Wednesday, July 15, 2009

playing hooky, part 2

so now i see that for once, i appear to have blogged about something before my heroes at mashable, who have now reported that dave carroll's united breaks guitars you tube video has racked up more than 3 million views in 10 days.

in my post, i talked about the fact that one of the reasons i think dave's video has gone viral is that it's a hooky little tune, and, in a nice double entendre, that united played hooky for a year on the topic.

but, dear readers, it's now come to my attention that there are yet other parties who are also playing hooky (to my great astonishment, actually): american airlines, delta airlines and southwest airlines, to name a few -- all of whom, i think, could take great advantage of this situation by doing something to differentiate themselves on a subject that appears to be of some great interest to the travelling public.

let's see what they're doing:
at american, (which is pretty much still my favorite airline even though i don't get to fly them a lot anymore), a search on "guitars" from their home page reveals a ton of text and tables on various baggage-related topics, including this regarding guitars:
Small musical instruments may be carried onboard the aircraft providing they meet existing carry-on size requirements and fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. Case dimensions may not exceed 45 dimensional inches (width + length + height), except for guitars which may be brought on board only if they can be safely stowed in an overhead bin or approved stowage location in the cabin. The instrument is considered the passenger's one allowed carry-on bag. A personal item is allowed in addition to the instrument. See Carry-On Allowance for more information.If an instrument is too large to fit in the carry-on baggage space, an additional seat may be purchased. In this case, an instrument must travel in a window, bulkhead seat, with the customer in the adjoining seat. Due to their size Bass Fiddles are not accepted in the coach cabin and are only accepted on certain aircraft types, please contact an American Airlines representative at 1-800-433-7300.Instruments may also be transported as checked baggage, however, due to their fragile nature AA does not accept liability for damages and has limited liability for loss. AA is also not liable for any damage to checked musical instruments not presented in a hard-sided case. If the outside of the hard-sided case does not have visible damage, AA is not liable for any damage to the musical instrument inside the case.
wow. not great. i think this is pretty much identical to united's language on the topic. but it makes me wonder whether or not in dave's case there was damage to the outside of the hard-sided case. if the bottom of the guitar was crushed in, i'd imagine that there would have to be damage to the case as well, and therefore, had dave been flying on american instead of united, it seems like he would have had a leg to stand on here
a search on "guitars" at the website of my friends at delta/northwest reveals an entire page devoted to the topic of musical instruments, which at least includes a statement indicating they "get" the importance of these items to their customers:
We know that your musical instrument is important to you and depending on the size, we accept musical instruments or equipment as checked baggage, carry-on baggage, or cabin-seat baggage. Please help us to keep your instrument safe by bringing it in a hard-shell case.
they then go on to tell you that you can pay for a regular seat to sit next to your guitar, etc. great. but even worse, they go on (on the page dealing with "delayed or damaged baggage" to let you know that they're no worse than anyone else:

Like most major airlines, we don't accept liability for damage to checked luggage such as:
Broken wheels or feet
Lost pull straps
Minor cuts and scratches
Damage resulting from over packing
Damage to retractable luggage handles
Fragile or perishable items damaged during transport
Items unsuitably packed or unsuitable for transportation
Damage resulting from Transportation Security Administration (TSA) inspections

southwest airlines doesn't have a search box on its home page, and after hunting around for a while i finally resorted to the site map to see if i could find out anything about guitars. they do have, it turns out, a small section on musical instruments which says:

If your musical instrument does not meet the sizing requirements for carryon items (10”x16”x24”), it will be handled as checked baggage provided you do not wish to purchase a seat for the instrument. In the event you are traveling with a musical instrument that is larger than our sizing requirements for carryon luggage and is fragile in nature, you may purchase a seat for the instrument and carry it in the cabin under the following conditions:
The instrument must fit in the seat without blocking aircraft signage and be secured with a seatbelt.
The instrument must be placed in the first row and in a seat closer to the window than any other Customer in that row.
Reservations must be made and a ticket must be purchased at a charge no greater than the Child’s Fare. Musical instruments cannot be transported in place of a free companion under any fare promotion.
Instruments that are transported in a soft-sided case or other packaging that is not strong enough to protect the instrument under normal baggage handling conditions will be conditionally accepted, which means that Southwest assumes no liability for any damage sustained to the item during transport.

that's not really the warm, friendly southwest airlines we've come to love, is it? though they do have a cool viral video of their own which has gotten quite a bit of traffic in the last year.

c'mon, you airline marketers... where are you??? run a giant homepage banner saying something as simple as WE DON'T BREAK GUITARS (OR WE'LL PAY YOU WITHOUT HASSLE IF WE DO). i would bet you could expect significant pickup in the blogosphere, not to mention mainstream media who love nothing better than follow-on stories.
of course, this means that you should probably have a reasonably well-coordinated effort with your baggage-handling and customer service folks to ensure that you don't break any guitars -- or damage other luggage, either -- while you're promoting this capability (and afterwards, too, since the internet is forever and the aforementioned mainstream media, as well as the blogosphere and whatever else we have by that time, will make quite a stink about you if you fall into the poor baggage-treatment abyss. however, in that case you truly will be just like everyone else.

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