For many years, primarily since 9-11, there have been innumerable incidents of TSA agents and airline officials around the world who have been capriciously pigheaded and seemingly malicious in regard to allowing musicians to carry their instruments on to planes. In the name of security, they have insisted that priceless violins, violas, and cellos be stowed as checked baggage, with the result that many of them have been irretrievably damaged. There have been cases of instruments being confiscated by customs agents even though the musicians provided extensive documentation of their ownership.
This just happened only yesterday on Alitalia:
Whenever I fly with my violin, I carry copies of the following documentation: Proof of my ownership, the violin’s insurance appraisal, and the federal regulations that require carriers to permit musicians to take their instruments into the cabin as carry-on luggage. With such documentation in hand I know I have at least a fighting chance in case of a skirmish. So far I’ve been lucky. Only a few times has a gate agent told me I might have to gate check the violin in the jet bridge as I enter the plane, especially when it’s a commuter airline. On those occasions, I graciously accept the pink card they hand me, nod politely, and proceed to ignore their instructions.
Yesterday, when I boarded a Delta flight from Salt Lake City to Boston with my violin case, I was prepared for combat, as usual. What actually happened was quite unexpected. First, the gate agent wished me a pleasant journey. So far so good. I entered the plane and made my way to Seat 29B of the full flight. When I began to put my violin case in the overhead compartment, a wily flight attendant approached me. Here goes, I thought.
“Is that a violin case?” she asked, smiling.
“Yes.” I smiled back.
“It must be very valuable,” she said. “You probably don’t want people putting their bags on top of it.”
“No. I guess not.”
“Let me find a safe place for in the back of the plane.”
“Sure,” I said.
I happily gave the attendant my case.
“It’s very light,” she said.
“Yes.” I smiled again.
She took the case to the back of the plane and delicately placed it—upside down until I told her—in the final overhead compartment.
“There,” she said. “All by itself. I promise no one will touch it and I’ll bring it back to you when we land.”
THE LESSON: There are people in the airline industry who are courteous, thoughtful, and understanding. May all of her colleagues learn that simple lesson.
THE IRONY: You might be wondering why I was so trusting. My violin has been at a shop in New York City. This week I’m going to pick it up. My case was empty.
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