Violin Is Verboten On Flight

March 2, 2010

in Luggage Stories

I can’t even tell you how excited I was to be heading to this particular music camp. Not only was it out of state (a big venture for someone who had been in Florida her entire life), but it was a very renowned program that would give me a ton of experience.

Seeing that it was a music camp, I brought along my violin, which would be used heavily the next five weeks. My parents called the airport several times to be sure that it could be designated as carry-on, and they said it would be fine. They even called the day of to be sure, and again, no problem.

That is, until we get there.

It was my first time flying in a plane on my own, and I was terrified. I clutched my purse, which carried a few essentials, and my violin case was strapped to my back. I had given my luggage up already, so the other two items were all I had.

As I started towards the security checkpoint, someone stops me and says, “You can’t bring that on here.” Um, what?

My parents and I tried to explain that we had asked if we could bring it — we had even given them dimensions when calling, and they approved — and that I was not getting on that plane without my violin with me. They had me *open my case* and show them the contents of my violin case. Then they started sticking their dirty hands in there. If it weren’t my grabbing the violin out before they could touch it, their grimy hands would have been all over it, shaking it about. After all, they were doing that to the rest of the case.

Eventually, they brought over their managing head, who told us again that we couldn’t bring it aboard. I was livid at this point — what did they think, that a tiny 17-year-old violinist was a terrorist and had some effed-up device hooked up to my case?

The plane was about to depart and we weren’t getting this through those dumb-ass attendants, so I saw no other option than to put my violin under with the rest of the luggage. One can imagine the level of stress I was under, both due to a 3-hour flight (when I’m already terrified of flying and *alone*) and my precious violin being stowed under the cabin.

When we landed, I watched as my case was literally thrown down the slide to the conveyor belt (so much for the “FRAGILE” stickers plastered all over the case, huh?). I quickly grabbed it and took a look at the case.

It had been opened, music had been shuffled through, my violin was no longer strapped in the case, and I was missing one of my two rosins (seriously, who steals tree sap?!). Heaven forbid the sound post had fallen, but otherwise, thankfully, my violin was in good shape. I only wish I remembered the name of the airline, as I would forever let my fellow musicians know of the hell that they put me in and to dissuade them from similar treatment.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

ps March 2, 2010 at 4:19 pm

And I'm sure the person behind you was wearing a burka with an explosives belt screaming Allah Akbar and got thru with no problem. Welcome to the PC world of travelling post 9-11. Next time stand behind a 90 year old Grandma and they'll strip search her and let you thru. Hope you at least had a good trip and camp.


tdf March 2, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Oh geez, for the future, NEVER grab at your luggage when the TSA is inspecting it.


Hugh March 3, 2010 at 12:11 am

Get a grip. If this is the worst you've experienced, count yourself lucky. What a whiner.


Uhhh July 25, 2010 at 1:33 pm

You realize that even beginner violins easily cost 1.5 thousand dollars, right. Considering that she was going to an out-of-state music camp, which cost a helluva lot of money, she was probably not a beginner, so her violin probably cost over 3 thousnd. I'd be scared.


James May 30, 2014 at 11:28 am

They can be a lot more than $1500. And the luggage liability limit is $3400.


Small May 30, 2014 at 11:10 am

It's not an overnight bag Huge.


Wilko March 3, 2010 at 2:10 am

You don't remember the name of the airline you flew with?

That's not suspect. At all.


G March 3, 2010 at 3:03 am

Hey Hugh,

You obviously know nothing about the relationship a serious musician has with her instrument. If she was attending a fairly prestigious music program, then she is pretty darn serious about her music. This means she needs a seriously good instrument, probably worth in the neighbourhood of tens of thousands of dollars; her parents might even have taken a second mortgage on their house to pay for it. These things are finicky and students are told from the time they are about five to transport their violins the same way you would transport people – in room-temperature conditions. The colder baggage compartment could have caused it to crack or warp. She is indeed lucky it only her soundpost had fallen – a good technician can remedy that – for about $100!!!!

Walk a mile in someone's shoes next time.


crella March 3, 2010 at 4:19 am

Delta, as well as Korean Airlines, let you bring on an instrument within a certain size limit. I have brought an alto sax over and back to the US from Japan 6 times in the past two years. I don't know what the problem with a violin would be , it can't be much bigger than a sax when put in a case, if it is at all.


madachode March 3, 2010 at 7:31 am

If i was a TSA agent working the line I would have smashed that stupid violin to pieces after hearing you complain even if it cost me my job. Next time drive or stay home.


Morgan September 14, 2010 at 2:29 am

madachode. YOU ARE AN ASS!!


Luna August 10, 2015 at 10:01 pm

Loser stop spreading your negativity


Peter Barnard March 3, 2010 at 8:13 am

My first comment would be to the 'angry' people, you really do need to get a grip. Why you feel it is acceptable to express yourself by randomly venting on public commentary websites (Mr. and Mrs. Angry seem to trun up all over the place)is beyond me, perhaps you should try an alternative way of dealing with your angst.

I would point out to the young lady that in this particular case this had little to do with the airlines and far more to do with the TSA. I can tell you from experience that security from airport to airport differs, whereas at your own airport you were presented with a problem at another you'd probably have been fine. Unfortunately it is simply the world we travel in now and you will have to learn to expect the unexpected, patience is the best tool you can bring with you on your future travels.


rerere March 3, 2010 at 2:06 pm

All of this is because of allah


Jim March 4, 2010 at 6:13 am

Most of us have things that are near and dear to us that we would not want to check. However, most of us do not have to fly with those items. Unfortunately, in your case it was necessary. Albeit, maybe you could have rented a violin at your destination to avoid yours being exposed to bad handling.

While I am not a fan of the airlines or the TSA, and the way in which they treat people….they were doing their jobs. If we the flying public have issue with what they are doing, we should lobby our politicians to get the rules changed, etc… We can't expect these underpaid individuals to be able to have the authority to make exceptions in the case of a 17 year old with a violin. Yeah, it would seeem logical…but, their job is to check all items, etc…

The airline should have gotten their act together in your case. They should not tell you one thing on the phone, and enforce another thing at the airport. Maybe next time, get the persons name that you speak with, maybe even a copy of the e-mail as proof, and show to the people at the airport. Of course, they still have the right to refuse whatever they wish….but, maybe if you have the e-mail stating otherwise they may make an exception.

Bottom line again…I try my best never to fly with anything of value for this very reason. Seriously, next time rent a violin at your destination…and, leave the valuable one at your home, where you know it is safe.


K March 5, 2010 at 6:07 am


While you make a good suggestion, as someone else on these comments noted, if you're not a musician, then you don't understand the relationship the musician had with his/her instruments. I played the clarinet throughout high school and college and would never EVER check my clarinet . . . it's made of fragile wood, and could easily crack beyond repair, or the keys could shift in rough handling. At the risk of sounding like a nerd, we have a relationship to our instruments the same way some guys do with their cars . . . it's our 'baby'.

With that being said, there was no way she was going to go to this presitigous music camp and rent a violin. Not only would it be expensive, chances are that the violin she could afford to rent would be not near as nice of quality as the one she owns. And if this camp is as good as she makes it out to be, then she needs a good quality violin to fit in.

It's a shame they gave her such grief, especially if she called to double check ahead of time. She's lucky she didn't get in bigger trouble by grabbing the instrument when TSA was inspecting it . . . they get really touchy about that.


Jim March 5, 2010 at 9:05 am


I do understand a musicians connection to their instrument.

And, I hate to have a defeatist attitude…but, when dealing with the airlines, TSA or other governmental agencies, there is little an individual can do. The best you can do, is work around these parties to achieve one's goal. In this case she very much wants to attend the music camp. I see that she really only has a few choices. 1) Rent a lesser quality instrument at the destination. Or, 2) if she wants to play her own instrument and carry it with her… she takes the chance of the airline screwing with her violin. Or, 3) maybe another option would be to pack it up as much as possible and send it ahead via Federal Express/UPS, and insure it? 4) maybe her parents could drive her.

Yeah, these suggestions are kinda impractical…but, what other options are there? Unfortunately, life isn't fair…and, I don't see the airlines or TSA relaxing their standards any time in the near future…so, what options do we have? We have to find a work-around. Woe is me. 🙂


Jim March 4, 2010 at 6:21 am

Oh, and one other thing. You mention that you saw your violin thrown onto the conveyor belt, eventhough it said fragile… are young, so you probably do not realize this….but, putting fragile on items when being shipped, really has little if any impact.

When a plane, (or truck for that matter), is being loaded unloaded….a company will not allow their employees to gingerly give special attention to fragile items. Could you imagine how long it would take to load or unload a plane or truck if all fragile items were specially hand carried from cargo bin to truck, etc…? When you must ship fragile items, you have to pack it accordingly to withstand rough treatment. When items are loaded onto a plane, they are literaly thrown from a conveyor belt to the very end or nose of the plane. Think of the distance inside of a plane from the door to the end of a plane….these baggage handlers have to get the luggage from the cargo bin doors to the very ends of the plane to make room for all luggage….they are not walking each piece from the door to the end of the plane…it is simply not practical. Watch at the speed that the luggage moves up the conveyor belt…there is usually only 1 maybe 2 guys inside this plane quickly taking these pieces off the conveyor belt….and giving them a heave-ho.


Mixalot March 4, 2010 at 11:57 am

OMG, I am even more amused by the comments than the original "story". I guess it was a very traumatic event since you could remember the tiniest minutiae about the experience, watched the "violin" get loaded, and not even peek a look at the name on the side of the plane. Hint: it was in 2' high letters, written on the outside.


ps March 4, 2010 at 4:02 pm

At first, I thought a lot of the comments were pathetic. Let's see, a 17 year old, dedicated musician flying for the first time ALONE. when the friendly confines of an airport can jar the most seasoned travellers. BUT, not remembering the airline name? Let's see, check in, boarding pass, etc. Sounds like a crock. But for the judgemental posters, I would suggest reading it again. I never had carrier amnesia and i doubt anyone outside of folks with dementia would. So, to the poster of this (almost until reading the fine print) compassion inspiring post, sounds like a tall tale. To the judgemental posters, well, the usual suspects. Par for the course.


Glenda March 5, 2010 at 6:17 am

ps, you're not making any sense. I don't remember what specific airlines I flew on years ago.


ps March 5, 2010 at 3:01 pm

But your FIRST flight? And it sounds like to date only flight? I would think you remember that. Especially if it was fairly recent and being young, not being ravaged by Alzheimers. Do you remember your first flight, and alone as well? Sorry, sounds suspicious.


holly March 5, 2010 at 8:26 am

I don't understand all of the comments implying that the story is fake because she does not recall the name of the airline. I remember plenty of details about many flgihts I've taken, but I can't remember which airline I flew each time.


LC March 5, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Perhaps the OP did not remember the flight because the parents bought the ticket. The OP sounds young enough to not have a stable income.

I play the violin myself, so I understand the relationship between the instrument. The instrument becomes part of the musician and to mishandle it is like throwing a baby on the ground.


ps March 5, 2010 at 3:04 pm

See above. But even if the parents bought the ticket (very likely being a teen), you're a teen, on your FIRST flight to something you're totally excited about. Wouldn't you think the airline would be etched in your memory too? Especially with the instinctive recall that musicians in most cases have?


Laura April 14, 2010 at 4:55 am

I rememeber things about my first ever airplane trip but if you asked which airline I was on. …. I'd have no idea. It was from Toronto – Orlando .. could have been Air Canada, Delta, Continential .. who knows. And really, who cares?


Demotage March 5, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Fra-gil-e must be Italian.

The airline f'ed up. No way you should not have been allowed to carry it. A violin is a delicate thing.

And it's not because of Allah. It is because of our governments bonehead response to Allah. It's a CYA response, not one that will really make us safer.


Jim March 6, 2010 at 6:11 am

Fra-gil-e……Love it! Every time I see that word I think of a Christmas Story.


rerere March 6, 2010 at 11:38 am

Again, this is all because of Allah.


ps March 6, 2010 at 11:52 am

Absolutely. Thanks to the ones in the dirty nightshirts.


Steve June 3, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Pre-9/11, changing planes in Hawaii to return to the mainland a security person questioned my pocket knife that had been in my bag on five previous flights. The more senior of the two inspectors did a quick "Risk Assessment"; looked at me, my wife and my three year old daughter. He then laid the open blade across his fingers as if it were an official gauge and declared, "Good to go, have a safe flight." and returned the knife to me. I have not seen that sort of common sense since then. Of course we are now dealing with a whole new group of angry people who will bring down a plane as if that will address their grievance. The object of their wrath is flying on a private plane and not a nervous violinist from Florida. I hope you are not one of those musicians that have a sense of entitlement that puts you ahead of all other travelers because of your special needs. Consider this: in the future you may fly somewhere as part of a string quartet. You, maybe the first chair and second violin get on the plane with your "Babies" ok. Maybe the Viola player gets their baby on as well. Now, stop and think about that cello, yes… that 300 year old Guarneri that your cellist has to BUY a second seat for. Any compassion for the guy that has to pack a Double Bass? Yeah, the guy that was told in school that there were already enough violins and he would be tagged with that monster and have to stand at the back of the stage. Carry-on? Well, I suppose the pianist has it easy. Fly first class in comfort and not a worry because there is a Steinway Concert Grand waiting for you on stage. Get used to being abused by the airlines and the rest of us that have no sympathy. It has all been beaten out of us. Remember what Lilly Tomlin said in character as the telephone operator, "We don't care, we're the telephone company… we don't have to." This applies to the TSA as well.


Leave a Comment
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post:

Next post: