Chicago-based violinist Rachel Barton Pine was turned away when she tried to board an American Airlines flight on 27 April with her violin. She was travelling to New Mexico for a performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.
Although Barton Pine flies 100,000 miles per year with the company, and AA had informed her she could carry the instrument, the captain reportedly refused to let her take it into the cabin. Pine has a 1742 Guarneri del Gesu, the “ex Bazzini ex Soldat,” model on a lifetime loan–hardly an instrument you would want to risk putting in the hold.
Pine pointed out that the American Airlines’ policy states, “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.” However, the captain allegedly told her that “It is not going on because I say so.”
Luckily, airport staff helped Pine to rebook her flight and she was able to travel and meet her engagements.
Many more musicians face problems when travelling with their instruments. Earlier this year, we reported on Nathan Chan, a Juilliard-trained cellist, who was compelled to leave his instrument with family members in Vancouver after the flight crew refused to let him strap it into a seat he had paid for. The incident resulted in a petition being set up to make the airline change its policy.
On a brighter note, you can watch Barton Pine playing Paganini in this clip.