Never let the facts spoil good click bait
The classical music fraternity has turned demonising airlines into an Olympic sport, aided and abetted of course by click bait meister Norman Lebrecht. Every few days there is an 'American Airlines broke my guitar' or 'United Airlines smashes viol story' on Slipped Disc. British Airways are the latest target, with 'British Airways maltreats Indian classical musician' as today's tasty click bait. Of course loss or damage to a professional musicians's instrument is a very serious matter. But please let's get the facts straight.
After they have slapped a baggage label on your cello, guitar or other hold item at the check-in desk airline employees do not touch your baggage. At every airport around the world there is a single contracted ground handling agent. When an airline flies from an airport it must use that appointed ground handling agent. To give an example: the baggage handling agent at London Gatwick is Menzies Aviation. Whether you fly British Airways, United, Emirates, easyJet or Ryanair in or out of Gatwick, your cello or guitar - if checked as a hold item - will be handled by the ground operations staff at every stage, not by airline employees. It will also travel down the same computerised conveyor system that sorts baggage and sends it to the (hopefully) right plane, irrespective of the airline you are flying with. (Errors on conveyor routing systems are a major cause of lost and delayed baggage.) When the luggage reaches the plane it is the handling agent's staff, not airline employees, who pack it into the hold - which is when damage often occurs. A list of global ground handling agents can be viewed via this link.
This does not in any way excuse damage or loss. But it means that the chance of damage or loss at any one airport is exactly the same, whatever airline you fly with. (In some cases even the check-in desk personnel are outsourced to ground handling service companies such as Swissport.) In the case of the latest Slipped Disc screamer, Debashish Bhattacharya's guitar went astray at Doha International Airport. All baggage handling at Doha is the responsibility of Qatar Aviation Services - see graphic below. It is regrettable that they, apparently, mislaid his guitar. Pandit Bhattacharya's contract was with British Airways, and he should seek redress from them. But the temporary loss could have happened with equal probability if he had been flying with any of the many other airlines flying from Doha. Is that understood? Can we now stick to the facts, even though 'Qatar Aviation Services mislaid Indian musician's guitar' is not as enticing click bait as 'British Airways maltreats Indian classical musician'?
Norman quite rightly describes Debashish Bhattacharya as a "renowned pandit". But he is not renown enough to have received even a single mention on Slipped Disc before today's click bait fest - déjà vu anyone? But he has received a number of mentions On An Overgrown Path, including a report and photos by me of a 2009 concert appearance in France. Perhaps if On An Overgrown Path played the click bait game, only wrote about Western classical celebrities, and was economical with the facts, I too could brag about 1.5 million monthly site visits.
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