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Dear Southwest Airlines. About That Guitar...

Rating: 4 votes, 5.00 average.
Never, never, never throw a guitar case. Ever.

It wasn't mine. I wished I'd been filming it, because what I saw made me damn angry, and had I been filming it'd be on YouTube already.

The details:

Flight 614 out of Kansas City, MO to Nashville arriving 11:10 a.m. this past Monday. I'm seated behind the wing with a direct view of the baggage/luggage being unloaded. My friend Glenn Bradford and I have arrived in Nashville for a couple of days of vintage mandolin petting at Carter Vintage Guitars, a couple of concerts (Time Jumpers, Helen Highwater String Band), good food, espresso (what a great coffee town!) and general loafing.

"Hey Bradford, look at this, first item coming down the conveyor is a guitar. I have to watch this."

The luggage attendant picks it up carefully, turns guitar tail end and puts it in the corner of the empty wagon that will carry it to its next destination. He makes sure it's in there securely. Nothing else is stacked or thrown on top of it. Wow, handled like I'd want my guitar to be treated. We were both impressed.

More items come. Things are looking normal and most bags treated as I'd expect. Near the end items are coming out a little slower, and then, "Hey Glenn, another guitar."

By this time the attendant is looking a little bored and antsy, like "let's get this finished up and get it in the terminal."

Same guy that treated the first guitar with respect turns and hurls it about 8-9 feet through the air. It lands face down on top of other luggage. I can't believe what I just saw, and would not be surprised if the instrument was damaged in the process. This was not a flight case, just a stock black case that might hold any kind of guitar. Nothing to indicate the instrument's value, but it doesn't matter.

I'm disappointed, Southwest Airlines. We all know customers can't see how their personal possessions are treated out of view, but to engage in this kind of behavior when the passengers inside the plane are watching is simply beyond belief.

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Updated Feb-20-2014 at 10:15am by Scott Tichenor

General Mandolin Comments


  1. jm1mando's Avatar
    Years ago I flew with a 7-piece band from Colorado to St. Thomas for a month-long gig in a dinner theater. Just before we left home I received a remarkable gift, a one-of-a-kind classical guitar from a noted luthier in Japan. I packed that instrument in it's hardshell case, wrapped the case with bubble wrap and several pounds of newspaper and placed the whole shebang in a double-wall cardboard box. I figured that the instrument would thus be safe from all but a nuclear blast. During a layover in Miami my drummer, seated by the window, said, "Look, they're loading your new guitar on the ramp." As we watched, the American Airlines baggage handler did not place the guitar on the elevating ramp but instead tried to throw the box up into the baggage hold. He missed. It came crashing down onto the tarmac, hitting a protruding metal pole which pierced right through the box. When we arrived in St. Thomas I brought the box still sealed straight to the American Airlines baggage agent and opened it in front of her. The pole had pierced the box, the paper, the bubble wrap, the hardshell case. . . and the body of the guitar. I showed the agent the U.S. Customs form (I always carry those for instruments made overseas) and asked her to file a claim for the full value. She said that as instruments are carted as "limited release", the maximum American would pay was $1,200, perhaps one-tenth of the value of the guitar. I pointed out that my drummer had seen the wanton negligence of the baggage handler and could describe him to a T. The agent couldn't have cared less. When we arrived in St. Thomas I arranged for my drummer to dictate his account of the incident to a notary public and sent the notarized letter to American, copied to my attorney in Colorado. The upshot: American sent me a check for the entire valuation of the guitar. I then sent that check to the luthier in Japan as his wonderful artistry was meant to be played, not, in effect, cashed in.
  2. TheBlindBard's Avatar
    That's horrible
    That's one of the many reasons I'm nervous to fly with my mandolin. The knowledge that I might have to check it scares me.
  3. jm1mando's Avatar
    Here's another....

    I had to be in Beijing only two days after arriving back in the States from Copenhagen. The last of the three flights from Denmark took me on United from Chicago to Louisville, a wee one hour trip. In Louisville all of our baggage was present and correct . . . except a $6,500 nylon string guitar. As we had only one night at home before leaving for China I spent that sleepless night on the phone with United reps who had no idea of what might have happened to the guitar. As dawn broke I received a phone call from an airline hanger maintenance company asking if United had delivered one of their machines to me. I asked why he would think such a thing. His reply: "Because United just delivered your guitar to us."
  4. jm1mando's Avatar
    And then....

    Last year I had several flights on Lufthansa connecting in Frankfort. I called Lufthansa to check that with my class of ticket I could carry both my laptop and my Rigel mandolin on board as the laptop fits under the seat, the Rigel mando in the overhead. A very nice Lufthansa agent sent me an email confirming that this would be just fine and in accordance with airline policy. But when boarding the connecting flight in Frankfort a Lufthansa flight attendant blocked my path in aisle, declaring loudly and, it seemed, angrily that I could not bring both my laptop and mandolin, that this was "forbidden". (Yes, she actually said "Verboten.") I showed her the printout of Lufthansa's email. She refused to read it, crumpled it up, and repeated her demand. When another Lufthansa agent called to her to see if she needed help I took advantage of the distraction to slide by her, laptop and mandolin in hand and headed to my seat, placing the mando in the overhead and the laptop under the seat. The enraged attendant reached up to remove my Rigel but stopped when I asked if she had written authorization to touch my instrument. She looked bewildered and walked away. Of course I was bluffing but sometimes bullies like her are the biggest cowards.
  5. MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Several years ago on a flight from Los Angeles United sent my guitar in a chipboard case (not even hard shell) to Mexico rather than Portland, Oregon. Three days later the instrument arrived at my home in Portland with no damage. It really is the luck of the draw. Plan for the worst, hope for the best.
  6. jm1mando's Avatar
    Believe it or not....

    Just after 9/11, before boarding a short flight between cities in Mexico I was informed by security that I would have to remove the strings from my mandolin in order to take it on board and that I would have to stash extra sets in checked baggage. Why? Because some crazed lunatic had ripped the strings off his requinto and tried to use them to garrote a flight attendant. I explained that this would be professionally impractical as I had a rehearsal with an orchestra scheduled right after the plane landed. The head of security was summoned who explained (in excellent English) that, for a fee, he could arrange for my mandolin to be stashed in the cockpit rather than the overhead. I peeled off $20 bills until this officer was satisfied. The bills went into his pocket. I figured this was a nightmare in progress. But, just before the plane landed in Acapulco, a flight attendant entered the cockpit and emerged, mandolin in hand.
  7. bootinz's Avatar
    maybe it a ukelele or a banjo. that would explain the cavalier handling.
  8. BrazAd's Avatar
    "vintage mandolin petting"

    Whooooo, that's funny!

    Scott, thanks for this thread... it's great reading... but that one line cracked me up!

    Back to your regularly scheduled airline bashing...