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Time for Three Violinists Denied on U.S. Airways Flight

Laurie Niles

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Published: May 27, 2014 at 3:08 AM [UTC]

Just when we thought things were getting better for people traveling with instruments…

On Monday violinists Zach de Pue and Nick Kendall of Time for Three were left alone on the tarmac at Charlotte Douglas International Airport after the captain and crew of U.S. Airways flight No. 4799 informed them that their violins were not allowed on the flight.


Both violinists are members of Time for Three, and they were on their way to meet up with their bandmate, bassist Ranaan Meyer in Fayetteville, Arkansas, to play for the Artosphere Arts and Nature Festival. In frustration, they made this video:

By about 7 p.m. they were on their way on another flight, according to their Twitter feed. For the other flight, they said that they were "greeted by agent. He told us violins had to be plane checked. I told him the FAA stipulates rules that say otherwise. The agent then changed his tune, and told us we need to gate check our roller briefcases."

It would appear that denying them on the first flight was against FAA policies. The FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act of 2012, approved by the U.S. Congress in February of that year, in Section 713, "requires an air carrier to permit an air passenger to carry a violin, guitar, or other musical instrument on a passenger aircraft without charge if it can be stowed safely in a suitable baggage compartment in the aircraft or under a passenger seat."

How can one prevent this from happening? Here is what I recommend: If you are concerned about traveling with your violin in the U.S., you might want to copy the bill and put it in the pocket of your fiddle case. Here it is for you to copy. You also might want to highlight Section 713.

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Related stories: weekend vote: Have you ever had trouble, flying with your violin?

Airplane & violins: which case fits?

From Craig Cruz
Posted on May 27, 2014 at 6:51 AM
It's very unfortunate that these musicians weren't allowed to take their instruments into the passenger cabin but a aircraft aficionado friend of mine notes the aircraft in the video is a small regional plane, and that the flight crew might have been able to deny the instruments as carry-on items and still been in compliance with FAA regulations. The overhead compartments in these planes is much smaller than in full-size aircraft, and there simply might not have been room for the instruments in those bins (of course, the flight crew might have been able to stow the violins in a closet used for suit bags).

Posted on May 27, 2014 at 8:12 AM
Thank you very much, Laurie, for posting this news and the bill. Our family are going to print out the bill for our traveling. Also, we cheer for the free spirit of Time For Three to fight for their right. We are now eager to get an opportunity to attend their concert to meet them in person. At the same time, after being oversea for three years, we have realized that it might be only in the U.S. where the social environment and culture supported by law grants individuals chances to fight their own rights and to win over big companies. So we cheer for that luxury for artists too!
Posted on May 27, 2014 at 11:19 AM
I AMA violist who has been on planes that carry only 13 passengers. I have never been on a plane which didn't fit my case including many puddle jumpers from that very airport. Nick and Zach fly as a part of their living as do countless other violinists and violists. At the very least I hope they were compensated with free flights, etc..

I'm so glad you guys got it on film. Well done!

Posted on May 27, 2014 at 11:46 AM
Regional planes should still be able to accommodate violin cases. I have flew, for example, Denver to Aspen, DC to Baltimore, Chicago to Detroit, and had no problem stowing my case (sometimes with Mooradian cover) overhead. So there are no excuses.
Or we can simply ask everyone waiting for the flight at the gate if they care if we carry a violin on board. Probably no one will say no.
Posted on May 27, 2014 at 11:57 AM
According to Flightaware (, the model plane used in U.S. Airways Flight 4799 was a CRJ-700, which has plenty of room in the overhead compartments for a violin case ( Looks like the flight crew was just too lazy to do their jobs.
Posted on May 27, 2014 at 12:39 PM
The flight they ended up on was the same sized plane. The crew was in the wrong. They had 3 bags (are permitted 2), and ended up gate checking 1 of them, so I am assuming they were willing to do that with the first flight. This was toally an issue with US Air.
Posted on May 27, 2014 at 1:22 PM
I doubt this was a matter of space on the plane. If you look at the size of the suitcases being loaded inside the plane ( I assume the Captain's and crew suitcases), you can see they are much bigger than both Nick and Zach's violins cases put together. I once had to fly a tiny puddle jumper between Baltimore and Raleigh, and the overhead bins were too small to fit my violin case. I was in the middle of a polite discussion with the flight attendant when the pilot came out of the cockpit, and offered to store my violin in the "Captain's closet" inside the cockpit. He showed me the closet, and carefully wedged my case in there. Then he told me, meet me by the cockpit door once we land, and I'll hand you your violin myself. That was in the late '90. I miss those days.
Posted on May 27, 2014 at 2:27 PM
Thank you to the link to the bill. Of course, the bill became a public law (112-95,, which then triggered amendments to the United States Code. So I think a better document to keep in your back pocket is the actual section of the U.S. code, 49 USC 41724:

Except I notice at the bottom of that that the law doesn't go into effect until the Dept of Transportion issues regulations, which it has to do within two years of the enactment of the law, which I think have passed. Searching the Code of Federal Regulations site (which I'm kind of confused by), I cannot find the regulations. Is this rule in legal limbo?

Over the years, I have seen many people recommend printing out this bill, that letter in order to "guarantee" the ability to board a flight with an instrument. This is not how it works. Please remove that recommendation.

The way it works is flight crew are bound to the regulations in their manuals. The manual is created by the airline and based upon the law. What most people do not know is that bills passed by Congress and signed by the President are not the same thing as the law! The bill text is at:


Now I quote:

"(b) Regulations. — Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this section, the Secretary shall issue final regulations to carry out subsection (a)."

Well guess what?

The Secretary of transportation never created those regulations.

The federal aviation regulations (FAR) governing carry on baggage is FAR 135.87 and FAR 121.589. As of today, May 27, 2014, there is still no mention of musical instruments, as the law required by February 14, 2014, exactly 2 years after Obama signed the hill into law. Airlines base their manuals on the FARs and so no amount of printing and waving a piece of paper will sway an airline to do anything. They still have the legal right to refuse any musical instrument from boarding if they feel like it.

The ONLY thing you can do is contact your musician's union national legislative lobbyist and offer help in their efforts to push the Secretary to make the law into a regulation.

Last I heard, they asked for a mere $500,000 in the budget to do a cost/benefit analysis in order to implement the regulation. This of course d denied because the Republicans in Congress blocked any budget from passing containing the language, and Democrats blocked any Republican alternative budget (none of which contained that language).

We are in legal limbo: the law was passed, but it does not actually exist in the real world. Welcome to the convoluted world of politics :).

Posted on May 27, 2014 at 3:35 PM
What are the dimensions of the violin cases? On US Airways website it lists the allowable sizes for Express carry on luggage. I don't know many Express airplanes that have closets, sadly. Wouldn't many musicians buy a seat for their instrument if it was so valuable to them that they didn't want to risk damage to it? I know YoYo Ma bought a seat for his cello.
From Jon Lilley
Posted on May 27, 2014 at 4:31 PM
I've only flown a couple of times with my violin (I'm just a beginner) but have wondered about this on occasion. It crossed my mind whether it might be feasible to check the case and then (very carefully) sit with the violin in my lap for the duration of the flight (maybe in a silk bag). Obviously this would only be doable on short-haul flights but then they tend to be the ones with the least cabin room. Has anyone ever tried this or is it a silly idea?
Posted on May 27, 2014 at 4:49 PM
Heading to Arkansas? Next time just call them "fiddles." Should be no problem. ;-D

Posted on May 27, 2014 at 5:32 PM
I used to do some international flying with my tenor sax. Neither the airlines' telephone information people nor the ticket desk knew definitively what the rule or policy was. I was told on one trip to "try it and see what happens." Unbelievable!
Posted on May 27, 2014 at 6:16 PM
It might have been a fault with US Air, specifically that particular flight crew, but it is NOT US Air's policy.
I fly with them a huge amount and no-one has ever even blinked at my violin. It would be sad if we all started a "US Air is evil" campaign on this one experience. I know lots of people have probably had trouble but lots of people also haven't (last flight I saw other passengers had at least a uke and a guitar also in the cabin with my violin).
Posted on May 27, 2014 at 6:37 PM
In my experience, U.S. Air has a culture of disdain for customers. Service is usually substandard, and no one really seems to care. Southwest is a much better airline with friendly, cooperative and enthusiastic employees.
Posted on May 27, 2014 at 11:08 PM
At least the TSA didn't destroy them like they did with all of another musician's hand carved flutes. ALL OF THEM! and as for U.S. airlines being worse than others, an Asian Air passenger was recently refused to bring his wheelchair on a flight. It's no fun flying anymore.
From Mendy Smith
Posted on May 28, 2014 at 12:20 AM
I've traveled on some very small planes smaller than that one and my viola case always fit just nicely. On a full flight, someone even volunteered to gate-check their bag so my viola would fit. (I also volunteered to wait with them for their bag as thanks).
Posted on May 28, 2014 at 3:20 AM
I fly every weekend for my bluegrass band Special Consensus. I play mandolin and the hoffee case is bigger than most mandolin cases. However, I have never had a problem getting it to fit into a regional jet overhead, which is what that plane was. I could almost get my dreadnaught guitar in a gig bag to fit in there so there's no reason to deny a fiddle/violin case unless it's a double violin case and a big one at that. There's no first class seats in those tiny jets and therefore no first class closets. The one time I was going to have to plane side check my guitar in a gig bag on a delta regional jet, they waited till everyone boarded and when there was an open seat they just moved me next to it and buckled my guitar into the seat! They really went out of there way to be accommodating. They did the same for the keyboard player who didn't have a case for his huge keyboard. Crazy huh?
Rick Faris
From Craig Cruz
Posted on May 28, 2014 at 4:55 AM
I'm very happy to have been proven wrong re: the size of the overhead bins on regional aircraft. I've read out the comments to my friend to educate him. Thank you all who informed me.
Posted on May 28, 2014 at 5:10 AM
I've been on the smallest of small planes and even my double violin case will fit in the overhead bins. I have been told that it won't fit before they even let me try, which is unfair.

Posted on May 28, 2014 at 5:41 AM
1) If having your instrument in the cabin is your non-negotiable priority, make it the only thing you take with you on board, especially if there is any chance your instrument exceeds the technically permitted carry-on size (and one of my viola cases definitely does).

2) If your favorite case is bigger than it needs to be, consider getting a smaller case for when you fly.

3) Even people who don't have much respect for artists seem to have a respect for fragile antiques. Consider making it clear that is what you are traveling with, and if you want to through in a copy of your instrument's paperwork, it might cut even more ice than that as-yet-unimplemented piece of legislation. Most people don't have a clue that your instrument is worth an order of magnitude more than a laptop.

4) All of this is safer and more honorable than pretending you have a panic disorder and need to board at pre-boarding, but I do know people who make that work for them, too, and nobody has ever asked them what their special need is.

Posted on May 28, 2014 at 5:45 AM
"What most people do not know is that bills passed by Congress and signed by the President are not the same thing as the law!"

Well, I'm pretty sure that those things are precisely what make it into a law. However, putting that law into effect by issuing the required (and overdue) regulations, and enforcing that law, is another matter"

"Now I quote:

'(b) Regulations. — Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this section, the Secretary shall issue final regulations to carry out subsection (a).'

Well guess what?

The Secretary of transportation never created those regulations."

In my opinion, that doesn't mean that it's not the law; it means that the Secretary of Transportation is in violation of the law, and theoretically, could be sued to issue those regulations as the law stipulates.

"Last I heard, they asked for a mere $500,000 in the budget to do a cost/benefit analysis in order to implement the regulation. This of course d denied because the Republicans in Congress blocked any budget from passing containing the language, and Democrats blocked any Republican alternative budget (none of which contained that language)."

Ironically, that also puts Congress in the position of violating the language of the law which they, with the president, have already passed.

"We are in legal limbo: the law was passed, but it does not actually exist in the real world."

We are indeed in legal limbo, but I would say rather that the law indeed exists, but that the government is in violation of its own law. But I do understand that the airlines go by the currently-issued regulations, which in this case, are out of date. However, I suspect that the airlines could - and in my opinion should - comply with the new law without violating any of the current Federal regulations, so I'm not letting them off the hook.

Brendan Doyle

Posted on May 28, 2014 at 6:02 AM
Others state their violin/viola cases fit the overhead but that is only if it were the full width of the overhead and one person's case cannot take the entire width, and really, why would you risk your instrument having other things shoved against it? I've only had one plane that would allow me to take it aboard and they placed it upright in a closet near the pilot's cabin; otherwise, I carry it to the plane, and then it is hand-placed underneath last and brought to me as soon as we land. Under the seat and the person in front of you keeps kicking it. It cannot be held between the knees, so handing it over at boarding seems to be the only option I've found if they don't have closet space. The only mishap I had was when I brought an electric violin with me and forgot it had a battery in the back. The security officers literally tore the violin apart because it buzzed in their scanner, instead of, I don't know, let me open the back hatch and show them it is a battery. Expensive lesson for me.
Posted on May 28, 2014 at 6:41 AM
Ignorance of the rules and laws by the people who are supposed to enforce them are rampant in this country. A by product of gov't inflicting itself into every facet of our lives. What floored me about the video was how rudely the curtain was shut, obviously to send you guys a message. I have never, not even in snow or rain storms seen a crew member close that curtain. Then the rudeness of the captain/pilot. Even in the few seconds we saw him I saw enough to be offended by the way you were treated. Shameful.
Posted on May 28, 2014 at 2:13 PM
As a pilot, I do my best to help folks out. Sometimes there just isn't room (these days, especially in smaller planes, there is no such thing as a suit closet). But sometimes my hands are tied. A woman bought her wedding dress on, and was hoping to put is somewhere where it wouldn't get wrinkled. She asked about the possibility of putting it in the cockpit. I had to say no, as did the Captain, and here's the why...

Once upon a time we used to do this on a regular basis. Then came the day when a dress was damaged by one of the screws in the closet, and the woman sued the airline. As a result, another memo goes out, disallowing us the ability to be nice. I hate it, and sympathize with musicians & everyone else with precious cargo. MOST aircrew will do their best to help, but there are a few out there having a bad day.

Posted on May 28, 2014 at 6:42 PM
A similar instance happened to me and a friend recently (March, 2014) in the Charlotte airport while flying on US airways. As we were waiting to board our US airways flight with our violins, a flight attendant told us there is no way that we can bring our violins on, even though we were seated in zone 2 and were one of the first to get on. They also told us that if we wanted to guarantee our violins on the plane, we should have bought a seat for them? After showing them our copy of section 713 from the new enacted law, they were still stubborn and told us that there is no such law and that we were wrong. We winded up getting on after an hour of intense arguing with multiple managers and taking off our cushy cases because apparently, that made them "smaller"? I'm glad there's some publicity on this injustice that happens to many musicians while flying. I've never had this problem with other airlines.
Posted on May 29, 2014 at 1:15 AM
My son was not permitted to check his cello as baggage without having purchased a seat on the aircraft--then it would still go as baggage! He was told there was no room, despite lots of sets of golf clubs, etc. It would seem this is a targeted attempt to deny the rights of musicians. Perhaps we all need to boycott US Airways.
Posted on May 29, 2014 at 4:28 AM
In 1978, I flew from Memphis,Tn to Macon,Ga with a Martin HD28,a Gibson Les Paul and a Gibson Custon L5. The stewardess said they could go in their closet. Zero problem and they helped me off the plane when we landed. My parents didn't know what to think when I came off that plane with three guitars and two pretty stewardess's!!!!!
Posted on May 29, 2014 at 6:41 AM
I've been very passionate about this Topic for years. I've reposted a Link to this article on this - Stop Traveling Musicians' Abuse!!! - Page, where you'll see that Fame doesn't guarantee Safety from Abuse when traveling with the Musical Instruments….


From Laurie Niles
Posted on May 29, 2014 at 2:09 PM
Here is a comment that we got on our Facebook page that I think is helpful for the future:

From Lindsay Shipps:

There's quite a lot of info out there if you have time to read it (people are busy and I never know how much to provide).

Essentially: Regional airlines operate more than 50 percent of the nation’s commercial schedule with more than 13,000 regional airline flights every day. Why does this matter? Because each particular regional airline does not necessarily adhere to the same policies as mainline airlines, read: Delta, Lufthansa, USAir, United, etc. Often the regional airline will be functioning as the forementioned airlines (or another I did not mention due to space limitations).

The following is excerpted from the following document

"In the United States, regional airlines operate short- and medium-haul scheduled airline service, often connecting smaller communities with larger cities. Almost all regional airlines operate under codeshare agreements with one or more major carriers. Under these agreements, the regional operates flights on behalf of the major carrier, who markets and tickets these flights under its own two-letter flight designator code. Typically, no tickets are sold under the regional’s own code. In addition to using the major’s code, the regional’s flights also share the major’s brand.

"For example, the regional’s planes are painted in the major’s color schemes, the regional’s flight attendants [may] wear the uniforms of the major, passengers traveling on the regional earn the major’s frequent flyer points, and the regional [may[ use the logos, trademarks and even the name of the major (for example, regional airline Comair operates for Delta under the name Delta Connection). To facilitate passenger connections between the regional and the major, the schedules of the regional and its partner are coordinated, and often the regional carrier’s schedule is dictated by the major carrier. Check-in and baggage handling are also coordinated so that passengers need only check-in and check their luggage once, at the start of their trip. "

What does this mean for instrumentalists? It means you have to hold your own. It means you know the policy and if questioned, gently remind TSA/airline/airport staff that you're able to carry on your instrument (even if you have to buy a ticket for your 'cello). AND: It means that ALL airlines, regional or mainline, must adhere to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Sec. 401 re: Musical Instruments) but that the airline industry is typically granted exceptional leeway in the name of all-hallowed "safety." If the crew (Captain, First Officer, Flight Attendant, Gate Agent or otherwise) determines that your instrument is a hazard or impediment to safety, you're SOL.

So my best advice is to avoid the situation in the first place. If possible, try to get on the aircraft first. Then, if there's not a lot of overhead room, ask the pax (passengers) around you to help you out a la: "Ma'am, may I move your item a bit so I could fit my antique/family heirloom/Strad/great-grandmother's violin in the overhead bin? It's real special to me and I'd appreciate it." blah blah blah.

Basically don't give the Flight Attendant (FA) a reason to get all up in your business. If there's absolutely no room, gather up your wits and ask the FA if there's any room at all in the crew baggage area (it's forward near the cockpit in CRJs). If after that, you've given up and you reluctantly trudge off the plane (as I would if I were couriering instruments), go immediately to the gate agent and ask him/her to book you on the next flight which is probably the same (regional) airline and the same kind of aircraft, as Zachary DePue and Time for Three found out this past weekend. If you have any more questions please don't hesitate to let me know. Best, -Lindsay Shipps

Posted on May 29, 2014 at 6:19 PM
Do NOT think that because Congress passed a law, you will never have to check your case.
The important point is that, even after the FAA issues its new rules to implement the new law, if all of the overhead bins are full by the time you try to place your case in a bin, you are going to have to check your case unless (1)another passenger offers to check an already stowed item
(2) a crew member agrees to place your case in a secure place (3)there is an empty seat in which you can secure your case.
The closer you are to the beginning of the boarding line, the better chance you have of finding space in the overheads.
Also, another problem to be aware of: if you place your case in an empty overhead bin, be sure to place your case in the end of the bin closest to the cockpit. If your case is in the tail end of an otherwise empty bin, when the pilot puts on the brakes after landing, your case will slide very quickly to the opposite end of the bin.
My limited experience with Southwest is the gate attendants
couldn't care less if you have a violin case. I have seen many guitars board Southwest flights (but I have no idea if one or more had to be checked).
I have seen an Internet photo of a guitar that had to be checked. I don't recall whether it was repairable.

Posted on May 29, 2014 at 7:13 PM
To the person who asked about taking the instrument out of the case for the flight, definitely DO NOT do this. The air at cruise altitude is extremely dry and the cabin humidity can frequently be less than 20%, a 'shock' that will really stress the construction of your instrument. Not to mention the greatly increased risk of mechanical damage. Much safer to take your chances with the baggage handlers than to expose your instrument naked to the rapidly varying humidity and temperature of the cabin.
Posted on May 29, 2014 at 9:57 PM
I do not know the current standards for carry-on bags but I thought it was one and one only. It HAS to go totally under the seat or in the overhead. No holding anything. This is a safety precuation. Something as simple as a cocktail pick can become a missile inflicting damage in a crash. Imagine what a violin in a case will do. If you are to take up the length of the overhead with your case how will you feel when someone tosses in a bag on top or very close to it? Everyone is entitled to some space but no one is entitled to most of the space. This can be tough on a full flight. I wish you all safe travels.

Please note USAirways carry-on bags info...

Posted on May 30, 2014 at 4:57 AM
I am a flight attendant who works on a CRJ700. I have never seen anyone turned away for carrying a violin, on board. As a matter of fact, I, personally have rearranged people and luggage, several times, to accommodate guitars, various horns, and even cellos. If we have enough seats, we can actually strap a larger instrument into a seat, as long as it is in the window seat, and it does not block the view of any safety placards. I HAVE seen many people run into problems, when they are aggressive, or come aboard with a negative attitude. Attitude and approach can change everything, and once someone starts acting, in what appears to be a fit, such as the violinist in the green shirt, in the video, things seldom turn out positively. We have Captains who play and appreciate violins, violas and cellos. I would suspect that they, too, would ignore, and walk away from the young man in the video. It's always possible that the violins were not the main issue. Without being there, from start to finish, there is no way to tell. I am always ready to quickly think out an answer to any problem, but I am much more willing to do so, for someone who approaches me honestly, and without the attitude that I am their enemy. I would, though, probably turn away a piano, at the door without a second thought.
Posted on June 1, 2014 at 1:30 AM
I am a retired TWA Captain. These three need to submit this video to Homeland Security and the FAA. They say to them that they were INVOLUNTARILY put out on the ramp alone which is a major security breach. USAir will then be in major trouble and looking at major fines.

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