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'Worst nightmare:' Air Canada broke $4,000 guitar, says Kitchener musician

Airline offers $1,500 cheque to Kevin Ramessar after his acoustic guitar was cracked on a flight
By Muriel Draaisma, CBC News Posted: Jul 05, 2017 11:44 AM ET Last Updated: Jul 06, 2017 1:05 PM ET


A Kitchener musician is blaming Air Canada for damaging his acoustic guitar while it was being transported on a flight from New York City to Toronto in June. (Kevin Ramessar/Twitter)

A Kitchener musician is blaming Air Canada for damaging his acoustic guitar while it was being transported on a flight from New York City to Toronto in June.
Kevin Ramessar, who plays lead guitar in the show, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, on Broadway, expressed sadness on Twitter about the damaged guitar, a Stonebridge.

According to news reports, the instrument is worth $4,000.

"Wow. That took effort. My poor Stonebridge," Ramessar said on Twitter.

Air Canada apologized for the damage in a June 29 response to Ramessar, and in a response to CBC News on Wednesday the airline said it will issue him a cheque for $1,500 as "a measure of goodwill."

"I emailed back and said 'It's just not acceptable, this is a tool of the trade for me,'" Ramessar said.

"Unfortunately that won't cover the cost of the repair," Ramessar told CBC.

"It's going to take several months to get the parts from Europe," he said, and by the time he pays for a replacement rental guitar the bill could be closer to $3,000.

"They tried to make it sound like this is a normal thing that can happen while flying," he said.

Damage report
The guitar was inside a plastic case when it was checked into the flight. Fragile stickers had been placed on the case. In photos, the guitar appears to have been cracked at the neck.

"I've been on hundreds of flights for maybe eight or nine years with this guitar — with that case — all across Canada and America," Ramessar said. "That's not a normal thing. That took effort to break."


The guitar was in a hard plastic case during the flight. Fragile stickers were placed on the case. (Kevin Ramessar/Twitter)

Ramessar said on Twitter that he sent photos and documentation of the damage to Air Canada and waited more than a week for a response.

"It feels like @AirCanada is stalling. I've been sending in docs/pics for over a wk, but so far no resolution — Want to give benefit of doubt, but each time I send in something, they ask for more & now won't confirm receipt," he wrote.


A number of unavoidable factors
The airline finally did respond, according to Ramessar, and it did acknowledge the damage.

"We were sorry to learn that your guitar was received in a damaged condition after your travel to Toronto on June 21st, 2017," Air Canada says in the reply to his direct message.

"We can understand how frustrating this experience must have been. Our staff endeavours to handle all our passengers' baggage carefully, including fragile items, but there are a number of unavoidable factors involved, such as turbulence, shifting of items during takeoff and landing; and no airline can therefore guarantee against damage."


'We were sorry to learn that your guitar was received in a damaged condition after your travel to Toronto on June 21st, 2017,' Air Canada says. (Kevin Ramessar/Twitter)

Peter Fitzpatrick, spokesperson for Air Canada, said in an email to CBC News that the airline has been in contact with Ramessar about the guitar.

"We do our very best to deliver all baggage safely and it is truly regrettable that it was reported damaged," Fitzpatrick said.

"Notwithstanding the fact that there was no damage to the guitar case, we have on an exceptional basis as a measure of goodwill, issued a cheque to Mr. Ramessar for $1,500, which is the maximum liability for lost and damaged baggage as per our ticket terms and conditions."

'Nightmare'
"This is the first time anything like this has ever happened to me for sure," Ramessar said, "and it's the worst nightmare for working musicians."

"I'm worried to even take a loaner [guitar] or rental high-end instrument and travel. I have a trip to Indianapolis next week to play with the symphony there ... and now I'm wondering what I'm going to do," he told CBC.

"I don't know if I really want to fly with them, with another expensive instrument that I have to check."

Shifting blame 'a lousy tactic'
Fitzpatrick said Air Canada's website also offers packing instructions for music instruments, including how strings should be loosened on stringed instruments before a flight.

In a tweet, Air Canada asked Ramessar: "Did you make sure to release the tension of the strings before your flight?"

Fellow Canadian musician Steven Page tweeted, "I'm going to suggest shifting any blame onto Kevin is a lousy tactic. He's about as pro as it gets."

'Best airline'
In May in Montreal, the International Federation of Musicians, which represents professional musicians and their trade unions in more than 60 countries, named Air Canada the best airline for musicians.

In a ceremony at its international orchestra conference, it gave Air Canada its newly created "Airline of Choice" award.


Follow
Kevin Ramessar @KevinRamessar

And check out their explanation of how damage may occur: pic.twitter.com/NsjsKnXSFb

9:39 AM - 29 Jun 2017
 

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My initial reaction is "OK, Air Canada caught United-disease".

But then I find myself tilting my head and wondering "Yeah, just how the heck does a guitar get that badly broken but nothing happens to the case?". From that perspective, AC's response (i.e., shifting of items during takeoff/turbulence) begins to make more sense. Obviously they have a responsibility to treat baggage with care every step of the way, but obviously a passenger has a responsibility to secure their belongings reasonably well. If I left a laptop on my seat I order to go use the toilet, and turbulence results in my laptop falling off the seat an smashing the screen against the frame of the seat in front of me, that's not the airline's fault, now, is it? If I'm bringing priceless crystal wine-glasses on as baggage, but the case is much bigger than the glasses, and the glasses aren't firmly secured inside the box, how does the airline take all the blame for stuff shifting inside?

There may be more to the story than we see here. For instance, maybe there was a Velcro strap to secure the neck but jostling made it come loose, allowing the guitar to bounce around inside the case. I'm just riffing here. But what is conspicuous and needs resolving is that the case looks intact, but the contents are not. I doubt that baggage handlers are authorized to check inside everything and make sure contents are secure. Unless a baggage screener opened up the case and neglected to re-secure something before closing it?

A lot of question marks here, and possibilities for shifted or shared culpability. Maybe the real claim for damage should be against the case-maker.
 

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Important thing in my opinion is to release the string tension when shipping guitar like this.
based on:
D'Addario : String Tension Guide
and
http://www.daddario.com/upload/tension_chart_13934.pdf
for set of 10s string tension is about 16lb per string so totaling about 100lbs - about 50kg.
Now imagine at that stress you hit it on the headstock. Doesn't matter that it is in the case.
If case is let say falling from somewhere and then it hits the ground - the guitar in the case will still "hit" the innards of the case no matter how well it sits in the case.

So if Gibson LP will fall from the stand and headstock is broken just from that fall - the same thing would happen if the guitar with the string tension inside the case hits something with enough velocity.

So in my opinion, if you think the guitar may suffer some hit - release the string tension
 

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I've traveled with guitars and they warn you up front they won't cover/insure damages and you have to waive the liability to check them in. You can however take them as a carry on if you use a gig bag and avoid such things. On a side note, what kinda $4000 makes a neck as if they were making molding for a cabinet, seems like a poorly built instrument to me. That's just my opinion though.
 
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Important thing in my opinion is to release the string tension when shipping guitar like this.
based on:
D'Addario : String Tension Guide
and
http://www.daddario.com/upload/tension_chart_13934.pdf
for set of 10s string tension is about 16lb per string so totaling about 100lbs - about 50kg.
Now imagine at that stress you hit it on the headstock. Doesn't matter that it is in the case.
If case is let say falling from somewhere and then it hits the ground - the guitar in the case will still "hit" the innards of the case no matter how well it sits in the case.

So if Gibson LP will fall from the stand and headstock is broken just from that fall - the same thing would happen if the guitar with the string tension inside the case hits something with enough velocity.

So in my opinion, if you think the guitar may suffer some hit - release the string tension
It's not just the normal string tension. Keep in mind that the cargo hold can get VERY cold, which increases string tension even more.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Air Canada 'changed their tune' on compensation for broken guitar, says musician
Kevin Ramessar says initially Air Canada offered to cover full cost of repairs and rental
By Jackie Sharkey, CBC News Posted: Jul 06, 2017 9:01 AM ET Last Updated: Jul 06, 2017 9:01 AM ET


A Kitchener musician is blaming Air Canada for damaging his acoustic guitar while it was being transported on a flight from New York City to Toronto in June. (Kevin Ramessar/Twitter)


Related Stories
Guitarist Kevin Ramessar is disappointed by Air Canada's response after his $4,000 guitar was broken on a flight from New York to Toronto, and says the airline has "changed their tune" on compensation for the damage.

The airline has said it will compensate him $1,500 as a goodwill gesture. It is also the maximum payout for lost and damaged baggage, as outlined in Air Canada's terms and conditions.


Kevin Ramessar and Carole King, pictured together in a tweet from 2015. Ramessar plays lead guitar in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on Broadway. (@KevinRamessar/Twitter)

Ramessar isn't satisfied. In fact, he says he was told they would cover much more.

"I had spoken with somebody the day after this happened from their priority desk and he had told me they would be happy to cover the full cost of the repair and a rental in the meantime," Ramessar told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

"So I guess it feels a little odd that they changed their tune. I guess I'm disappointed because at the end I'm left holding the short end of the stick for something that could have been avoidable."

'That's not a normal thing'
Ramessar plays lead guitar in the show, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, on Broadway.

He said the guitar was undamaged in a protective case, with fragile stickers, when he left it in Air Canada's hands in New York. When it arrived in Toronto the case was undamaged, but the neck of the guitar inside had been snapped.


In this photo from a year ago, Ramessar writes 'Today, I got to put my Stonebridge to work, recording Dave Malloy's gorgeous music with a 30-piece orchestra for Josh Groban & his upcoming Broadway musical: Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.' (Kevinramassar.com)

"They were trying to make it sound like this is a normal kind of thing that can happen while flying."

"I've been on hundreds of flights for maybe eight or nine years with this guitar, with that case, all across Canada and America and that's not a normal thing."

Ramessar said his guitar will take months to repair. In the meantime he's looking for a suitable replacement rental.
 

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He's been flying with that guitar for years, and suddenly it gets broken in a very weird way. I'm not thinking it's the guy who flies to NYC for work's fault ;)
 

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I've traveled with guitars and they warn you up front they won't cover/insure damages and you have to waive the liability to check them in. You can however take them as a carry on if you use a gig bag and avoid such things. On a side note, what kinda $4000 makes a neck as if they were making molding for a cabinet, seems like a poorly built instrument to me. That's just my opinion though.
The dovetail neck joint is a very common building technique and (without knowing it) you may actually own guitars with that same neck joint.
 

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Wouldn't it make sense to prearrange a rental in the city that one's flying to?
If he's playing multiple cities in a stretch, it would become complicated pretty quickly. He'd have to have the free time and resources to go and inspect the instrument before taking it to the gig, and return it afterwards. Having something you take with you the whole time just makes sense.
 
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The dovetail neck joint is a very common building technique and (without knowing it) you may actually own guitars with that same neck joint.
Maybe so, I'd never knowingly buy it though. It's an obvious failure point. Again, just my opinion.
 

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Damage to a guitar's headstock without damaging the case is common, especially if the guitar can move in the case. Les Pauls are prone to this.

They're talking about this on another forum...

That finger joint at the headstock is weird.
 

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Whiplash. If the neck was not immobilized by placing packing material behind and on top of the headstock a sudden shock (the kind you could easily get from travelling) this kind of break is almost inevitable, even if string tension is relieved.

From the Larrivee website:

Shipping Your Instrument Proper packing is an absolute necessity when shipping your guitar safely. Please do not attempt to ship your guitar without it. We suggest a visit to your nearest music shop and ask for an empty cardboard shipping carton and request one, they receive guitars in them all the time. Don’t forget to ask for the top and bottom inserts that keep the guitar stabilized once inside it. Shipping your guitar this way provides protection from wear and tear on your case and from theft. When you’re ready to ship you can start by placing crumpled paper on top of and underneath the headstock. Enough so the peg head sits slightly up and off the neck rest. This will help reduce the chances of neck damage by stabilizing it. Do not overdo it though there should be some compresision felt when you close the case lid. Place your case in the cardboard carton you got from the guitars shop with the two inserts, fill the spaces around the case with more crumpled paper. This will help insulate against a sudden rise or drop in temperature during shipment. You can sticker it fragile, breakable, or handle with care, but we recommend never labeling it “Musical Instrument” or “Guitar”. NEVER take tension off the strings when shipping your guitar. This is a dangerous practice as the machine heads and headstock are the heaviest parts of the guitar, and the string tension from proper tuning serves to counteract the stresses these parts place on the instrument. Some people on the internet will tell you that loosening the strings is a good idea but it is NOT. Always insure your guitar for it’s full value, and when you receive your instrument immediately examine it for damage. If at all possible, do this while still in the baggage room or presence of the delivery person. This will negate the question of whether and/or where any damage occurred.
http://www.larrivee.com/pdfs/Shipping Your Instrument_v2.pdf


From a repair website:

Packing The Instrument in the Case
Ship the instrument in it's own, well fitting case, this is its best protection. If you do not have a case for it, make that your first priority before considering to ship it.

You may wish to tune the instrument down a step or so to reduce string tension. Just remember, if you loosen the string tension and the instrument has a floating/moveable bridge (like an archtop or mandolin) remove and secure it.

Make absolutely sure there is nothing left in the case that can get loose and do a tap dance across the face of your instrument during it's journey here. Check for loose items in the pick pocket, loose screws, whammy bars, etc. Damage done by poor packing is not covered by shippers. If loose parts can not fit securely in the cases pick pocket consider packing them in a box beside the case.

  • First and foremost...you do not want the instrument to be able to move around in its case. You can place bubble wrap or newspaper around the body, heel and peghead to stabilize and secure it. Some instruments (like Taylor guitars) come in well fitting cases that do not require padding around the body but it is always a good idea to have the peghead well supported and protected by placing newspaper below and above it.
  • After packing the instrument in it's case grab the handle and shake the case, if you can hear your instrument moving in the case after packing then you have not done your job.
Packing Guitars For Shipment | Protecting Musical Instruments From Damage
 

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And to think some of us just have to worry about the van and trailer rolling.
 

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I used to know a baggage carrier who worked for Air Canada, and some of the stories he used to tell me, this does not surprise me. The employee throwing your baggage into the plane doesn't care one iota about your stuff. That neck crack looks like it was done on purpose, I don't see how it can bend like that when in a hard case. More details would be nice. I noticed there is tape on the case to keep it closed. Was it cut before he opened it, or did he cut the plastic himself. Does the case lock?
 
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Looking at the case he had the guitar in, I think someone either was very, very careless or tried to break it on purpose.
 

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Whiplash. If the neck was not immobilized by placing packing material behind and on top of the headstock a sudden shock (the kind you could easily get from travelling) this kind of break is almost inevitable, even if string tension is relieved.

From the Larrivee website:



http://www.larrivee.com/pdfs/Shipping Your Instrument_v2.pdf


From a repair website:



Packing Guitars For Shipment | Protecting Musical Instruments From Damage
Yup, this was my thought right away. If the case fell flat, the whiplash effect could snap the headstock. The heavy tuners combined with a good impact could do it if the headstock isn't padded. And if the strings were under any type of tension, it would be even more likely. This would happen without ever opening the case.
 

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Whiplash, but it also looks like improper glue was used in the build....normally a glued joint is stronger than the surrounding wood, that looks like it folded//separated under strain, not broke on the back side.

Just a subjective observation, not a pro opinion.
 

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The dovetail neck joint is a very common building technique and (without knowing it) you may actually own guitars with that same neck joint.
A dovetail neck joint is at the heel. This guitar has a 'finger joined' headstock. Google says that Taylor used to do this, but I don't think it's very common otherwise. I'm sure it's a solid technique but it looks a little weird to me (for whatever that's worth).

That said, I think loosening the strings would maybe be good prevention in the future. I hope it works out for the musician in question, and wow, he has a really great gig! I wish him the best of success in his career. Nice to hear that a small town Canadian can make it in the Big Apple.
 

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A dovetail neck joint is at the heel. This guitar has a 'finger joined' headstock. Google says that Taylor used to do this, but I don't think it's very common otherwise. I'm sure it's a solid technique but it looks a little weird to me (for whatever that's worth).

That said, I think loosening the strings would maybe be good prevention in the future. I hope it works out for the musician in question, and wow, he has a really great gig! I wish him the best of success in his career. Nice to hear that a small town Canadian can make it in the Big Apple.
Yes, finger joined thx. I dropped my Baby Taylor (while in its gig bag) and got a great view of the finger joined technique....
 
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