    Many of my kinfolk migrated from east TN. to Texas when the TVA flooded and developed the farm land in the area in the 1930s.

    Did y’all have ‘nother crop of yeller summer *squarsh* this season?

  3. FFLEO,

    For the best pictorial “How to” on bringing your bass on an airplane (which they make you buy a separate ticket form and sometimes you have to tell them it’s a cello), I suggest Rufus Reid’s “Evloving Bassist.”

  4. Now that is a great video! Loved the disclaimer at the end….I actually watched/listened to the entire song, didn’t think I could make it, as I too am NOT a country music fan. My partner was a country drummer (studio musician) in Nashville for 25 yrs….Luckily we didn’t meet until after he retired to New Orleans to play Jazz! He watched his drum set being thrown out of his plane in Miami….but he was compensated for it!

    Being a musician myself, I learned long ago not to send expensive instruments through checked baggage….thems the breaks!

  5. FFLEO,


    Believe it or not, I hate country music.

    I figured you needed to know that.


  6. And they didn’t have appropriate luggage for a musical instrument? Like roadies you don’t know will be any more gentle. For once I’m on the airline’s side.

  7. Just one more reason to play fiddle/violin (4/4). Now ifin’ you play a big double bass fiddle, you better travel in a pickup truck, a bus, or pull an instrument trailer…

    Man, they’ll write a country song just about darn nigh any thang. But this was not a real country song (as David Allen Cole might say) ’cause they wern’t no dawg, no drunks, no mommas–a big one and the one what birthed you–and especially they wern’t no trains. No Sir, this was not a country song…

  8. I used to work Flying Tiger and my my what could happen to cargo. Ya just never know. It was employment during the late 70’s 4 hours a night at 15 dollars an hour. We had it rough, real rough.

    I have one of them dang bell helicopter made ones. I did not realize I should not have bought one at the time, but it was cute and I was slight off edge, not sure from what at that time. It was an Ovation.

  9. I used to own a Taylor. Fine, fine instrument. Wish I still had it.

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