Delta’s Smashed Guitar Crisis: Like Déja Vu All Over Again

What is it about major airlines and guitars? For the second time in four years the same crisis/customer service tune has been strummed (this time with a slightly different outcome): Musician who checks an expensive (and cherished) guitar at the airport ends up with an irreparably damaged guitar, and a PR dust-up ensues.

In 2009 it was United Airlines whose reputation took a big hit, thanks to its rough handling of Dave Carroll’s $3,500 Taylor guitar. When Carroll discovered the guitar was damaged he claimed that United met his complaint with disregard, stipulating that Carroll file a claim with the airline, which initially informed him that he was ineligible for compensation because he had failed to make the claim within the carrier's stipulated "standard 24-hour timeframe.”

In that case, United messed with the wrong guy. Çarroll shot a music video called “United Breaks Guitars,” which, last time we checked, had garnered nearly 13 million views  on YouTube. And, oh yea,  he also wrote a book about his less-than-stellar experience.

This time, it’s Delta. The airline severely damaged Dave Schneider's $10,000 Gibson vintage model after he was forced to check it with Delta because cabin space was limited. At first, Delta gave Schneider the runaround but, after he began to tell his story via social media, Delta ended up forking over $2,000 for damages that Schneider incurred as well as vouchers for free flights.

Yet, the real winner in this crisis was Gibson Guitar. The guitar manufacturer gained major credibility with the public  by proactively offering to repair Schneider’s damaged guitar and giving him a new version of the old model. Gibson will hand him the new axe at the company’s New York City showroom. Talk abut PR mojo.

Meanwhile, compared to Gibson’s move, Delta’s response was in the “better-late-than-never” vein. It’s surprising that with all of the stories about airlines’ social media-enabled call centers and quick-response teams it took a groundswell of discontent on social platforms for Delta to take action.

To us, that's a sour PR note.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

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About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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