Management at American Airlines recently refused Erina Laraby–Goldwasser’s 1760 Buson viola on their flight from Pittsburgh International airport to Chicago O’Hare, despite their policies on musical instruments.
Having performed internationally for many years, Erina hardly encountered issues with airlines about her viola. “I travel a lot and have never experienced something quite like this before,” she told The Violin Channel. “I am really concerned that this could happen to somebody else; no-one should have to go through this during flights.”
Erina joined the Pittsburgh Symphony in 2007 and was previously a member of the Detroit Symphony. In 2014, she was invited by Zubin Mehta to join the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
“I have a BAM viola case and am always quite mindful of it,” she explained. “In it, I had my Buson 1760 viola, and two French bows — a Sartory plus an Ouchard viola bow. As I went to board my flight, the gate manager explained that they were no longer taking any luggage, [firstly unaware that the viola case was not a usual bag]. I told him I was happy to check-in my carry-on but not the viola. In response, he said I could not board my flight.
“Further, I wasn’t allowed on the plane to even ask or figure out an arrangement to have the viola onboard. People have always been very kind about having it on the flight — there have not been problems with this in the past,” Erina continued. “So finally, I pulled up their policy, which clearly states that musical instruments are not like suitcases and that whenever possible, the airline can make allowances for them.”
Erina got bumped onto a flight three hours later and received no compensation. Not only that, her suitcase got stolen at the American Airlines gate on the way back — she is yet to receive any reimbursement on this as well. “If this happened to a student, I couldn’t imagine for them what they’d deal with,” Erina said.
“Some people have told me in such situations that priority tickets are available, but how can music students studying at music schools or any student for that matter pay extra for each flight? It’s not reasonable, I have to say something about this,” she told us.
For those traveling with musical instruments, Erina advises: “Be as polite as you can and offer up solutions. Enlist the help of other customers, and if there is the option, to take up the priority boarding. Also, speak up when something is wrong. It’s not right for airlines to treat musicians this way,” she added.
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