They said they would call police if I took my instrument on board

They said they would call police if I took my instrument on board


norman lebrecht

December 11, 2014

From Sam Schlosser, principal trombone of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra:

san schlosser



I will NEVER EVER fly US Airways again. Discrimination against musicians. They have a long record of it, and I’m adding my experience today to the list. Had with me a tiny carry-on (easily fits under the seat) and my horn in its super-compact Marcus Bonna case. They said they would call the police(!) if I tried to board with the trombone, refused to let me show them that it would fit, and were incredibly belligerent while I remained polite and pleaded my case.

Page 74-75. If you’re a musician, carry this with you when you fly! They will try every trick they know to get around this law, including lying to your face that it doesn’t exist.…/BILLS-112hr6…/pdf/BILLS-112hr658enr.pdf

I explained that I fly all the time with my horn and have never ever had a problem with any other airline. Told them about the bill passed by congress explicitly stating that musical instruments ARE allowed on board aircraft in addition to a small carry-on and a personal item. The agent responded with “I KNOW THE LAW!” Apparently he doesn’t!!!! They threatened to throw me off the plane because I was “clearly going to cause problems during the flight,” which is nonsense… Unbelievably bad customer service every time I fly US Airways. I’ve never had a problem with United, they’re good people. Fly United, not US Airways. It’s not worth it!


  • sdReader says:

    Er, Sam, this is 145 pages. Might want to help us navigate here … .

  • Scott Fields says:

    So what happened in the end? Checked your trombone? Took a different flight? Convinced them to let you carry on?

    • Patrick says:

      The airline probably just let it slide. None of the staff wanted to get into a position where they could trigger a situation in which their company would be smeared.

      All out of posaune puns…..

  • Neil van der Linden says:

    It would have been interesting to have the police called.

  • bratschegirl says:

    I’ve heard many such stories about US Air over the years, including a viola colleague who was forced to check her case and bows and carry her viola, wrapped in a blanket, on her lap for the duration of the flight. Time for a little social media piling on? Seemed to do the trick for Singapore this week.

    One of the reasons this is still a problem is that, while Congress did indeed pass this bill nearly 3 years ago, the airlines aren’t actually required to follow what it says until its provisions become part of the FAA regulations. Congress has repeatedly refused to provide the funding necessary for those regulations to actually get written, so although it’s the law, the airlines aren’t technically required to follow it yet. I know, my head hurts too.

    • Mathieu says:

      The funny thing is that this law, H.R.658, is better known for allowing a larger use of drones over the American soil, entailing potential privacy rights infringements all over the US. Strangely, Congress is not withholding funds as far as this program is concerned. Musicians, on the other hands, can wait.

    • Max Grimm says:

      They did this to me traveling with my viola as well. I had to check my case and the bows and hand-carry my viola. What came next might actually be funny to some, she handed me a trash bag for my viola. When I asked what the trash bag was for (almost expecting a practical viola joke on top of taking my case), the agent told me apologetically “to help keep it clean and somewhat protected”.
      They’ve also done something similar to a friend, making him carry his laptop in hand but forcing him to check his laptop bag.

  • Ted Seitz says:

    United is still living down the viral youtube song “United Breaks Guitars,” from a few years back. They haven’t forgotten.

  • Patrick says:

    With my orchestra we rejected US Airways because of their restrictions/limitations and flew to Puerto Rico with AirTran instead. Their service was good and their entire fleet has fullsize overhead bins. They were very accommodating when, unfortunately, US Airways was not. When travelling independently on US Airways I’ve seen violinists on board, but if you ask, be ready to hear “no”. Fortunately, we asked in advance and were told our instruments (18 violins and violas) would need to be checked. So, we booked through AirTran who specifically said they would allow us to bring them on board. It was smoother flying to Puerto Rico, but no serious issue flying home. Just a little grumbling at the gate.

  • Horace says:

    I’ve heard a lot abut this from many musician friends, who travel with their instruments all over the world. They all say that they have the worst treatment and experiences in the United States. Rude service, aggressive security agents who behave as if they never saw a musical instrument before, with one asking my friend at Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport what she had in her “suitcase”. When she said “a violin” the agent asked her to show what that was, as he had never seen a violin before, not even in pictures. He then asked, in all sincerity, if the violin could also be used as a weapon. She said never. The guard responded that somebody should come up with an easy way of converting a violin into a weapon and he would buy into the business.

    The U.S. reminds me so much today of the former Soviet Union in the mid 60’s. Rules and regulations and fear everywhere and especially at the airports. Their airlines are really like some third level country’s carriers. That doesn’t stop them from proclaiming and preaching their imagined superiority.

  • Itsy Ditsy says:

    Think that they said – “If you point that thing at us and threaten to use it – You’re under arrest”.

  • Saul Davis says:

    Take Amtrak.