Back in November, we posted an article on British Airways Upsetting Musicians featuring several stories of musicians with less than favorable experiences (to say the least) flying British Airways. Here is another cringeworthy story from a customer of another airline. A few years ago, I flew Italian airline Alitalia back to the states from Milan and had a very pleasurable experience. The plane seemed fairly new, my guitar fit in the overhead, and the staff was polite and helpful. Therefore, it saddened me to see a recent post by an apparent Alitalia traveller of a severely damaged 300+ year old instrument.
On January 3, Myrna Herzog, director of the early-music ensemble Phoenix, posted a nightmare of a travel experience she had flying Alitalia. She included pictures of her instrument case and its contents – a 17th century viola da gamba (an instrument resembling the cello). As you can see clearly in the pictures, the instrument has been incredibly damaged. Here is her post.
The Strad was quick to pick up on the post, as was Metro. Two days later, Herzog posted an update in which she also shared some documentation and claimed that Alitalia had even promised “that the instrument would be only handled BY HAND.” As you can probably tell by the images, the case does not appear to be a high-end flight case, however the extent of the damage leads one to believe that little precaution was taken with this instrument by the airline.
Hopefully Alitalia will do their best to right this apparent wrong and that we won’t have too many more posts with pictures of instruments reportedly damaged by airlines or baggage handlers. However, we will share what we find in hopes that greater attention pushes airlines to improve their standard instrument handling practices.
Update (January 6, 2018)
Alitalia has released a statement:
We regret what happened, Mrs. Myrna Herzog, and we are carrying out all necessary investigations. However, generally speaking we would like to remind that for all bags exceeding the size limits allowed for cabin bags (8kg and 55 cm high, 35 cm wide and 25 cm deep), such as the musical instrument mentioned, it is necessary to purchase an “extra seat” during the booking procedure in case the passenger intends to avoid checking-in such delicate and/or valuable items. The extra seat, which is normally dedicated to passengers, allows to secure the item with the appropriate procedure.
According to a preliminary investigation, no such request has been presented neither during booking nor at the time of departure from Rio de Janeiro. During check-in operations, according to the information available at the moment, you were presented with the possibility to buy an “extra seat” but you refused and signed the limited release form (a disclaimer of liability) after being informed that the best solution for such a delicate item was to bring it with you in the cabin. That said, Alitalia deeply regrets what happened and will proceed, having established the facts, with the reimbursement in compliance with the international regulations in force.
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