We’ve had a lot of discussion on Live and Let’s Fly about passengers unjustifiably disobeying flight attendants, but sometimes it is necessary to stand up for yourself rather than roll over when the flight attendant is clearly in the wrong. An incident concerning a violin and a misinformed flight attendant makes this point clear.
A Debate Over A Violin And Federal Rules With A Flight Attendant
Rachelle Hunt is a prolific violist and member of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. She travels across the country and around the world with her violin, always as a carry-on item. The incident took place onboard an August 10th United Express flight (operated by CommutAir) from Knoxville (TYS) to Washington Dulles (IAD), UA4349, utilizing an Embraer ERJ-145.
Hunt was first to board, but was immediately stopped by the flight attendant, who informed her that her violin would have to be checked. That would not have ended well…
Hunt, seemingly prepared, showed the flight attendant a federal regulation specifying that airlines must accept musical instruments as hand luggage, provided there is room for it onboard.
Specifically, she referenced §403 of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which does indeed require carriers to allow music instruments as carry-on items as long as 1.) they fit in the overhead bin or under the seat and 2.) there is space. Furthermore, carriers are prohibited from charging passengers with a musical instrument as a carry-on an additional fee other than any standard fee carriers impose for carry-on items.
But the flight attendant wasn’t buying that:
“We don’t go with the federal law. We go with the United…”
But Hunt did not back down, stating:
“I’m sorry, I’m standing up for my rights because this instrument cannot be checked.”
She later told Classic FM:
“I was only able to board with my violin after a long argument because I refused to give in and was luckily able to speak with an understanding pilot. He intervened eventually and the flight attendant very grudgingly agreed to let me take my violin as an ‘exception’. Federal law is not an exception.”
Hunt is a Star Alliance Gold member and as such, enjoys priority boarding. She claims to maintain status “so that I can preboard with my violin exactly to avoid these problems.” With a first-come, first-serve approach to carry-on storage onboard, that is not a bad plan.
For its, part: CommutAir admitted its flight attendant was in the wrong and said it would “review guidance” to avoid repeat incidents in the future:
“We regret this misunderstanding and are carefully reviewing all guidance issued to our employees specific to musical instruments to avoid this from happening again in the future.”
The violin made it safely to Washington Dulles.
Hunt’s event reminds me of a very similar incident on the same aircraft that took place with me…in 2010. Some thing never change…
Kudos to Hunt for standing up to the flight attendant in a firm but respectful way.
image: Rachelle Hunt / Facebook
If the passengers can be banned from flying and fined for not following FA instructions, why cannot the FAs be fired and fined for blatantly disregarding the law?
While Rachelle is in the right, her tone is rude and combative. If she had a different attitude with the FA, she probably wouldn’t have had an issue in the first place. A little honey often works better than vinegar.
Like the time I asked them to make sure the ‘fragile’ word was obeyed on luggage that they made me check at the door…. It cost them big $$$ in plane repairs and a 90+ minute delay when they threw it into the luggage compartment resulting in the corner of the item breaking through the box and puncturing part of the plane
That is one heck of a fragile item if it tore a whole in the plane’s structure…
I can totally believe that the FA said exactly this, because it’s the sort of thing I’ve heard many of them say for years now when they’re disagreed with.
That photo doesn’t look like a United uniform. Are you sure your headline is correct? I don’t think that’s United.
As Matthew says, it’s CommutAir dba United Express. Unless the regional partner is a wholly owned subsidiary (such as Envoy, Piedmont, and PSA who do business as American Eagle and are part of American Airlines Group), they don’t wear the uniforms of the airline they fly for. As many regional airlines (including SkyWest, the largest) fly under the brand of multiple airlines, and their crew might fly for any combination of American Eagle, Delta Connection, United Express, and Alaska in one trip. Typically the FAs wear some sort of scarf or necktie that matches the color of the airline they are flying for on that segment.
They never learn. Unless it is impossible, go along with the passenger. they pay the salaries around here.
“We don’t go with the federal law. We go with the United…” That is why I don’t fly them.
That is NOT United, get your “story” correct!
Oh please. Read the story. Listen to her quote on video. Stop griping.
I love how people are saying it’s not United because of the uniform and completely ignore the basic of United branded alcohol wipes she is holding! I haven’t flown Southwest lately, are they handing out United alcohol wipes now??
basket, not basic! ugh…
I have a 19″x14″x9″ carry on that fits in the overhead bin of every aircraft United/United Express flies going back to the EMB120. Skywest F/As will almost always let be bring it aboard even though every gate agent will tell me it won’t fit. However, every other UExpress carrier F/A will either tell me that it doesn’t matter and it must be checked. We had one at IAD that said nothing with wheels was allowed which included my friend’s rolling computer case. I had one try to tell me that there was a 180lb/seat limit and my carry on and personal item would put me over that limit (I’m about 160#). After complaining to United, I got the standard “we’ll need to talk to our Regional partners about carry on policy”. Still the same.
Isn’t this a recycled story from a couple weeks ago? And is there even a story here? After being told incorrect information by the FA, the passenger was able to bring her violin as cabin baggage after speaking to someone different. And the FA was reminded of the correct policy by her regional partner. Sometimes employees get things wrong, but not every instance (especially this one) deserves a blog entry.
First time I’ve written about it…
Sounds like this stupid bint should be a cop!!
Another prime example of how United gets what it paid for by dumping XJT in favor of C5… I would have offered to put it in the closet…
This again? Please – give this poor girl a break who is obviously trying to do her job and was not educated on this “law”. Is it her fault? Really she is suppose every law associated with air travel. It seems to me the lady carry the violin could have handled it with more grace considering she is a classically trained musician and has traveled before. Sad she wasn’t classically trained in etiquette.
It all comes down to training and the attitude of the passenger.
Know there are complaints about passengers behavior, but as you know, there are other experiences, like the scolding one who makes the statement: “I expect all of you, when you are eating or drinking, to put your mask back on between sips and bites when you are in my plane.”
Authoritarians will abuse any opportunity. They need to be contained.
But when you check in for the flight, there is a check box YOU AGREE TO FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS. In the boarding announcements, YOU ARE GIVEN INSTRUCTIONS TO FOLLOW AND BEHAVE (I’m sure no one pays attention to). During the CURRENT SAFETY DEMONSTRATIONS (again nobody’s listening to) PASSENGERS ARE GIVEN THE FEDERAL VVERBIAGE for the MASK MANDATE, which clearly states between bites and sips prompty, (not when you feel like it) resecure your face mask…but hey, people are only concerned THEIR OWN SAFETY.
first hello all that are frequent flyers! Secondly, E145, the aircraft spoken of, is quite small. Most items at their slimmest may not fit. Overhead bins, on different models of each plane/aircraft can and does change. Flying on some regional carriers does not always guarantee all overhead bin space is the same. The passenger would have seen that her instrument was possibly going to have to be gate checked way before preboarding. On the app there are specifications on the type aircraft she was flying on. Gate agents DO NOT HAVE AUTHORITY on aircraft as far as being able to say if an item will or wont fit. Smaller aircraft like E145s and 200s DO NOT HAVE CLOSETS AND ARE NOT OFFERED TO PASSENGERS.
In this story, it sounds like the person, like most of the comments here, are spoiled and aggressive people who feel like everything is about them and their status. I’m sure this was not her first time on a regional jet nor her first time bringing her instrument with her to be told it would have to be checked. She could have bought the instrument a seat and that could’ve eliminated her issue as well. If a carry-on doesn’t fit within reasonable storage accommodation, it will be gate checked or the passenger can purchase a seat for the item. I know everyone here has been through aircraft safety and carry-on bag handling class CORRECT?! no? Well FAs go through trainings that gate agents and pilots don’t. But since no one cares about safety and only convenience then continue to be in your privileged mindsets. Carry On.
With all the violins in the world, can’t we all just get along?
So many seem to have to no clue what the FAA rules are, how sensitive instruments need to be stored with respect to travel, and how one clueless FA can make a mess. All newbie FA’s should understand that a world class violinist is not some self-imagined wanna-be pro golfer carrying his $500 clubs.
A $10K saxophone or $50K+ violin will NOT survive even ONE checked baggage segment – not even one segment. Lots of opinion here from those that no experince in travel with sensitive small instruments (musical or tech.