17th-century violin is the latest United Airlines victim

A United employee tried to wrestle the expensive instrument from the hands of its owner in a Houston airport

Once upon a time, air travel was the epitome of glamour. These days, adults and children are herded onto cramped jets, smashing their worldly belongings into small bags and stuffed compartments, overpaying for pre-packed sandwiches and arriving with tinny fanfare telling them that the airline has done what they’ve paid them for.

But across the Atlantic, it’s even worse; several stories have emerged this year of passengers receiving abysmal costumer service at the hands of aggressive airline employees, and the latest one involves a 17th-century violin.

According to its player, Missouri Symphony Orchestra violinist Yennifer Correia, a United Airlines supervisor tried to rip the valuable instrument from out of her hands, advising her that it had to be placed in the luggage hold.

En route from Houston to St Louis, Correia says she was advised at the check-in desk that she would have to send her instrument off with her luggage. But she responded that she wanted to keep it with her, reminding the airline staff that in the US they are required by law to allow professional musicians take their equipment with them as carry-on luggage.

Asking to speak to a supervisor, the violinist was informed that there were “no options” but to check the violin in. When she protested, the United staff member became “belligerent,” according to the musician’s lawyer.

“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 Philip MacNaughton, the lawyer representing her.

“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.”

MacNaughton said that the incident with United had left his client shaken; Correia had been to see a hand specialist to check no permanent damage was done to her hand, “because the stakes were too high.”

The airline is still reeling from an infamous and widely shared incident in April, when a doctor was dragged bleeding and unconscious from an overbooked flight when he refused to disembark after his name was drawn at random.

Responding to the lawsuit, a United spokesperson said: “We’re disappointed anytime 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.”

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