Once again, the skies have proved not-so-friendly to those carrying musical instruments on airplanes.
On Wednesday violinist Rachel Barton Pine was denied boarding on her American Airlines evening flight from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Albuquerque, N.M. because she was carrying her violin, the “ex-Bazzini ex-Soldat” 1742 Joseph Guarneri “del Gesu” violin, on lifetime loan to her from an anonymous patron.
Pine was the first passenger down the jet bridge. However, the captain (who would not give his name to Pine) refused to allow her to board the plane with the violin case because “its dimensions were not correct for a carry-on”. Pine flies over 100,000 miles a year with American Airlines and has flown the same plane configuration on numerous occasions, placing the violin case in the overhead compartment.
Pine shared with the captain the American Airlines policy stated on their website: "You can travel with small musical instruments as your carry-on item on a first come, first serve basis as long as it: Fits in the overhead bin; or fits under the seat in front of you."
According to Pine, the captain replied, “It is not going on because I say so.”
Pine is scheduled to perform the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the New Mexico Philharmonic, conducted by Fawzi Haimor on April 30. She was flying the evening of the 27th to attend events the next day with students in the New Mexico Philharmonic’s Young Musician Initiative program as part of her community outreach schedule.
According to Pine, agents at the American Airlines ticket counter wereapologetic about the crew’s behavior and worked closely with Pine to rebook her on a flight to Albuquerque that would allow her to honor her commitment to the young musicians. Rather than a direct flight arriving at 10:30 p.m. that evening, Pine took a 5 a.m. flight with a connection through Phoenix the next day.
This is not the first time Pine has had this kind of experience; last September her family was forced to spend the night at the Phoenix airport when USAirways refused to let her store the violin in an overhead compartment.
"The Department of Transportation and the airlines have established important policies to protect musical instruments," Pine said. "However, those policies are meaningless if they are not enforced or if the airline staff and crews are not properly educated and trained."
According to the Chicago Tribune, American Airlines released a statement about this incident:
American Airlines said in a statement that the captain of the flight aboard a regional aircraft operated by Envoy Air "determined that Ms. Barton's instrument could not be safely secured in an overhead bin or under a seat."
"Ms. Barton was offered the option of valet checking the item, but declined. She was subsequently rebooked for travel this morning on larger aircraft that were able to accommodate her instrument as a carry-on item," American Airlines spokeswoman Leslie Scott said in the statement."
Pine responded on Facebook:
The Captain did NOT 'determine' that my violin wouldn't fit - he wouldn't allow me to demonstrate and even said "it doesn't matter if it fits."
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