Why this woman is feuding with an airline over her $20 million carry-on

Traveling can be kind of stressful when you have delicate items, and no one knows that more than Chicago musician Rachel Barton Pine. She was recently heading to New Mexico for a performance, and tried to bring her violin as carry-on luggage, because it’s very fragile. Also, we’re not talking about a regular instrument here; this is a 1972 Joseph Guarneri “del Gesu” violin, insured for a whopping $20 million (!). Checking the bag would undoubtedly mean that her prized possession would get broken, and then Rachel would be in a whole lot of trouble.

But American Airlines didn’t make things easy. They told Rachel that her violin was too big (even though it is normal violin size), and point-blank refused to let her bring it on the flight as carry-on luggage. They suggested she just check her violin, like she would a normal bag. Rachel was livid, and pointed out that the FAA usually allows instruments as long as they fit in the overhead bins. They still wouldn’t change their mind, and understandably Rachel decided not to board the plane at all.

Later on, ticket agents found Rachel another flight — and on the next flight, her violin wasn’t a problem. American Airlines apologized for the inconvenience. As for Rachel, this wasn’t the first time she had a bad experience with one of her violins. There was a serious incident back in 1995 in which her violin got trapped in a Metro train door, and it was strapped to Rachel, so she got dragged with the train and tragically lost her left leg (but miraculously survived). That wasn’t all — her right foot was also crushed in the horrific accident.

The bottom line is that we hope that Rachel’s future travels are perfectly peaceful, because she deserves a serious, serious break.