Wu Man is a pipa virtuoso, Musical America’s 2013 instrumentalist of the year.
On Friday she was flying from San Diego to New Haven to play with the Kronos Quartet. Changing planes at Philadelphia, she was unable to stash he instrument in the overhead compartment of a small US Airways jet.
She sought permission to strap it into the vacant seat beside her. A flight attendant said she could not do that and offered to stow the pipa in the clothes locker. Opening the locker, the attendant dropped the pipa, breaking its neck.
The pipa is both rare and personal to its player. Its material value can be measured in tens of thousands of dollars. Its emotional value is priceless.
Wu Man arrived in New Haven distraught. Arrangements were made to find a substitute pipa and she played the concert, by local accounts, sensationally.
Kronos protested to the airline and received the following tweeted reply: @kronosquartet I’m sorry about your instrument. Plz fill out a Passenger Property form http://bit.ly/GQZFGa so we can resolve this. ^SH
It’s just one outrage after another with some of these airlines, especially on US internal flights. Be warned. Be careful.