Airline blamed for precious Chinese instrument damage

25 June 2013, 10:46 | Updated: 25 June 2013, 10:53

A Chinese musician who was due to give a concert with the Kronos Quartet has blamed a US Airways flight attendant for damaging it, rendering it unplayable for the concert.

Wu Man, who eventually performed on a replacement instrument, was taking her pipa (a Chinese stringed instrument, worth an estimated $50,000) on a US Airways flight to Hartford for the concert, when a flight attendant reportedly dropped the instrument.

Man initially tried to stow the instrument in the overhead storage on the plane, but it would not fit. She asked a flight attendant if she could strap it in the empty seat next to her instead, but the attendant offered to put it in a cupboard at the front of the plane.

However, the attendant dropped the instrument, breaking the neck. Man then disembarked the flight and took a larger plane to Hartford, where the instrument was put in overhead storage.

The Kronos Quartet, with whom Man gave the premier performance of a piece she had written with composer Philip Glass, posted about the incident on their Facebook page:

"Every musician's nightmare: our dear friend Wu Man's pipa was broken on her US Airways flight to Hartford yesterday. A flight attendant dropped the instrument right in front of her, broke it, and didn't even apologize. We are waiting to hear what US Airways will do to repair Wu Man's beautiful pipa, not to mention her broken heart."

The post climaxed with the message: "STEP UP TO THE PLATE, US AIRWAYS." They also posted pictures of the damage to the instrument, which will have to be repaired by a specialist in China.

US Airways responded to the Kronos Quartet via Twitter: "I'm sorry about your instrument. Plz fill out a Passenger Property form  so we can resolve this."

You can view our guide to taking musical instruments on planes here.