For the small fraternity of people who make their living coaxing musical notes out of vulnerable pieces of wood and metal, few things are more terrifying than seeing an expensive, defenseless instrument disappear on that little conveyor belt at the airport. There’s the story of a musician who checked his $45,000, 75-year-old cello, which airport workers placed beneath somebody’s golf clubs, snapping its neck. A Florida State University music student on a flight to Tallahassee found splinters of wood where her cello used to be. Which is why there’s an unwritten musicians’ rule: Never trust an airline with your instrument.
So when a Houston-based gate agent at United Airlines told Yennifer Correia that she would have to check her 17th-century violin, which costs more than her car, the first words out of her mouth were: “What are my other options?” The situation soured from there, her attorney says, resulting in what is becoming another black eye for the airline industry. Correia asked for an airport supervisor. But the supervisor said there were no other options. The violin had to be checked. Correia told the supervisor, “I can’t not take my violin on board. I’ll pay the money. I’ll take another flight. Just tell me what I can do.” Correia told the agents that she would appeal to their bosses and asked the supervisor for her name. The supervisor said she wanted Correia’s name and then “lunged” for Correia’s case and “tried to wrestle it away from the musician.” Correia started screaming for Help. The supervisor said she was going to call security, and Correia apparently responded, “Please do.” Then the supervisor dashed off — and wasn’t seen again.
Correia’s attorney claims that during the scuffle her hand was injured. She doesn’t believe there is permanent damage. United Airlines said it is “reaching out Correia … to gain a better understanding of what occurred and to offer assistance.” Federal law requires airports to accommodate musicians who want to carry their instruments with them in the airplane’s cabin. Correia booked a flight on American Airlines instead of United — and carried her violin the whole time.