A United Airlines supervisor attempted to wrestle a 17th century violin from a classical musician after the airline said the priceless instrument must be checked as hold luggage.
The incident is the latest in a string of controversies to involve the airline, starting with the forced removal of a doctor from an aircraft in April, and including the death of what could have been the world’s largest rabbits on one of its flights.
According to violinist Yennifer Correia, when the incident happened she was on the way from Houston to St Louis, to play in the summer season at the Missouri Symphony Orchestra.
At the check-in desk Ms Correia was told her violin would have to be placed in the hold for the flight, but the musician said she would do anything to keep it with her in the cabin. In the US it is a legal requirement for airlines to accept musicians’ instruments as carry-on luggage.
At this point, the violinist asked to speak to a supervisor, who told her there were “no options”, according to Ms Correia’s lawyer, Philip MacNaughton, who said this is when the United staff member became “belligerent”.
“Without provocation, the supervisor for the Chicago-based carrier then lunged for Ms Correia’s case and, incredibly, tried to wrestle it away from the musician,” said Mr MacNaughton.
“Ms Correia screamed for help. The United supervisor threatened to ‘call security’ and Ms Correia responded, ‘Please do’, at which point the United supervisor ran away.”
Ms Correia told local broadcaster KPRC: “I started screaming ‘Help, help, help can somebody record what’s happening because this lady’s trying to take my personal suitcase from me’.
“She proceeded to throw herself on top of my suitcase. So she could take the rest of the sticker from my suitcase. At this point, we’re both struggling … and I’m trying to get her not to take the sticker from me.”
Ms Correia, who has a Masters degree in violin from Rice University in Houston, claimed the incident has left her concerned about possible damage to her hand, which could have extremely serious consequences to her career.
In a statement, United Airlines said: “We’re disappointed any time a customer has an experience that does not live up to his or her expectation. We are reaching out to Ms Correia to gain a better understanding of what occurred and to offer assistance.”
But this is not the first time musicians have fallen out with airlines, with some complaining that instruments worth hundreds of thousands of pounds have been damaged as a result of being placed in the aircraft hold.In fact United Airlines famously fell foul of award-winning songwriter Dave Carroll, when the airline was accused of breaking his guitar. His song ‘United Breaks Guitars’ subsequently went viral on YouTube. You can see the hilarious video by clicking here.