USAir won’t let concertmaster board with violin

USAir won’t let concertmaster board with violin


norman lebrecht

July 24, 2015

It’s summer and the flying’s getting harder. This just in from Andres Cardenes, former concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony and a busy teacher and performer:

Just when I start thinking the airlines understand the law regarding violins as carry-on, the B35 gate agent in Pittsburgh tells me I can’t carry it on, nor would it fit. I immediately argued, whereupon she began laughing at me. Fortunately, I carry a copy of the law in my case and showed her. She then proceeded to ignore me as I tried to enter my FF#. Power trip, ignorance, disrespect and rudeness. Nice job description, USAir/American Airlines.

violin on plane


No apologies or even acknowledged me after I argued it was the law. Another gate agent took care of me while the original one ignored me.


  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Andres, so sorry you had to endure that incident. I hope every player reads your post and has a copy of that law with them in hand, should it be necessary to produce the document.

  • Michael Klotz says:

    Thankfully Andres arrived in Miami safely this morning with his glorious Peter Guarneri and presented a fabulous masterclass for our students at the Miami Summer Music Festival!

  • Patrick says:

    Traveling to Puerto Rico with a chamber orchestra two years ago, we passed on making reservations with US Airways due to their insistence that our violins and violas would not fit in the cabin. We traveled with AirTran who were not only accommodating but also allowed us to board a little early so each instrument would have a safe and secure place in the amply large bins.

  • Francis says:

    Sorry to hear it. Could you share a copy of the law you have? It would be useful for many, I’m sure.

  • David Basskin says:

    its all in service of the First Maxim of Bureaucracy: That’s fine in practice – but will it work in theory?”

  • Jeffrey Solow says:

    A successful outcome (with no help from that particular gate agent–I hope that the 2nd agent, at least, apologized on behalf of USAirways) since Andres was prepared with a copy of the law.

    Cellists, unfortunately, have no such recourse. A few years ago USAirways instituted a policy that they will, under no circumstances, check a cello in baggage, one must buy a seat–this even applies if the instrument is fully insured and in a special flight case. I ran into this situation in San Francisco on my return from concerts in Hanoi when my ‘travel’ cello (a lower cost Chinese one) had to be checked by customs and USAirways was going to force me to buy it a ticket for about $1000. Luckily, United Airlines agreed to honor my ticket and allowed me to complete my itinerary with my cello as checked baggage.

  • Jeffrey Solow says:

    I appreciate the suggestion but no one traveling to play a concert wants to ship his/her instrument separately–besides, where would you ship it to (or from)? I was playing concerts in Hanoi…

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      They have Fedex locations in Vietnam, too! You can ship it to one of their locations or have it delivered to one of your local contacts. Also drop it off at a shipping location or have them come and pick it up. Same with UPS or DHL.

      All that just as suggestions – I don’t have a cello (I have a bass but don’t play professionally anymore, so I rarely need to travel with it). If you google that subject, you will probably find some testimony about how well it works, about the customs stuff and all that. So I can’t tell you if it is a much better idea, but I wouldn’t write it off without doing some research first.

      • Scott Fields says:

        FedExing anything that you need soon across international borders is a flawed plan. When you fly with your instrument, you manage customs on the spot. But packages can sit in customs for weeks and sometimes must be retrieved in person from the customs office. I’ve had guitars travelling from Germany to the USA sit in American customs for three weeks. Items travelling from the USA to Germany sometimes are held for even longer and I have to take a subway half-an-hour to the customs office, where I’ve waited up to two hours to provide receipts and documentation. Instruments need to travel with their owners.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          If you travel across international borders and delivery of your instrument or equipment is critical and time sensitive, then you may need the help of a professional customs broker. Fedex and other shipping companies also offer customs brokerage services. We sometimes ship large quantities of expensive and sensitive audio and video equipment across international borders, and if the paperwork is in order and it is handled by an experienced broker, it’s generally not a problem and there are no unnecessary delays. That’s how orchestras also often handle international tours, whether the instrument cases go on the same plane with them or get shipped separately.
          Within customs boundaries, e.g. within the US or within the EU, shipping the instrument in an appropriate container with a professional shipping company is easy and reliable, and you won’t have the airport security monkeys going in your case and messing with your stuff.
          Just traveling with the instrument in hand would of course be preferable, but the many articles on this forum alone about the increasing hassles suggest that unfortunately becomes less and less an option.