United mistreats US violinist

This is a lawyer’s letter describing the abuse suffered by violinist Yennifer Correa while trying to take her violin on board a United flight from Houston to St Louis.

Yennifer actually had to scream for help to stop a United supervisor from forcibly snatching the violin from her hands.

This airline is out of control.

Right click to enlarge the letter.

 

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  • Right-click doesn’t work for me (I tried this in Firefox and Google Chrome). It only gives me the standard options “View Image”, etc. which merely show the reduced size image.

  • globalization in action – I misread the header of this note as “United mistreated violinists” – totally changed world casts its own social stereotypes

    • Robert

      Select ‘copy image’ then paste it into a word-processing program eg WORD and you can enlarge it there.

      • I can enlarge the image, but it is still unreadable due to the high level of JPEG compression.

        • I double clicked on the image and it was displayed in my photo reader and was quite readable. Sounds like she was also assaulted.

          • She hurt her hand holding on to her violin while the UA staff tried to yank it away from her.

  • Why is it that so many airlines seem to have problems with classical instruments, even relatively small ones like Violins? I just don’t get it.

    It reminds me of something I once read (I believe it was a scene in an Ian McEwan novel) about someone being enraged by hearing classical music playing. The idea was that beauty can be terrifying and enraging to some people. Are some of these airline employees simply offended and enraged by the beauty (and alleged “elitism”) seemingly embodied by these instruments of high culture?

    • Ah yes it was I believe in Trainspotting, possibly during the lavatory scene? My nanny told us all about it after I tried for the Glasgow Govan seat.

  • Quite appalling, far better in my day we went to New Zealand by tea clipper, my cousin was playing with Busoni, one can enjoy a fine dinner at Captain’s Table. Pass the Port there Caruthers.

  • US airlines have ‘size wise’ baggage contraptions by ticket counters in the waiting area – if your cabin bag fits into that, you can take it on. Surely that is the ultimate test – if it sits in that without problem, I cant see any supervisor has a leg to stand on.

    • Violin cases that also house bows don’t fit in the sizing contraption. But that doesn’t matter. US regulations allow musical instruments to be carried on if there is room in the overhead bins for them.

  • This sounds to me like a matter of insufficient training, and possibly insufficient background checking, of employees.

    It sounds like the employee didn’t know — hadn’t been taught — any other way to deal with a “problem” except by confrontation and force. Customer doesn’t want to give up his seat? Call the police and have him removed by force. Customer doesn’t want to let go of her carry-on? Take it away from her by force. I see two problems here: (1) they are apparently hiring people who turn to force as a first resort (well, a 2nd resort after “no”), and (2) they are not training their people in the delicate art of saying “let me talk to the manager and see if we can figure something out,” and picking up a phone.

    Also probably (3) being extremely cost-conscious, no airline is going to have an extra staff member on hand to take care of processing the other customers while one of the gate agents deals with the problem. That might mean that the option of talking to a manager is out. So any disruption, no matter how small, is likely to bring the entire boarding process to a (hopefully temporary) halt, which creates a stressful situation for the boarding agent.

    I understand that their typical job applicant is not necessarily the best and brightest that America has to offer, but adequate training can give someone more conflict-resolution tools than what they learned on the playground in elementary school.

  • The airlines are 1) shooting themselves in their collective feet and 2) missing a marketing opportunity.

    An astute airline would 1) monitor all news about competitors’ customer service failures; 2) perceive and analyze trends, such as a) confrontational ‘service and b) failure to serve passengers who are instrumentalists; 3) immediately snap up the opportunity to become THE carrier of choice for traveling instrumentalists and 4) advertise this in the leading publications of the classical music sector.

    Imagine if there were an airline that 1) understood the particular needs of traveling instrumentalists; 2) acknowledged the high monetary, cultural, and personal value of each instrument; 3) reconfigured cabins to accommodate instruments – perhaps in a secure closet; 4) trained all staff to embrace these ideas and serve customers graciously; and 5) marketed this to the music community. Perhaps they could even offer a modest discount to members of nonprofit organizations, such as ensembles and music schools.

    It might cost more, but I’d be willing to pay a little extra to be assured that I’d be enabled to board the plane on time, and that my instrument would not be damaged, nor my arm.

    • Or people simply don’t have a choice if they want to avoid lengthy, cost-intensive zig-zag travel/driving/walking. The only airline that connects those two airports directly, is United Express.
      If you really want to know how limited the choices have become in many areas regarding intra-US air travel, do some reading on the topic of US airline consolidation.

      • Agree. There are only a handful of carriers left, and if you have the misfortune to not live near a major hub and are dependent on your local airport, then there is quite often no choice at all. Which leasves many wretched souls being forced to fly United. So much for freedom in the land of the free…

  • A fiddler could carry a violin out of a burning shtetl, but can’t out carry one out of a United flight.

  • My outrage about this is tempered by the fact, (reported elsewhere) that this individual bought one of the new basic economy fares which specifically disallows access to the overhead bins. https://consumerist.com/2017/06/07/musician-claims-united-airlines-wouldnt-let-her-board-with-centuries-old-violin/

    FAA regs and United rules have provisions allowing for musical instruments that will fit into the overhead bins to go there, even if they don’t fit the standard size limits. It is less clear to me that they require access to the bins for people who have gotten a lower fare by specifically giving up access to the bins.

    Yes she was treated badly, but given the fare that she bought, I am not convinced that she was entitled to put her violin on the plane.

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