International soloist: Why I slept on airport floor
September 30, 2015 by norman lebrecht
We have received a full account from Rachel Barton Pine on why she and her family spent the night on an airport floor after US Airways refused to board her precious Guarnerius violin. Rachel is at pains in her email to point out that the US Airways attendants were never rude. Just bloody unhelpful. Read Rachel’s tale below.
On Sunday night, my family and I were flying US Airways from the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport to Chicago O’Hare. Ironically, I had been in Phoenix to film a performance and interview for the upcoming Cremona violin exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum, an installation designed to increase the general public’s understanding of these special antique instruments.
My husband, daughter and I arrived at the airport in what should have been plenty of time to get to the gate early, but we had a “perfect storm” of delays with returning the rental car, checking in, and going through security, so we ended up being one of the last to board which was very unusual for us.
As we were about to board, the gate agent told me that there was no room left for my 1742 “ex-Bazzini ex-Soldat” Guarneri del Gesu in the overhead bins and indicated that it would have to be gate checked. After I explained that this would not be possible, she allowed us to board the plane to see if accommodations could be made. We found that there were a number of purses and bags in the overhead bins that could have been rearranged so that the violin could be placed behind them. Unfortunately, the flight attendants were unwilling to assist in rearranging the overhead bins. We didn’t want to make a fuss and delay takeoff, so we exited the plane and the airline booked us on another flight. As all of our luggage was still on the original plane and our next flight was in five hours, we waited through the night in the terminal for our morning flight.
I want to be clear that everyone at US Airways with whom we interacted conducted themselves professionally – no one was rude. I sent out the tweets/posts because this is such an important issue for all touring musicians. There seems to be a real lack of awareness in the airline industry. I think that their belief that gate-checking the violin was a workable solution might have led to their lack of willingness to help us rearrange the bins so that everything fit.
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