A precious Chinese instrument worth $50,000 was damaged on a US Airways flight on Friday, and its owner, the noted musician Wu Man, blames a flight attendant for dropping it.
Wu was traveling with her prized pipa (a four-stringed Chinese lute), and boarding a flight from Philadelphia to New Haven, where she was to give a world premiere with the Kronos Quartet. Wu said she had tried to stow the delicate instrument in an overhead compartment but it would not fit. She asked if she could strap the instrument into the empty seat next to her, but was denied.
A flight attendant then offered to stow the pipa in a coat closet in the front of the plane. As the attendant was opening the closet, she dropped the instrument, causing the neck to snap in two. Hearing the loud noise, Wu ran to the front of the cabin. “I opened it and checked it and it’s broken,” Wu said in a phone interview Sunday. “I said, ‘you broke my instrument.’ She had no apology, no expression on her face. She still tried to say that it couldn’t fit in the closet.”
Horrified, Wu got off the flight with her broken instrument, and was later booked a bigger aircraft to Hartford, which had more overhead room. The pipa, which was not insured, will need to be sent to a specialist in China for an attempted repair. Wu is also consulting with a lawyer.
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