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