John Prine’s Son Says American Airlines Forced Him to Check His Dad’s Guitar, Then Damaged It

The son of the legendary songwriter shared photos of the smashed guitar on social media

John Prine
John Prine performs onstage during day 3 of 2014 Stagecoach: California's Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 27, 2014 in Indio, California.
Frazer Harrison

Anyone who has ever tried to travel with a musical instrument knows that airlines generally don’t make it easy; no matter how valuable or fragile the instrument may be, if it doesn’t fit in the overhead compartment, they’ll likely make you check it, and they’re not exactly known for handling them with care. The latest example of this unfortunate phenomenon comes from Tommy Prine, son of the late John Prine, who claims that American Airlines damaged a guitar that belonged to his father after forcing him to check it.

Prine told Nashville’s WSMV that he and his fiancé traveled to Ireland to celebrate his birthday and attend a remembrance concert for his father. “He had a couple of guitars up in the house we have in Ireland and I wanted to take one of them home,” he explained. “Anything that I have now that my dad’s ever given to me or got me through one reason or another, it’s priceless.”

On the way home, however — after a connection in Philadelphia — Prine says that an American Airlines employee told him he needed to check the guitar at the gate. “It’s not very safe for an instrument to go down there if it’s in a travel bag and especially this particular instrument, it means a lot to me. So, it made me feel very uncomfortable that they were asking me to do that,” he said.

He voiced his concerns to the gate agent but was told he had no choice but to check it, and when he got home, he was furious with what he found. “I opened up the travel case and the guitar was smashed at the bottom of it,” Prine said.

Prine claims he contacted the airline right away and filed a claim for damages but was told the airline would not accept responsibility, so he took to social media to share photos of the damage and raise awareness.

“Because I know this isn’t an isolated incident,” he said. “I know for a fact this isn’t the first time it’s happened on any airline. This is people’s livelihoods, you know? If I was someone who’s not me and this was my only guitar and I’m traveling across the country for my gig and that gets broken and it’s on me, that’s ruining my career at that moment.”

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