A world-renowned violinist, Rachel Barton Pine, was taken aback when she claims an American Airlines pilot informed her that she would need to check her $20 million antique violin with the other luggage below the plane. Pine refused to check the antique violin and was forced to exit the plane. However, the violinist notes that she travels over 100,000 miles each year with American Airlines and has never had an issue carrying her violin. In fact, she points to regulations put into place in 2012 that allow musicians to carry on small instruments in cases that can fit underneath a seat or in an overhead compartment, which she claims her violin can do on any plane configuration.
The Daily Mail reports that 41-year-old Rachel Barton Pine is known around the globe for her violin skills. The musician spends the majority of her time traveling around the world with her prized instrument. Pine claims she is gone more than she is home, and that American Airlines has always been her airline of choice. However, following a recent incident while attempting to board a plane to Albuquerque to perform with the New Mexico Philharmonic, Pine may be reconsidering her decision to fly with the carrier.
— Strings Magazine (@StringsMagazine) April 28, 2016
The violinist says that she was carrying the ex-Bazzini ex-Soldat, an instrument made in 1742 by Joseph Guarneri ‘del Gesù,’ who is one of the two greatest violin makers of all time. The violin, which is 274-years-old, has been in the hands of some of history’s greatest violinists and composers. The instrument that Pine carries with her everywhere was hand-selected by Johannes Brahms, considered one of the 19th century’s greatest composers, for his protégé Marie Soldat to perform his new works.
“I love the fact that Brahms heard ‘my’ violin in the hands of his protégé, Marie Soldat. It’s amazing to know something of an instrument’s history and realize that you’re the next chapter in its life. Hopefully, it will have lots more adventures long after I’m gone.”
The violin’s great history makes it priceless to Pine, but on auction, the violin could fetch around $20 million. While Pine has been given the ability to play the violin for her lifetime, she does not own the instrument. In 2002, Pine was gifted the violin from an anonymous donor who loaned her the instrument to use for the remainder of her life. Since receiving the historic violin, Pine says she has never desired to pick up or test any other violin because she has a “truly collaborative relationship” with the instrument.
“The ex-Bazzini, ex-Soldat is truly my voice. Since I started playing it, I’m not even curious to try other violins anymore!”
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Pine would never consider checking the violin with the airplane baggage. She notes that the violin would “definitely” be broken if it was placed with the standard luggage.
“It’s not that any violinist is choosing not to check their violin, it’s that these are so delicate and breakable that if you check your violin, it will get broken. There’s no maybe it will get broken. It definitely will get broken.”
Rachel Barton Pine says that American Airlines regulations are on her side and that the 2012 regulations regarding instruments clearly allow musicians to carry instruments onto the plane if they are able to fit in the overhead storage or under the seat. She says that the American Airlines flight in question never even allowed her to attempt to place the violin in the overhead storage space which she says would have fit without issue. Having flown over 100,000 miles per year on almost every type of American Airlines plane, Pine says this is the first time she has ever been questioned about her violin.
Ultimately, American Airlines issued a statement regarding the incident with the violin stating that Rachel was rebooked on a larger aircraft to accommodate the carry-on item.
“Ms. Barton was offered the option of valet checking the item, but declined. She was subsequently rebooked for travel this morning on larger aircraft that were able to accommodate her instrument as a carry-on item.”
[Image via Instagram/ Rachel Barton Pine]