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View Full Version : The perils of taking musical instruments on an airline



ichadwick
06-18-2010, 04:38 AM
Air Canada's baggage handlers broke a one-of-a-kind $300,000 lute:
http://harvest.canadaeast.com/image.php?id=522022&size=500x0
According to this story:
timestranscript.canadaeast.com/news/article/1100006 (http://timestranscript.canadaeast.com/news/article/1100006):

The musician had nestled his lute in an aluminum flight case, a piece of luggage which had safeguarded the instrument during previous trips around the world.

But it wasn't strong enough this time around to protect the lute from Air Canada employees.

"It is a specially designed flight case, that's why I had so much confidence that it would be fine," says Cardin.

Furious, he has lodged a complaint with Air Canada, and has so far received apologies and promises to help cover some of the costs of repairs.
So you think an airline will respect your $300 uke in its foam case?

rock_and_roll_camera
06-18-2010, 04:44 AM
Wow, that poor guy! This is why I would never put an instrument, or anything valuable in the hold... Hand luggage all the way! Hope he gets it sorted, they should pay for repair, plus the a new instrument because, sad to say, that poor lute will never be the same again!

russ_buss
06-18-2010, 05:09 AM
i'd blame the makers of that "specially designed flight case", not the airlines.

Thumper
06-18-2010, 05:21 AM
Sorry, but it's just nuts to check something that valuable as luggage. Carry it on, or get a less expensive "road lute" for travel. Or ship it using a commercial shipper. This one I blame on the owner.

rock_and_roll_camera
06-18-2010, 05:29 AM
You can't blame the case makers, it had stood up to many other journeys. Obviously somewhere along the line whist being handled it was exposed to some sort of force or pressure that it shouldn't have been. No luggage should have to deal with that kind of force, just because its in a special, strong flight case doesn't mean it can be thrown about. Obviously the baggage handlers were curious as to how hard it was, or perhaps they were in a rush and were just throwing everything about? Either way they'd have known when they killed it because it would've made the most god awful noise, one that we all dread hearing! So I blame the airline, but then as a few of us have mentioned, the instrument is clearly valuable so it should've been taken onboard as hand luggage. This is the reason everybody needs a beater... Mines not my favourite, but I love it and most importantly I wouldn't be too upset if it was horrifically killed in such a way as this...

Harold O.
06-18-2010, 05:33 AM
From this one photo, it doesn't look like the case was damaged. Since it's aluminum, you'd think there'd be some tell-tale signs of damage on the outside.

The article quotes the owner as saying it's not enough to just repair the instrument:
"But I plan to take Air Canada to court if my instrument's sound is not the same. This is more than just an object, it's like losing my vision. My career is at a standstill right now," says the lutist, ... "I worked really hard during my career, but my success is also due to my instrument."

I guess with one-of-a-kind pieces you get one-of-a-kind sound. Tough story.

Vindelanda
06-18-2010, 05:46 AM
Ooh, that's awful!
There was a guy a couple years back whose guitar got broken and he decided to make several Youtube videos (search United breaks guitars) when he was given no compensation. I think after the videos got popular they finally gave in and paid for his guitar.
I've taken my uke on a couple of flights and I kept it as carry-on...Much safer.

russ_buss
06-18-2010, 05:47 AM
You can't blame the case makers, it had stood up to many other journeys.

not this one :)

Thumper
06-18-2010, 05:49 AM
Lutes are big honking things, so I can see that it's hard to carry one on. But I just can't see letting baggage handlers toss around something so valuable. I'd buy a second ticket for the thing, like you see sometimes see cellists and double-bassists do.

Skitzic
06-18-2010, 05:52 AM
From this one photo, it doesn't look like the case was damaged. Since it's aluminum, you'd think there'd be some tell-tale signs of damage on the outside.

The article quotes the owner as saying it's not enough to just repair the instrument:
"But I plan to take Air Canada to court if my instrument's sound is not the same. This is more than just an object, it's like losing my vision. My career is at a standstill right now," says the lutist, ... "I worked really hard during my career, but my success is also due to my instrument."

I guess with one-of-a-kind pieces you get one-of-a-kind sound. Tough story.

I think that's a little harsh. Yes the airline should pay for some of the repairs, but like everyone else said he shouldn't have checked it.

And a good musician can make any instrument sound good. That lute will never be the same again, it's just how it is. If losing that lute kills his career, then he just wasn't meant to be a musician. Where's his back-up lute anyway? Never gig without a back up.

Thumper
06-18-2010, 06:00 AM
I've been a professional musician for 30 years, and after having all my musical instruments stolen not once but twice, I firmly resolved to never own anything I considered impossible to replace.

They're just things, and things can be taken away from you and/or destroyed, as I've learned firsthand.

Depending on things is something I'm not willing to do. Instead, I seek out the best, most economical instruments I can find, while still taking into account the "pitter patter" effect (ie, that intangible thing that makes your heart go pitter-patter when you see or hear certain instruments). No way I'd play an instrument that costs more than my house.

70sSanO
06-18-2010, 06:23 AM
Something doesn't look right with this story.

I've seem a lot of instrument cases in my life and that one certainly doesn't appear to be a specially designed to transport my $300,000 instrument around the world. Those 3 blocks of what appears to be foam on the top sure look unimpressive. I'm not sure I would even use something like that to transport one of my ukuleles around.

And as Harold O pointed out, that case looks in too good a condition for the damage to the lute. I would like to see the top of that case.

It just doesn't add up.

... now the strings set at full tension and subjected to severe temperature changes in flight may have been more of the culprit.

John

spots
06-18-2010, 06:25 AM
If something is that important to your profession, and that expensive, you buy it a seat and bring it on-board with you.

sukie
06-18-2010, 06:30 AM
Something doesn't look right with this story.



No kidding. What kind of an idiot would let a $300,000 instrument out of their sight? That is worth more than my house!
CYnic that I am, I don't believe this at all.

haolejohn
06-18-2010, 06:57 AM
From this one photo, it doesn't look like the case was damaged. Since it's aluminum, you'd think there'd be some tell-tale signs of damage on the outside.

The article quotes the owner as saying it's not enough to just repair the instrument:
"But I plan to take Air Canada to court if my instrument's sound is not the same. This is more than just an object, it's like losing my vision. My career is at a standstill right now," says the lutist, ... "I worked really hard during my career, but my success is also due to my instrument."

I guess with one-of-a-kind pieces you get one-of-a-kind sound. Tough story.

makes me wonder if maybe he didn't damage it and put it in the case to blame airline. how would that instrument break like that if the case has no damage?

Tudorp
06-18-2010, 06:57 AM
Hmm...

I think he accidently sat on it in his hotel room, paniced, and stuck it in the case to open back up when he got home to say "oh no.. look what they did.." I would think like above, that the case would have taken one hell of a lick to cause it to create such a shock to that instrument.. Besides that, an instrument of that value should have been insured...

haolejohn
06-18-2010, 06:58 AM
Something doesn't look right with this story.

I've seem a lot of instrument cases in my life and that one certainly doesn't appear to be a specially designed to transport my $300,000 instrument around the world. Those 3 blocks of what appears to be foam on the top sure look unimpressive. I'm not sure I would even use something like that to transport one of my ukuleles around.

And as Harold O pointed out, that case looks in too good a condition for the damage to the lute. I would like to see the top of that case.

It just doesn't add up.

... now the strings set at full tension and subjected to severe temperature changes in flight may have been more of the culprit.

John

which wouldn't be the airlines fault. it'd be the luteists fault.

Lori
06-18-2010, 07:05 AM
It looks like it is a clean snap in the middle of the neck. I wonder if a hard blow at just the wrong angle could do that (along with the string tension)? I can't see if there was any other damage. I say, get a lighter case and hand carry it everywhere. Buy it a seat. $300,000 is a lot for an instrument. I could understand if it was an antique with special sound qualities unique to that build and aged to perfection. But I bet someone like Pete Howlett could make him one for $200,000, and think of all the money saved!
–Lori

Uncle Rod Higuchi
06-18-2010, 07:29 AM
OK everybody, take a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Aren't you glad you discovered the ukulele?

I'm glad there are those out there who can make music with whatever they're playing.

I'm happy to have my Kala soprano Travel Uke in its tight-fitting Kala gig bag.

I'm glad that all of you take the neede precautions whenever you travel with your ukes.

I really am sorry for the Lutist and I'm glad for the lessons we can all learn from his/her experience.

But thankfully, we're Ukulele Players and member of one of the very best forums on the internet!

Let's count our blessings and say a little prayer for those who have yet to be 'converted'. : )

Keep uke'in',

70sSanO
06-18-2010, 07:32 AM
While I think everyone would be appalled that it would have been done intentionally, that is a possibility. Someone could have taken it out of the case and broke it.

If there is no damage to the case and the instrument it is truly worth $300k, I would have taken it to the authorities to get finger prints, DNA, or any other evidence of who may have handled the instument. If there is any court case that would be the way to go.

A friend at work took his "less expensive" Martin guitar with him on a trip and when he arrived there was a hole punched through the top of the case exactluy where the guitar sound hole was. So there was no damage to the guitar.

On the was back he placed a sticker over the hole and when he arrived a hole was punched through the sticker.

He has never accused anyone, but it is strange.

John

Tudorp
06-18-2010, 07:46 AM
This sounds like his damage was caused by the automated machinery behind the scenes. The same place, on the same case, would indicate it being grabbed by the machinery. It being the same case, would be grabbed the say way, and in the same spot. I would guess if he did any investigation, he would find it is grabbed by the automated machinery, with maybe more presure than it should have been set at.


"A friend at work took his "less expensive" Martin guitar with him on a trip and when he arrived there was a hole punched through the top of the case exactluy where the guitar sound hole was. So there was no damage to the guitar.

On the was back he placed a sticker over the hole and when he arrived a hole was punched through the sticker."

MarySue
06-18-2010, 08:16 AM
I'm looking at that picture and there's absolutely no support or protection for the neck in that case. Which is wackypants in my ever so humble armchair casemaker opinion.

I had to hand-carry a tenor that had no case on a flight once. This was back during my shamefully long "Hey, I bought a ukulele! It sits on the shelf and looks pretty!" phase. That was so nerve-wracking that, now I'm actually playing and hooked like woah and headed to California in two weeks, I spent yesterday seriously considering an $80 case for my Makala Dolphin. Then reality hit and I was all, "You're taking the confounded thing on a camping trip where many libations shall be imbibed and paved paths are nonexistent. Even if (God forbid) you bash it to pieces, $80 will buy you TWO new ones!"

I do have a bag for my Dolphin, but it's made out of an old pair of jeans with no padding. When I travel, I never check luggage. I have one carry on bag and use the Dolphin bag as my 'purse or personal item'.

mds725
06-18-2010, 09:55 AM
Here's the lute player, Michel Cardin (on the right in the video), with his lute in happier times. It's a pretty big instrument. Or was. Is it possible that, including the case, it couldn't have gotten its own seat?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbIl8PmcPCM

Kanaka916
06-18-2010, 10:22 AM
Ooh, that's awful!
There was a guy a couple years back whose guitar got broken and he decided to make several Youtube videos (search United breaks guitars) when he was given no compensation. I think after the videos got popular they finally gave in and paid for his guitar.
I've taken my uke on a couple of flights and I kept it as carry-on...Much safer.

Yea, I remember that one and here it is . . .


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo

JamieFromOntario
06-18-2010, 10:56 AM
That really sucks for the poor lutenist.

I once heard an even worse story from a relative of mine who was the manager of the Malaysia Symphony Orchestra. When the orchestra was on tour around Malaysia and Insonesia, all the string instruments were left out on the tarmac at the airport for several hours during the middle of the day. It was so hot that the finish on many of the instruments 'melted.' The velvet from the insides of the cases then bonded to the instruments when they cooled so that they could not be removed from their cases without ripping out the lining with them.

I guess if i'm ever flying anywhere with a uke, it's coming with me as a carry on.

As a side note about carry on instruments, apparently many airline have rules about which instruments are allowed as carry ons. These rules don't say anything about size or weight just the instrument's name. I have heard stories of people saying that their bassoon was an oboe so that they could carry it on with the airline employees none the wiser. I guess the airlines don't actually train their people about what the instruments look like, though that likely doesn't matter to most of us as i'd be sure that ukes are on the 'okay-for-carry-on' list.

Tudorp
06-18-2010, 11:00 AM
Well, that is until some nut case loads one up with gunpowder and tries to blow it up on the plane..

70sSanO
06-18-2010, 11:39 AM
I know this sounds bad and I hope I don't take a lot of heat, I really do feel bad about anyone who has a guitar, ukulele, or even an expensive lute destroyed, and I know I need to be more sensitive to all types of music, but I sure hope he didn't play that youtube when he checked in his lute.

Sorry I just couldn't resist.

John

bbycrts
06-18-2010, 12:48 PM
Yea, I remember that one and here it is . . .


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo

Great. Now I'm going to have that song going through my head for the rest of the day. Again.

StevieC
06-18-2010, 01:55 PM
I think that someone has been a bit overindulgent with their zeros in the original article. Lutes by modern day makers do NOT sell for anything remotely like $300,000. It would be truly exceptional to find a lute selling for even one tenth of that amount.

happyslappysoong
06-18-2010, 01:56 PM
That photo makes me so angry and sad...

JT_Ukes
06-18-2010, 02:07 PM
Wait... there are people who make money playing a lute?





:)

gnordenstam
06-18-2010, 02:37 PM
Yeah, but not probably not a whole lot of loot. Oh wait, maybe that's a Zep parody in the making.
--G


Wait... there are people who make money playing a lute?





:)

rock_and_roll_camera
06-20-2010, 01:29 AM
I think that someone has been a bit overindulgent with their zeros in the original article. Lutes by modern day makers do NOT sell for anything remotely like $300,000. It would be truly exceptional to find a lute selling for even one tenth of that amount.

Yeah, I was thinking that myself, at first I read it as $300.00. I don't think I could spend more than that on a uke?...

ichadwick
06-20-2010, 03:05 AM
I think that someone has been a bit overindulgent with their zeros in the original article. Lutes by modern day makers do NOT sell for anything remotely like $300,000. It would be truly exceptional to find a lute selling for even one tenth of that amount.
Well, I can't judge by the photo, but I'd suggest that was meant to inclued the fact he had performed on it all of his musical career and it meant that much in terms of his income.

Tudorp
06-20-2010, 04:23 AM
That being the case, he should just move one, because it looks like he already got well over his money's worth..



Well, I can't judge by the photo, but I'd suggest that was meant to inclued the fact he had performed on it all of his musical career and it meant that much in terms of his income.

luvdat
06-20-2010, 11:33 AM
Was it insured? If not, why wasn't an instrument worth $300,000 insured?

If Gibson were sued for every snapped headstock or neck on a dropped SG or Les Paul...the neck on that lute makes an SG or an LP seem like a Tele...

He discovered it after he got home and opened his suitcases. Sound true? That level of damage, neck snapped, strings all over the place etc only discovered upon opening, no josting sounds through a sound proof case prior to opening up? Everything was held intact? Yeah maybe...

There's also talk about further litigation if it doesn't "sound the same" after repair...hold onto that You Tube sound sample...

While his analogy about the Ford mustang kinda holds and when we all "say things" when we're upset, let me assure him... in my line of work I've removed the staples from the stumps (legs) of a double amputee...and cared for another patient post-amputation (leg above the knee)...he DIDN'T lose an arm or a leg...

In the absence of noted external damage to an aluminum case or in the absence of a noted lack of damage to the body of the instrument, he should be happy with money offered for repairs...money which I doubt he could collect from the designer/builder of that case...

The truth is that even in medical malpractice lawsuits despite often heartrendering outcomes if everything was done according to protocol, there's simply no case of negligence. Lawsuits involving surgical device (malfunctioning later) refer to the manufacturer...we can't hold airlines to a higher standard.

luvdat
06-20-2010, 12:36 PM
Lutes are big honking things, so I can see that it's hard to carry one on. But I just can't see letting baggage handlers toss around something so valuable. I'd buy a second ticket for the thing, like you see sometimes see cellists and double-bassists do.

Probably what Yo Yo Ma does..

MarySue
06-21-2010, 07:09 AM
Probably what Yo Yo Ma does..


I remember reading back in the day that Yo Yo Ma flies first class... and so do his cellos. Two of his cellos are modern, and two are from the early 18th century.

I played contrabass in high school, and the one time we traveled as an orchestra, it took up its own seat. It was a poor seatmate, too, kept falling over and bopping me on the head. Also? Hogged the armrest.

I used to walk home with my contrabass when I had weekend performances. Carrying a 5ft6in contrabass on your shoulder for half a mile gets you some fantastic double-takes, especially if you're 4ft11in. Stupid thing. Ukes are so much more portable.

ichadwick
06-21-2010, 07:32 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0Nx871l1Zo
Might be worth signing...