Traveling musicians are often all too familiar with the challenges of flying with their instruments. The fear of “Will my instrument make it on board the plane?”, or “If I have to check it, will it survive the handling?” permeates through the mind of any guitarist walking to their gate. This reaction may be due to the far-too-frequent stories of how somebody’s incredibly rare and expensive instrument was destroyed by some airline in transit to its destination. It’s therefore important to stay mindful of which airlines are and are not providing the best service to some of its most frequent customers, musicians. There’s been a recent string of articles and posts on various musicians’ experiences with British Airways, and they’ve been all but positive.
2 Thumbs Down From David Russell
On November 1, 2017, classical guitarist and Grammy Award winner, David Russell, posted this image and accompanying text on his artist Facebook page.
Thumbs down for British Airways. They have decided this week to make it impossible to take your guitar on board as hand luggage. Warning to all traveling guitarists: don’t fly British Airways.
Mal, British Airways. Han decidido esta semana que no se podrá subir a bordo con la guitarra. Aviso guitarristas viajeros: no voléis con British Airways.
Violin and Viola Headaches
Several articles can be found on the website for The Strad, a UK-based magazine for classical string musicians, on musicians experiences with British Airways.
At the time of writing this post, I stumbled across a The Strad article that was written only yesterday. Violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen didn’t even make it past the check gate before she was told that she would not be allowed to carry her centuries-old Stradivarius onboard the cabin due to a recent rule change. As ridiculous as it sounds, it appears the only option they provided her was checking the instrument. Needless to say, she found another flight with another airline, but not without the accompanying “huge waste of time and money.”
Last month, The Strad posted an article about a ‘humiliated’ violist, Professor Rachel Roberts of the Guildhall School in London, referencing her recent experience that she detailed to Facebook. As with the previously mentioned violinist, the problem was with the size of the instrument’s case. However in this situation, Roberts was allowed to purchase an extra seat for the viola. After spending €270.70 for an additional seat, she then boarding the plane, later to realize there was plenty of room in the over head compartments. She snapped a picture of what appeared to be golf clubs in one of the lockers, and after approaching the owner of the clubs, she found that he didn’t have to pay any extra to board with the large item.
Here are a couple other articles that go back a few years. The first is from The Telegraph about restrictions that were implemented around 2012, and the second is another from The Strad, featuring a picture of a destroyed instrument and a claim from a musician that British Airways broke her friend’s violin.
Full A.rticle: British Airways has been embroiled in a row with musicians
Full Article: British Airways breaks violin
British Airways Instrument Policy
Below is the official British Airways Instrument Policy as of 11/14/17.
You can bring your musical instruments with you when you travel with us.
You can take small musical instruments in the cabin as part of (but not in addition to) your free hand baggage allowance, subject to the space available. We will make every effort to accommodate your violin or viola in its hard case in the cabin, even if the case is slightly larger than our maximum baggage size, as we know temperature and pressure can damage these instruments in the hold.
Larger musical instruments, such as guitars and cellos, can be carried in the hold or you can buy an extra seat to carry them with you in the cabin.
Please always transport musical instruments in a hard case. We cannot accept instruments, such as guitars, in soft cases as we don’t want them to get damaged.
If your musical instrument in its case is larger than 56 x 45 x 25cm (22 x 18 x 10in):
- It will be checked into the hold as part of your checked baggage allowance.
- Where possible, we’ll try and accommodate instruments of up to 190 x 75 x 65cm (75 x 29.5 x 25.5in) in the hold, provided you notify us at least 24 hours before your flight.
- You may be able to buy an extra seat for your instrument if you wish it to travel in the cabin
- If your instrument weights more than 23kg you might need to pay an overweight baggage charge. The maximum weight of musical instruments we can carry is 45kg (99lb).
- If required, you can pay to take more checked bags than your allowance.
- If you are checking in a large instrument, please allow an additional 15 minutes so that the item can be safely and securely handed over to the Baggage staff.
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