Video: Barred from Flight, Violinists Play Bach on Tarmac

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 - 11:00 AM

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.


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Comments [19]

Penelope from Palo Alto

I don't play a violin but I sympathise.
One thing is sure I won't be flying US Airways any time soon

Jun. 05 2014 01:44 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Wonerful, wonderful. Turn on the bubble machine.

May. 29 2014 11:58 AM
Barry Owen Furrer

Ms. Nardone~
Can you imagine Myron Floren trying to get his accordion on this flight? He'd be a little hard pressed, or perhaps a tight squeeze at least!

May. 29 2014 11:23 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

DD: Not enough for a kerfuffle. The puns are great. I might have been wrong about Lawrence Welk. I think he was asked if there was too much violence on tv and he said he had the right amount of violence in his orchestra.
Best wishes to all. Keep the puns coming.

May. 29 2014 11:01 AM
Bernie from UWS

@Arn - no need to blow a gasket. These guys just look like they could have handled this more diplomatically. No need to be personal about it!

May. 28 2014 11:00 PM

@ concetta -- A kerfuffle in the making? There's so much NOT reported here. Were they transferring from a US Airways jet to a US Airways Express commuter jet? Have they ever had trouble with a US Airways Express commuter jet before?

It also seems odd to me that the flight crew had little blue slips of paper prohibiting musical instruments on the plane at the ready. Is that for cellos? Harps? Flutes? Can anyone actually cite FAA policy? If musical instruments can't be on the plane, doesn't that apply to the hold, as well?

So many questions for one kerfuffle!


May. 28 2014 08:06 PM

@ Barry -- Some of your puns were just, well, viol.


May. 28 2014 07:56 PM
Arn Prince from UWS

And what, Bernie? They should wear tuxes on all flights, just to appear credible?? And, actually, they had a legitimate fight on their hands - how often do you travel with something worth 1000s of $, upon which you depend for your livelihood, and are told, for no good reason (in fact, a line that goes against the FAA regulations)they must put them in a hold where there are no guarantees of safety, climate control, or even arriving with them?? You are wrong, and they are and were heroes to real musicians everywhere! Backward baseball caps are far superior to your backward attitude.

May. 28 2014 07:49 PM
Bernie from UWS

I don't know how sympathetic I feel. These guys, with their backwards baseball caps, seem like they were out to start a fight. No wonder the pilot is ignoring them. He doesn't want a fight. It goes to show you: you can catch more flies with honey.

May. 28 2014 12:39 PM
Neil McGowan

Just boycott this Neanderthal airline.

There are other airlines who would love your business.

There is no room in this world for Captain Caveman and his Redneck Crew.

Write to U.S.Airways and tell them what redneck trash they are:

May. 28 2014 10:14 AM
Les from Miami, Florida

...and still this treatment after demonstration of credentials...namely, playing the Bach Partita? U.S. Air, this is from "As You Like It"...a play by William Shakespeare...a famous playwright...who lived in England a long time ago..."I do desire we may be better strangers".

May. 28 2014 09:43 AM
Sarah Eigen from New York, NY

Ignorant action taken by USAir. USAir staff should be blushing, a really long and dark red blushing. And the baggage handlers definitely mishandle things. Hope the next voyage is smooth for the Trio.

May. 28 2014 08:47 AM

Ridiculous, insulting and just plain ignorant on the part of USAir.
There a lot of horror-stories about [eople's belongings being abused,. destroyed and damaged, and also abusive behavior towards passengers - s-year gold grandmother being strip-searched, for example. Some of the "officials" get very drunk on a very small amount of power.

May. 28 2014 07:33 AM
Mr. Contrarian from Frawtucket, MA

Honestly, I think the airline was well within its rights, if their policy was consistent with their behavior. Every business has a right to set and enforce policy.

These musicians strike me as a bit immature and self-righteous. I think one would be hard pressed to demonstrate that not getting your way is a human rights violation. I appreciate their predicament, but that isn't the airlines problem.

May. 28 2014 12:31 AM
Barry Owen Furrer

Perhaps these situations should be reviewed on a case by case basses. Heck, there's always room for 'cello. I wonder if former Mets pitcher Frank Viola ever had this problem when traveling with the team?

May. 27 2014 09:51 PM
Richard Marino

Concetta, Rosanna Nana Danna famously was concerned about violins in the subway :)

May. 27 2014 05:39 PM
chris Jensen

US Air forced me to put my cameras in the cargo hold on the tarmac in Burbank CA. Unfortunately I complied. when we landed in Arizona to transfer the ground crew threw my camera bag up a flight of stairs onto the jetway landing even though I was waving wildly from behind the locked glass door. And the dude knew he looked right at me gave me a smile and I watched $25K worth of my work tools land at the door he then came to the top of the stairs and the door wouldn't open for all the bags...he just tugged on it until the force moved the bags far enough to open the door...both my Hasselblad digital back and Nikon camera sustained significant damage. US Air did not respond.

May. 27 2014 05:32 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Lawrence Welk(?) said years ago that there was too much violins on tv.
Ba Room Boom

May. 27 2014 01:32 PM
Harris Ruben from New Jersey

They only want to prevent violins in airplanes. It's obvious.

May. 27 2014 12:35 PM

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