United AirlinesIn 2009, I wrote  an article  about how United Airlines broke a singer’s guitar by mishandling his baggage and refused to pay for the damage. He wrote a song about it and it went viral, causing United to reverse its decision and a public relations nightmare for the company.


If you haven’t seen the video, here it is.


Normally customer dissatisfaction of that magnitude should cause financial hardship to a company unless they change their policies. United promised to use the example of  United Breaks Guitars in their training.

What has happened since that time?

According to an article  United Breaks Another Guitar and the Social Media Hype Cycle Comes Full Circle, the videos not only went viral (over 14 Million hits)  but there were 1.8 Million articles and blog posts written about it.

Wikipedia has it own page titled United Breaks Guitars. The article says that United’s stock dropped 10% in value within 4 days of the video’s release . But over the next 5 years, it has continued to rise. Is that significant?

United Airlines Stock Price for 5 years

United Airlines Stock Price for 5 years

In 2009, we were going through a very serious financial crisis and stock prices had all dropped. So the subsequent rise shows that the  United Airlines public relations department reacted quickly, soothed the outrage of its customers and prospects and focused on its core business of delivering quality transportation services to its customers.

Since then  like most stocks in the US, the stock price for United Airlines has increased. So it is impossible to say if United suffered any long term effects from the humiliation it suffered from the guitar fiasco.

Now it appears, another singer, Ellis Paul  has had his guitar broken by United Airlines.



But United Airlines has refused to reimburse him.

Is this a policy change at United? Or an example of one customer service representative who has yet to be trained? Or has the training on damaged guitars been discontinued? It is hard to say.

But it said that Ellis Paul who is also a singer knows Dave Carroll, author of the original United Breaks Guitars song and they are working on a new song that will likely find its way onto Youtube.

P.S. I flew with United Airlines in October of 2012 on a trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. They lost my luggage and it took 4 days to find it. When it was finally returned to me, the contents were wet and the material on the outside damaged. While the airlines offered to dry clean any of my wet  clothes, they refused to reimburse me for the damage to the suitcase and the irreparable damage to a souvenir book I had bought on the Grand Canyon. So I am not sure United Airlines is fully committed to customer satisfaction.

Leave a comment if you have any recent stories about United.

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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