When Randolph Correia opened his guitar case at the sound check for a gig in Bangalore last week, little did he know that he would encounter a broken headstock. The Pentagram guitarist had flown from Mumbai to Bangalore on a Jet Airways flight that morning and had checked-in his limited edition , which was packed in a hard case. “Unless the guitar is callously mishandled, it cannot suffer such damage. I can’t understand why the airline staff can’t handle baggage that looks like a delicate musical instrument,” says Randolph. The musician immediately filed a written complaint and received a reply three days later from the Baggage Services Unit of the airline that read, “no claim can be taken as the damage was not reported by you at airport as all guests are requested to report all damages or mishandling of baggage’s before he/she leaves the airport premises.”
Retorts Randolph, “If all guests start opening their baggage soon after they receive them from the conveyor belt, its anybody’s guess how chaotic the situation will be,” adding, “I understand it’s the loaders and not the airline ground staff who’re responsible. But it’s the airline’s duty to train them.” We tried contacting Jet Airways, but representatives from the airlines kept requesting for time to investigate and respond to us.
Like Randolph, many musicians have had similar experiences with airlines, discovering chips, cracks and even broken pieces of their instruments on their arrival. Says guitarist Adil Manuel of Delhi-based RnB-soul-jazz duo Adil & Vasundhara, “I've had a guitar flight case smashed enroute to Bangalore on Jet and recently they cracked open one of my pedalboards.” Musician Andrew Ferrao had to deal with a broken motherboard of his Korg Triton keyboard after flying on an Air India flight, “To find a broken instrument right before a performance is the most unfortunate situation to be in”. Percussionist Suchet Malhotra, who plays with a world music ensemble HUM, found his djembe damaged beyond repair when he flew on an Indigo flight. But unlike Randolph, he received compensation. “I got R 3,000 in the form of a ticket because apparently that is the limit. Now I check my instruments when they arrive on the belt, and then depart if all is well.”