July 9th, 2009 by Joshua Weinberger

Well, the airline industry has yet again found itself at the painful receiving end of viral video mania.

The latest in a long line of videographed customer service nightmares, this one involves United Airlines. Unlike the infamous video of a Delta Airlines flight stuck on the tarmac for hours, United had the misfortune to dissatisfy a passenger who happens to be a professional musician. Putting his skills to work, the musician has turned his saga not only into a song, but a full-fledged music video, with high-quality production values:

The musician, Dave Carroll, also posted a prose recounting of the experience on his blog. The L.A. Times does a nice job of telling the tale over the past two days, including United’s reaction (which includes an airline spokesperson’s too-punny-to-be-accidental response that Carroll’s guitar tale “has struck a chord with us”).

Unfortunately (for United), the Times’ coverage also makes clear that the airline’s efforts to make amends with Carroll may fall under the heading of “too little, too late”:

But be advised, United. The second part of [Carroll’s] trilogy, already written, will come out in mid-August. It focuses on his relationship with a customer service representative named Ms. Irlweg, he says, and it’s the first song he’s ever written with a tuba in it.

Carroll notes in his blogpost that, in addition to that second act, a third song remains, as yet, unwritten. But this first ditty may be enough. The lyrics quote a fellow passenger alerting Carroll to the violence on the tarmac: “My God! They’re throwing guitars out there!”

(I’m immediately reminded of the line “My God! It’s full of stars!” from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Granted, that’s because I’m a [film and technology] geek of a particularly high order, but any connection between United and the HAL 9000 is hardly doing the airline any favors.)

Anyway, I think “My God! They’re throwing guitars out there!” will haunt me for a while.

But “I alerted three employees, who showed complete indifference towards me” may haunt United far longer.

“This attitude of yours must go,” Carroll says in his lyrics. I couldn’t agree with him more.


[UPDATED, 7/9/09, 5.20p.m.: A couple of other blogposts on the viral video: Newsweek (via Budget Travel) and MatadorNights.com.]

It is my understanding that United Airlines is now charging extra for it’s hands-on loading of guitars and other valuables. A United spokesman said “You didn’t think we’d keep throwing them in for free?”

Comment by SanFranDiver — — July 9, 2009 @ 5:57 pm

I immediately thought of Les Nessman on “WKRP in Cincinnati” saying, “Oh my God, Johnny, they’re turkeys!! Johnny, can you get this? Oh, they’re plunging to the earth right in front of our eyes! One just went through the windshield of a parked car! Oh, the humanity!” The turkeys were being dropped by helicopter, not by a United flight, however…

Comment by Chris Bucholtz — — July 10, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

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