Rachelle Hunt of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra tried to bring her violin onto United Airlines flight UA4349 operated by CommutAir from Knoxville to Washington Dulles. However a flight attendant on the ERJ-145 aircraft declared this wasn’t permitted.
One of the most frustrating things traveling on small regional jets, and larger Bombardier CRJ regional aircraft, is that lack of overhead bin space – and cabin crew who assume even smaller items that fit will not.
In this case, the violin fits. Federal law says that instruments which will fit in available bin space or under the seat can be brought on board an aircraft. Yet the flight attendant declared the passenger kept “on saying federal law” but at United “we don’t go with the federal law” – that their own baggage policies which she was wrong about trump Congress and the DOT.
The passenger, a Star Alliance Gold member, boarded in group 1. There was plenty of bin space available for her violin. The crewmember insisted she check her violin, but fortunately the flight’s captain intervened and she was allowed to bring the instrument on board as an “exception.”
United’s policy to allow musical instruments as carryons provided they fit either in the overhead bin or seat in front of the passenger is consistent with DOT regulations at 49 U.S.C. §41724 which implement section 403 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
And this matters because, look, everyone knows not to check a musical instrument on United.
I’ve reached out to United for comment on how their express carrier flight attendant’s mis-understanding of the airline’s rules trumps federal law, and will update if they respond.
Update: A CommutAir spokesperson responds,
This isn’t the experience we want for passengers traveling on CommutAir. Our carry-on bag policy complies with FAA regulations which permit musical instruments to be stored in our overhead bins as a personal item. 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.