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United Pays Up for Broken Guitar … Finally

3.8 million page views later, United is paying up—to charity. At the request of Dave Carroll, the musician whose song, “United Breaks Guitars,” hit it big on YouTube, United will donate $3,000 to the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz. Thus ends the year-long saga of Carroll’s broken guitar, not to mention United’s massive PR disaster, right?

Well, not so fast. United’s donation certainly absolves the airline somewhat, but Carroll’s plight is turning into a watershed moment for travelers, and traveling musicians specifically. According to msnbc, musicians have already noticed a greater willingness on the part of airlines to compensate for damaged instruments. My sense is the popularity of Carroll’s song will empower other travelers to voice their complaints publicly and could even force airlines to think twice before denying compensation to a customer. Maybe.

It’s not surprising, then, that United plans to use “United Breaks Guitars” for training (though whether this is training for baggage handlers, customer service reps, or marketing staff is unclear—maybe all three). I doubt the airline wants to go through another PR nightmare like this.

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