American Airlines pilot denies Rachel Barton Pine access to cabin with her violin

The musician was travelling with the 1742 Guarneri ‘del Gesú’ ‘Soldat’ violin – on lifetime loan – from Chicago to Albuquerque

April 28, 2016

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine was denied boarding an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Albuquerque with her instrument yesterday evening, according to her PR company. The captain refused to allow the musician to take the 1742 Guarneri ‘del Gesú’ ‘Soldat’ violin – on lifetime loan to Pine and pictured below – into the cabin because ‘its dimensions were not correct for a carry-on’.

Pine was travelling to perform with the New Mexico Philharmonic and to take part in the orchestra’s outreach programme. The violinist flies over 100,000 miles a year with American Airlines and has flown on the same type of plane on numerous occasions, placing the violin case in the overhead compartment.

Pine, who was the first passenger on board, quoted American Airlines policy, which 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.’

But according to the violinist the captain replied, ‘It is not going on because I say so’.

The American Airlines counter staff were very apologetic, said Pine, and managed to find her an alternative route to enable her to honour her commitments. However, the violinist was forced to take a two connecting flights rather than the direct flight she had originally booked.

‘The Department of Transportation and the airlines have established important policies to protect musical instruments. However, those policies are meaningless if they are not enforced or if the airline staff and crews are not properly educated and trained,’ said Pine.

Last year the violinist was forced to sleep in an airport terminal after being told that her violin would not fit in the overhead bin of her US Airways flight.



Credit 1742 Guarneri ‘del Gesú’ ‘Soldat’ violin: J.B. Spector

Credit Rachel Barton Pine photo: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Read: Time For Three violinists denied access to US Airways flight with instruments

Read: Air Canada offers discounted fares and priority boarding for musicians

3 Comments on American Airlines pilot denies Rachel Barton Pine access to cabin with her violin

  1. Martin Bogomolni // April 28, 2016 at 8:19 pm // Reply

    Things are a little more complex than the article states. The airline was Envoy Air flight 3542, codesharing with American Airlines for the direct flight. The plane is a small Canadair RJ 700, with overhead bins that are much smaller in size than normal ( slightly larger than a shoebox, but smaller than most carry-ons ) … it is possible that there really was no space on this aircraft to accommodate the violin in the case. There is, however, a small jacket/coat closet onboard, which would have sufficed.

    • SummitCindy // April 29, 2016 at 4:59 pm // Reply

      bin size may have been 45x15x9. A standard or travel double violin case will not fit. Some travel violin cases are 32x10x6.

  2. Rick Astley // April 28, 2016 at 11:08 pm // Reply

    It’s nice that people have empathy about this, but in order to really understand what’s going on, you can’t compare your $1000 electric guitar to Ms. Barton’s del Gesu, which aside from being a wholly unique masterpiece of an instrument is worth literally millions of dollars. It’s like comparing that nice print you got at Crate and Barrel to a Picasso.

    Not to call people out who are well-meaning, but this misunderstanding of what these instruments are is the basis for the problem in the first case. If the airline staff understood what this is and what Ms. Barton is doing, they would not have asked her to check the instrument (would you check your Picasso?) If other passengers understood what it was they wouldn’t jam their luggage up against it, etc…

    I do not envy people who have to travel with instruments. It is their means of livelihood and a philistine population can’t seem to understand that.

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