Airline refuses to carry a 1742 Guarneri violin so violinist sleeps on airport floor

30 September 2015, 12:22 | Updated: 30 September 2015, 16:33

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine and her family were left stranded at Phoenix Airport in order to protect her 275-year-old instrument.

Airlines, cabin space, musicians and priceless instruments have clashed again: violin virtuoso Rachel Barton Pine chose to spend a night on an airport floor, waiting for another filght, rather than put her violin at risk in a general luggage hold. 

Renowned American soloist Rachel Barton Pine was travelling from Phoenix to Chicago on US Airways. When she approached the gate to board her plane, Barton Pine was told by the gate agent that there was no room left for her 1742 'ex-Bazzini ex-Soldat' Guarneri del Gesu violin in the overhead lockers and that it would have to be checked into the aircraft's luggage hold.

She said there was an unwillingness of staff to rearrange the overhead lockers, even though she believed the space could be found. 

Barton Pine chose to leave the plane to ensure the safety of her instrument. As the airline provided no accommodation, the violinist and her family slept overnight on the airport's floor.

Although the violinist said that no staff were rude to her, she hit out at what she sees as airlines' lack of understanding about music instruments.

"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." 

This is not the first time that classical musicians have found their instruments at the mercy of airline baggage allowances. Cellist Alban Gerhardt's $20,000 bow was damaged on a flight to Chicago in 2013, while members of trio Time For Three staged an inventive runway protest when their instruments were denied access to a flight.