‘A cheap flight is not worth it if it wrecks your instrument’

From Tim Smith:

guitar smashed

I am not happy with Easyjet after my custom-built guitar was smashed when it was refused space in the overhead lockers and had to go in the hold on a flight to Nice last week. Although I had it safely stowed overhead, and despite my explanations as to why it needed to be there, the cabin crew refused to listen and took it away from me. Inevitably it arrived on the luggage belt in Nice broken into two pieces, despite being in a Hiscox hard case.

As I had to play a gig the next evening I had to rush out of the airport in a panic and find a music shop in the hope of getting it repaired. That proved impossible in the time I had, so I had to buy a new guitar. I didn’t realise that failure to log the damage in the arrivals hall means any attempt to complain afterwards will be met by a complete blank from the Easyjet staff. No one in Nice was prepared to help when I checked in for the return flight, same again when I landed in Bristol.

I queued on the phone to customer services for half an hour earlier today only to be told they couldn’t deal with it, then they gave me another number to call – which turned out to not be in use at weekends. Easyjet – great when everything is going well, appalling if something goes wrong.

The sickening this is, myself and my companion had no other hand luggage and the guitar took up much less room that most couple’s two suitcases. Why this discrimination against musicians? I will never fly Easyjet again and strongly urge other musicians to do the same. A cheap flight is not worth it if it means the destruction of a £2,000 guitar.

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  • That’s an awful shame but a guitar case is way beyond the hand luggage dimensions for any airline – this isn’t specific to the one you flew on – same goes for expensive sports equipment. Travel insurance should usually help.

  • Travel insurance would hardly have solved his problem on the occasion. Either musicians are going to have to find safer cases for transporting instruments — padded, within an inch of their lives, as well as hard-case, and LARDED with “fragile’ labels lest airlines are at least willing to make part of baggage-handler training at least a cursory nod to that — or airlines are going to HAVE to address the transportation of instruments (and sports equipment — this is also for many part of their livelihood) with a comprehensive and meaningful policy.

  • How can he possibly have expected to take it as hand luggage? EasyJet and several other airlines not only specify the maximum acceptable dimensions when you book, but place a 3D metal frame in the queue at check-in. If your stuff fits inside, OK. If it doesn’t – and a guitar certainly wouldn’t – it can’t go hand luggage. Perhaps EasyJet would allow a traveller to book the seat alongside for the instrument? OK, that would add to the expense of the trip but couldn’t a professional musician factor that into his fee as an expense?

    • But we recently had a traveller with a cello bumped from an overbooked plane as there were people left over from a previous overbooked plane. Can you imagine any airline giving priority to a GUITAR in such circumstances?

      There is going to have to be better lobbying for uniform and usable policies, but in the meantime is it not time, as I suggested above, for musicians to get a bit proactive about protecting their property?

    • It’s true that some airlines are inflexible about guitars and some smaller instruments. Because EasyJet is notoriously strict, I and most musicians I know won’t fly them. Other airlines, such as GermanWings, allow “guitars and smaller instruments” to be carried on. I’ve had good luck with Austrian, KLM, and Lufthansa as well (Lufthansa owns Austrian and GermanWings). All airlines in the United States also now must allow guitars and smaller instruments to be carried on at no additional charge, if the instrument fits in the overhead. Similar legislation is supposedly working its way through EU red tape.

  • I’m a musician who often travels, so you’d expect me to be sympathetic, but I don’t believe this post. (Not that I put it past the airlines to destroy an instrument.)
    So, your guitar comes down the baggage chute, looking like this, and you say NOTHING to an airline representative there? They don’t hear you when you’re screaming at what you’re seeing?
    And then you rush out to find a music store that is going to repair an instrument, in 24 hours, that is broken into all the pieces that are shown in the photo?
    I have enough friends who have traveled with guitars that have ended up busted, so obviously I know it happens, but I just don’t believe this particular post. Sorry!

      • To your question – There are a few possibilities, but one that hasn’t been mentioned – the strings.
        The change in pressure and temp can cause taut strings to further tighten and then snap (themselves, the wood, etc) if the strings are not removed or slacked for the trip.

    • I agree. What could possibly have caused so much (apparently) long-term damage to a guitar yet leave the case intact? It looks like a Willie Nelson’sTrigger wannabe. Preposterous. Just an attention seeking troll with a fertile imagination if you ask me. A sort of Billy Liar of guitar/ airline – related forums.

  • I’d be pretty mad at Hiscox too, that case should have protected your guitar much better than that, unless it was run over by heavy equipment. Next time buy a Calton or a Hoffee!

    • From his comments, I would guess that Mr. Smith is a new warrior in the battle between musicians and the airlines. If so, welcome Mr. Smith! 1. check the airline’s policies and reputation regarding instruments (never, for example, fly RyanAir or EasyJet), 2. obtain a great case that fits the instrument perfectly, 3. if denied carry on, beg beg beg and beg some more 4. if the instrument must be checked, carry it to the departing gate and retrieve it from the arriving gate 5. immediately inspect the instrument and if is damaged file a claim. This is necessary not only to hold the airline responsible but for filing with your insurance company 6. if the instrument is damaged, ask the venue to find a loaner. (For Mr. Smith this should have been simple. There are hundreds of millions of nice, steel-string flattop guitars in the world.)

      Here, the case appears undamaged, which makes me think that the guitar was out of the case when it was broken. Sometimes instruments are removed from their cases after they are checked in by security or ne’er do wells. If indeed the case is unblemished and the guitar is broken, that should be mentioned when the claim is filed.

      Hiscox makes three levels of cases, with the thinnest-wall version certainly not checkable. It would be moderately interesting to know which this was. Still, that’s a lot of damage for a guitar in a case that appears intact.

      It so happens that I use Calton and Karura cases, depending on the instruments I need for a certain job. So far so good with checking those through.

  • Sadly Rob Maynard is correct. Having recently flown EasyJet for just the second time, it’s perfectly clear from the time you make your booking that its carry-on luggage rules are very specific and very clearly laid out. That being the case and until regulations are changed, I rather fail to understand why anyone expects they can be an exception, especially with the length of a guitar case.

  • My Uncle has a great expression to say when he gets ripped of by a retailer, “you cost me money I’ll cost you money!!!’ Rest assured that by blogging your story Easy Jet will be losing more in revenue than the cost of your guitar !!!!

  • ive travelled with easy jet a few times when you check in with such things like guitars they sent my band to a special check in hold for the instriments its only a few metres from were you would check in ,,,,,whe we arrive in Germany the instuments arn,t on the revolving case collector we all get our bags from you collect from a special section everything is checked and handled very well ,,, airport was Stansted and we did Manchester ,destination Germany ,airline was easy jet guitar was a 5000 grand gibson,,,,,,it does work they are careful ,,,,btw it was in a hard casw packed with sponge polystyrene then coverd with a guitar bag packed with card booard :))))))

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