Violinists Zachary De Pue and Nicolas Kendall of the ensemble Time for Three recently made headlines when US Airways denied them access to the plane because the musicians refused to stow their violins in the hold at the request of the staff. De Pue and Kendall fought back with a video which to date has received more than 290,000 views on YouTube. But it’s no wonder that the two violinists refused to stow their fragile fiddles. The airline industry has a long record of damaging musical instruments and treating musicians poorly. Here are the five worst airline fails against musicians.
1. United Airlines breaks Dave Carroll’s guitar
Dave Carroll’s Taylor guitar was destroyed in 2009 by United Airline’s baggage handlers. After United repeatedly refused to reimburse him for the damage, he wrote a viral hit song ridiculing their customer service and their brand.
2. Lynn Harrell’s cello destroys America
Delta may not have damaged Lynn Harrell’s instrument, but they did break his trust. For 11 years, the renowned cellist had bought full-fare tickets for two seats on Delta Airlines – one for himself and one for his cello’s seat beside him – earning half a million SkyMiles. All of a sudden, Delta up and wrote a letter to Harrell telling him that all of his frequent-flyer miles were being confiscated, and he and his cello would no longer be permitted to collect miles. Stephen Colbert picked up the issue and did a hilarious story on the Colbert Report on how Harrell and his cello are corrupting America. The end result was a PR nightmare for Delta.
3. US Airways attendant breaks a $50,000 Chinese instrument
Wu Man, a world-renowned master of a Chinese lute called a pipa, was unable to fit her instrument in the overhead flight compartment on her US Airways flight in June of 2013. Her request to strap the instrument into the empty seat next to her was denied. Instead, a flight attendant offered to put the pipa in a coat closet in the front of the plane. The attendant accidentally dropped the instrument, causing its neck to snap. Ms. Wu’s instrument was valued at approximately $50,000, but was uninsured. Fortunately, she was able to reach a settlement with US Airways which covered the full cost of the instrument.
4. Delta causes almost $2,000 of damage to a vintage Gibson guitar
Dave Schneider of the LeeVees expected to be able to carry his $10,000 1965 Gibson ES-335 guitar onto the plane for his Delta flight from Buffalo to Detroit. He’d never had a problem before, even on a flight that he had taken earlier that day. Despite a policy on Delta’s website which said that guitars and other musical instruments of similar size are acceptable carry-on items, the airline required him to gate-check the guitar. Schneider complied. After landing in Detroit, he waited at the gate for his instrument to be returned. And then, he heard a screech from the elevator. The guitar case had become caught between the elevator and a rail on the loading dock. The result was more $1,980 of damage. Delta initially offered a mere $1,000 but after a multitude of negative media coverage, the airline finally agreed to pay for the repairs.
5. EasyJet baggage handler drives over a $2,700 Fender Guitar
Nick Hawryliw of the Scottish rock band Red Hot Chili Pipers was burning up with anger when his crushed guitar case showed up on the baggage belt in Milan. The band had taken an EasyJet flight from Edinburg and was getting ready to headline a show a Celtic music festival in just six hours. It turns out an Edinburg baggage handler had caused the damage when he had driven over the case after it had fallen off of a baggage cart and onto the runway. The incident caused over $800 of damage to the $2,700 Fender Telecaster guitar. Fortunately, EasyJet eventually apologized to the band and fully compensated Hawryliw for the damage. Photo credits: Wu Man and scotsman.com