Knit Flix

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Nothing short of a plane crash or getting run over by a truck...

Read about the Resurrection of the Les Paul. IT LIVES!!!!

August 1st. A fateful day. That was the last time we saw our friend and co-worker safe, sound and intact.

Les Paul - before

9:00AM: The guitar, band, and baggage left for the Orlando airport and checked in on Southwest Airlines flight 1752 to Las Vegas.

1:00-1:30PM: Everyone and everything transferred from flight 1752 to flight 3927.

After 4:00PM: The flight arrived at its destination and the guitar did not appear on the baggage carousel. After a long wait, the oversized baggage door rolled up and this was pushed out:

Les Paul - after

Yup. That's exactly what it looked like. Nice, huh?

What you're looking at is a mangled Anvil Case--a case specifically made for travel and the gorillas that handle bags. The foam inside is custom cut for the guitar and covered with a plush lining. In my opinion, nothing short of a plane crash or getting run over by a truck would damage the contents.

Let's look inside, shall we?

Les Paul - after

The TSA Notice of Inspection is a nice touch. Excuse us Mr. Passenger, we had to inspect your checked item.

And the guitar?

Les Paul - after

Oh. No. Ohhhhhh nooooooooo!

Okay, bring out Ashton Kutcher along with the real guitar. This is not funny!

Unfortunately it wasn't an elaborately staged episode of Punk'd, but the real thing. A 1959 reissue Les Paul hopelessly crushed.

This is/was his number one guitar, his sound. When he didn't take this guitar to a show, people wrote in and asked why he wasn't playing it. The wood, the tone, the instrument had reached its peak and now it was destroyed.

Take a look at the knobs. This is a solid body guitar and the knobs are pushed into the body.

Les Paul - after

The new bridge is broken.

The body is severely cracked.

Les Paul - after

(Thanks to G for the photos from the airport.)

As you can imagine, R was in a state of shock. The Southwest baggage staff checked the computer database--a problem report was filed in Las Vegas. Apparently as the case was transferred from one plane to another, it fell off the baggage cart and [you guessed it] was summarily run over by a truck. A rather big truck from the looks of it.

Now I ask you, how does this happen? This is a large case. It is easy to see if it is lying on the ground. How does it get run over by a truck unless 1) the truck is moving too fast, 2) the driver is not paying attention, or 3) the driver runs over the case intentionally?

The Southwest employees said they were not equipped or qualified to resolve the issue and the property would need to be sent to Dallas. R took what he needed from the case and requested that they pack it carefully so as not to lose any of the pieces. The guitar was then out of his possession and solely in the hands of Southwest Airlines.

Oh, but they did give him a credit for the price of the flight from Vegas--so, as R commented, he could "look forward to doing it all over again."

Let's look at the Southwest Airlines web site and what they say about Liability and musical instruments:
Liability: Unless excess value is declared and charges paid at the time of checkin, Southwest Airlines' liability for lost, damaged or delayed baggage is limited to $3,000.00 per fare-paying Customer.

The Anvil Case alone cost $500 so you can imagine how much he valued the contents. Regardless of what R paid for the guitar ~10 years ago, to find an exact replacement would be near impossible. How do you put a value on that? Granted, this is their policy and according to a Southwest agent, they are limited to a $3,000.00 maximum by Federal law. Lesson learned, do not check anything that may exceed the maximum liability.
Musical Instruments
  • 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.

Unlike Yo-Yo Ma, R isn't able to buy a seat for his musical instrument. He carries a second guitar on the plane and puts it in the overhead compartment. He must travel for work and took reasonable precautions. Unfortunately that was not enough.

It took 3 days of calling and leaving messages before R could talk with a human being at Southwest. That person did not know if the guitar had arrived in Dallas, but even more disturbing was this tidbit of information: Southwest's policy is that if they pay out the maximum, they consider it to be payment in full for the property--meaning the property is not returned to the traveler.

OMG. Are you kidding me? I was sick when I heard this. What do they want with it? As if it means anything to them. Possession. They had the upper hand. Once the guitar was out of his, its fate was uncertain. All I could think of was they didn't want to return it because he'd buy a new guitar with the settlement, apply a little Elmer's glue to the broken body, and then he'd win! 2 guitars! Yeah. Right.

R sent them a FAX providing 2 references for experts in the field who could assist in appraising value and appealed for its return:
... Your mission statement says that you "always try to do the right thing". Well, apparently that might not be possible due to federal law. I would however like to appeal to your corporate values and ask that you return the remains back to me after we agree to whatever it is we can agree to. Hopefully you can allow me this simple request due to the extreme nature of the event.

They acknowledged receipt of the FAX and said that it would take up to 30 days to make a decision. Apparently they had many other claims to process and "it wouldn't be fair" to put him ahead of anyone else. Fair? Fair?! Maybe if they didn't damage, lose, and otherwise destroy so many bags their queue wouldn't take up to 30 days to process. grrrrrrrr

Long story short, they paid the maximum and agreed to return the remains. It's funny, the message that the woman left on our phone made it sound like we were supposed to call her back and thank her. Not a chance.

The guitar pieces arrived in a box--the neck with its new fret job was completely separated from the body.

Les Paul - after

Les Paul - after

Les Paul - after

Les Paul - after

Here's another item of note--the last bullet in the musical instruments blurb above and this paragraph make one thing very clear.

Conditional Acceptance
: Improperly packed and/or fragile items will be conditionally accepted and Southwest will not be responsible for any damage to items that are tagged with Conditional Acceptance.

If he didn't have the guitar in the Anvil case, they might not have paid anything at all. Another lesson learned. Use flight approved cases and if asked, do not sign a waiver. In this case they didn't present a waiver when piece was checked in, but they have in the past.

Now that the check has cleared and the guitar is home, I am able to go public with the story.

Release of all claims

I am happy to report that R has a new friend.

A new friend

They have 2 gigs under their belt and are still getting acquainted.

Read about the Resurrection of the Les Paul. IT LIVES!!!!

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  • Horrifying pictures. Really painful to look at. Hope R and you are coping with this loss,

    By Blogger Larry, at 9/03/2008 9:06 PM  

  • Ouch. I totally feel your pain, my dad had a Gibson guitar from the 50's that was so much a part of him. I understand completely.

    I hope that Roger gets to know his new friend and falls in love with it soon.

    By Blogger Cindy/Snid, at 9/03/2008 9:20 PM  

  • Wow.

    Believe me, I know that nothing can bring the old one back, and the new one will never be the same. I really do feel R's pain though. :(

    By Blogger Emy, at 9/03/2008 9:54 PM  

  • Oh. My. God. That just looks horribly painful. Urg.

    By Blogger Romi, at 9/03/2008 10:35 PM  

  • This is truly horrifying! I feel sick to my stomach. I work for a musical equipment company and with guys who value their guitars as much as R does. This is sickening. It's so sad that his guitar is not salvagable. The new one looks great, but it will never be the same.

    The airports need to have some power stripped away. This is just abuse! Hopefully he and the new friend will get well acquainted. Were you able to get a new Anvil Case as well?

    By Blogger Chelsea the Yarngeek, at 9/03/2008 11:33 PM  

  • Ugh - I'm so sorry! This is terrible...

    By Blogger Donna, at 9/04/2008 5:43 AM  

  • this post almost made me cry. urgh...

    By Blogger sarah lou, at 9/04/2008 11:37 AM  

  • my husband is a bassist, and seeing that literally brought me to tears. i may never fly southwest again. that literally makes me sick. how heinous is that? do you mind if i post a link to this? i think it needs to be spread around how much of a sh*thole southwest is

    By Blogger dragon knitter, at 9/04/2008 2:15 PM  

  • OMG...that is horrible. I am sorry for Roger's loss, I am sure that it is devistaing.

    By Blogger Lisa, at 9/07/2008 1:04 AM  

  • Gibson Repair and Restoration is actually amazing. They can fix literally everything.

    But yeah, that's heartbreaking :(

    By Anonymous @Ed, at 4/28/2009 12:49 PM  

  • i realize this comment is a little late but just wondering if R is happy now w/ his replacement. i couldnt help but cringe as i read the story.

    By Blogger ALittleGuitar, at 4/28/2009 3:13 PM  

  • OMG totally painful. Had a similar circumstance with SW on a shotgun... I did not let them have it and had it fixed myself! By the way, it was in an airline approved case (they sold it to me)!

    A shame for such a good friend...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/22/2010 7:11 PM  

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