Video: Barred from Flight, Violinists Play Bach on Tarmac

Email a Friend

Two classical violinists said they were barred from boarding a US Airways flight on Monday because they refused to stow their violins in the hold at the request of gate staff. So they did what seemed only logical: they took their cause to YouTube and social media.

Nicholas Kendall and Zachary De Pue of the string trio Time for Three posted a video showing the latter violinist performing a Bach Partita on the tarmac at Charlotte Douglas International Airport while Kendall narrates: "US Airways is not letting us put our violins on an airplane. How many artists have to deal with this [expletive]?"

A man identified as the plane's pilot is seen retrieving luggage in the background.

In a phone interview on Monday night, Kendall said the incident occurred when he and De Pue were changing planes in Charlotte, headed to the Artosphere Arts and Nature Festival in Arkansas. As they climbed the stairway to the US Airways Express commuter jet, a flight attendant reportedly handed them a blue slip stating that the FAA prohibits musical instruments on the plane, "which was stunning because we're frequent fliers," he said. "We had never heard of this."

When told that their violins would have to be checked, the musicians protested, which prompted a phone call to an airport "conflict resolution officer." They turned around and waited for the officer on the tarmac, at which point they shot the performance video, partly as a way of demonstrating their professional credentials (De Pue is also concertmaster of the Indianapolis Symphony). After returning to the terminal – and after a flurry of Twitter messages – the violinists were booked on a later flight.

A US Airways spokesman on Tuesday characterized the incident as a "disagreement over policy" and said that the airline staff acted in accordance with company rules. "Sometimes cases won't fit," he noted, adding that the flight crew were "trying to follow policy."

While waiting for the next flight, a frustrated Kendall said he learned from a colleague about a 2012 Federal law stating that passengers may carry a violin or other small instrument in the aircraft cabin provided there is space. They obtained copies of the law and presented it as they boarded their rescheduled flight. They also Tweeted:

"No one would ever think that small violins would be a threat," said Kendell. "But I think we are enjoying the fact that we can be a voice for thousands of musicians through social media." The musicians' video has received more than 75,000 views as of Tuesday afternoon.

Time for Three will be featured on a WQXR Café Concert due out in June.