Broken guitar song gets airline's attention

Halifax band Sons of Maxwell have taken their battle with United Airlines over a broken guitar to YouTube.

United ready to talk after Halifax band's song hits YouTube

Halifax band Sons of Maxwell have taken their battle with United Airlines over a broken guitar to YouTube.

And it seems the U.S. airline is listening.

Dave Carroll, the primary songwriter for the folk group, pledged to write three songs about United Airlines breaking his guitar after months of runaround over the incident.

"We were touring last year, over a year ago, going to Nebraska and we had to fly United Airlines landing in Chicago for a quick turnaround," he told CBC News.

"Somebody who didn't know we were musicians cried out from behind me that 'they're throwing guitars outside.'"

Carroll said his bass player saw United employees throwing the bass guitar, recognizing it through the plane window.

"I tried to alert three employees who showed no interest at all and it began a nine-month saga of me trying to get compensation for a guitar that ended up being broken, badly broken," he said.

The $3,500 Taylor acoustic guitar had been custom-made and was packed in a padded double case, but United refused to take responsibility. Carroll sent emails, wrote letters and talked to people at the airline over nine months until a Chicago employee told him to stop sending emails because he wasn't going to get compensation.

"I said 'What would Michael Moore do if he was a singer-songwriter?' and so I decided to write three songs," said Carroll, who started Sons of Maxwell with his brother Don.

United Song #1, a hurting song, with a catchy refrain that goes, in part, "United breaks guitars" and "You broke it you should fix it," went on YouTube July 6. It caught on pretty quickly, with more than 150,000 hits in its first day.

The song describes the incident in detail, including the horror of watching from the plane as their equipment was wrecked.

That was enough to get the airline's attention.

On Tuesday, United Airlines spokeswoman Robin Urbanski issued a statement about the incident.

"This has struck a chord with us. We are in conversations with one another to make what happened right, and while we mutually agree that this should have been fixed much sooner, Dave Carroll’s excellent video provides United with a unique learning opportunity that we would like to use for training purposes to ensure all customers receive better service from us," the statement said.

Carroll said he's hoping his song is going to make a difference for everyone who gets burned by battered luggage.

"They're talking about changing the culture of customer service. This could end up making a real difference," he said.

With files from CBC's Mainstreet in Halifax