Pilot Tells Woman She Can't Carry on Her $20M Violin

The Joseph Guarneri 'del Gesu' violin from 1742 is on loan to Rachel Barton Pine
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 29, 2016 8:28 AM CDT
Pilot Tells Woman She Can't Carry on Her $20M Violin
A file photo shows Rachel Barton Pine, at right. She's with Karen A. Shaffer holding the Lifetime Achievement Grammy on behalf of Maud Powell in 2014.   (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

A renowned Chicago musician is going public with her airline spat over a piece of carry-on luggage—because that piece of luggage happens to be a 1742 violin insured for almost $20 million. Rachel Barton Pine says an American Airlines captain refused to let her bring the Joseph Guarneri "del Gesu" violin aboard a Wednesday flight from O'Hare to New Mexico, where she was scheduled to perform, because he deemed it too big, reports the Chicago Tribune. When Pine, a frequent traveler, pointed out that the FAA—and American Airlines itself—allows instruments such as hers on a first-come basis as long as they fit in the overhead bin or under a seat, he still wouldn't budge. "It is not going on because I say so," she quotes him as saying. Instead of checking it as the crew suggested, she opted not to board at all.

"These are so delicate and breakable that if you check your violin, it will get broken," Pine tells KOB 4. "There's no maybe it will get broken. It definitely will get broken." American ticket agents got her on another flight, violin and all, and the airline says in a statement that it "has reached out to Ms. Barton directly to apologize for the inconvenience." She has the violin courtesy of a lifetime loan from an anonymous patron. Last year, Pine spent the night in a Phoenix airport terminal after a similar disagreement with US Airways, notes a post at Violinist.com. In a far more serious incident, back in 1995, the 1617 Amati violin Pine was carrying got trapped in a Metra train door; she was secured to it by its strap and dragged more than 300 feet. She was able to free herself, but the train's wheels took her left leg and mangled her right. (Read the story of how a stolen Stradivarius surfaced after 35 years.)

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