‘United Breaks Guitars’ singer says airline passenger bill of rights signals positive direction
A Halifax man whose YouTube video about his customer experience with United Airlines in 2009 went viral says the federal government’s recently proposed passenger bill of rights is a move “in the right direction.”
Dave Carroll, originally of Timmins, Ont., made headlines when a song he wrote about United Airlines breaking his guitar received more than 17 million views when it was posted on YouTube in 2009.
The song also led to him becoming a public speaker and consumer advocate.
Carroll told Global News he’s met many good employees of airlines, but he feels the bill could help give airlines a push at improving how they help customers.
“I think airlines need a little bit of nudging in the right direction to be a little bit more compassionate for people with special needs — in my case, musicians, we travel with instruments that are extremely dear to us, and these cases of broken guitars or broken violins or any instrument, it happens far too often,” Carroll said in a phone interview.
The bill, announced by Transport Minister Marc Garneau, will give travellers a better idea of when airlines have to compensate them.
Part of a package of changes to the Canada Transportation Act, the bill was promised by Garneau last month after reports of a United Airlines passenger being injured when he was dragged off a plane in Chicago made international headlines.
The bill lays out more rules for the industry, including having airlines create clear standards of treatment and compensation for various circumstances, including being denied boarding, delays while on board and lost or damaged baggage — as well as standards for transporting items such as musical instruments like Carroll’s.
Carroll said stories like his gave momentum to the idea of adding this provision.
“It causes brand damage when you have a lot of people telling the same story about maybe appearing to be uncaring,” he said. “I think it’s in the best interest of the airline to actually set some standards in place to reduce the number of instances where people’s instruments are damaged that way.”
Asked what the new bill should focus on, Carroll said safety and not separating families should take priority.
“The issues of physical safety for people, and not separating families … the idea of having a toddler sit by themselves 10 rows away doesn’t make sense whatsoever,” he said. “Those type of things are hugely anxiety-causing for people.”
The bill is also expected to prevent airlines from charging parents a fee to be able to sit next to their children.
Carroll said he believes putting improving standards through the new bill will help reduce the number of negative airline incidents making headlines over the past few months.
“This isn’t a punishment for the airlines,” he pointed out. “It’s just a good practice to put in place to standardize some things because it will reduce the number of problems over time.”
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