Fair treatment for musicians traveling on planes with their instruments
  • Petitioned DG Mobility and Transport of the European Commission

This petition was delivered to:

Commissioner Siim Kallas
DG Mobility and Transport of the European Commission

Fair treatment for musicians traveling on planes with their instruments

    1. Petition by

      International Federation of Musicians


Musicians can’t work if they can’t travel!

Musicians who travel on planes for professional purposes are confronted with huge difficulties when it comes to being allowed to carry their instrument on board as cabin luggage, even when they have paid an extra-seat. For a professional musician, not being allowed to travel with his/her instrument in safe conditions means losing a job.

This is a concern not just for EU performers but also for all non-EU performers flying from a EU airport or traveling from abroad with a EU-based airline.

There is this year a unique opportunity to amend EU regulation 261/2004 on air passenger rights and redress this acute problem.

Why you should sign and share this petition

Only a broad mobilization will convince European Commissioner Siim Kallas to address this issue within the review of regulation 261/2004. Such mobilization will help him resist the lobbying of enormously powerful airline companies.

What musicians report about this issue

Watch Dave Caroll's video "United breaks guitars": http://youtu.be/5YGc4zOqozo

Watch Liu Tao's video "Airchina broke my guitar": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osur6neQyOU

Read Paul Katz's scary story about his trip from Calgary to LA with WestJet. Although he had bought a second seat for his Andrea Guarneri cello (1669), he was not allowed to keep it in the cabin: http://articles.boston.com/2012-08-20/lifestyle/33281126_1_cello-flight-attendant-westjet

“My guitar was allowed on board but I couldn’t take any other piece of personal luggage, not even a small handbag.”

“The Easyjet staff at check-in requested me to buy an extra-seat for my instrument just because its case was in aluminum. My colleague whose case was covered with fabric did not have any such problem.”

“My viola fits in the overhead lockers but I had to buy an extra-seat anyway.”

“I had bought an extra-seat for my cello but was told to put it flat on 3 seats in the same row, then eventually to put it in the overhead lockers. The whole procedure delayed departure by about 30 minutes as 3 passengers and their luggage had to switch places as we were trying the second option.”

“I bought an extra-seat when flying Alitalia with my viola da gamba. That extra-seat was charged twice the price!”

“I was traveling for a concert with both a lute and guitar. Vueling wouldn’t allow me to buy a second extra-seat for my second instrument.”

“I had bought an extra seat for my cello, but was asked by the company to strap it into a bulkhead seat. Unfortunately, none of the passengers sitting in bulkhead seats was willing to switch and I could not keep it in the cabin.”

“Booking the extra-seat online was not possible.”

“Due to overbooking, the extra-seat I had bought was allocated by Air France to another passenger and I couldn’t keep my instrument with me in the cabin.”

“I was allowed to put my instrument on an extra-seat at departure but that was refused for the flight back. I therefore had to take another flight.”

 “I was asked by Alitalia to buy 3 extra-seats for my cello, although it easily fits one.”

What the petition says

1. Without their own instruments, musicians are unable to perform and properly execute their jobs. Musicians have a very special relationship with their instrument(s). Without their own instruments – the tools of their trade on which they rehearse and perform – musicians are unable to execute their profession. Except in very rare and specific cases, substituting instruments upon arrival at a new destination is simply not an option.

2. Many instruments, even when put in appropriate travel cases (flight-cases), cannot be left in the cargo part of the plane without being subject to a high risk of unrecoverable damage. It is common knowledge that violins and similar instruments can be of immense monetary value. But this is not the sole reason for which they need special care. A musician may spend months or years before he / she finds the adequate instrument. Several hours of daily practice make the relationship between the performer and his / her instrument a symbiotic one.

3. Restrictions applying to the carrying of instruments on planes have become a serious hindrance to the mobility of artists, either because it is impossible to take the instrument on board or because the additional price to pay makes the travel too expensive to be covered by the performer's revenues or small art businesses.

4. There is no industry-wide policy. One of the main problems confronting musicians who travel with their instruments is that there is no consistent policy across the EU applicable to airlines to rely upon. When an individual airline does have a policy, it is often applied inconsistently, which results in great uncertainty as to whether instruments may be carried on board and under which conditions.

5. The update of Regulation (EC) no. 261/2004 on air passenger rights is the appropriate framework for the inclusion of provisions that take proper account of the problems encountered by musicians travelling on planes for professional purposes. The United States’ FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act - SEC. 403 § 41724, adopted by the US Congress on 6 February 2012, gives an example of what could be done at European level.

What the US FAA regulation says

H.R.658 - FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011


(a) In General- Subchapter I of chapter 417 is amended by adding at the end the following:

‘Sec. 41724. Musical instruments

‘(a) In General-

‘(1) SMALL INSTRUMENTS AS CARRY-ON BAGGAGE- An air carrier providing air transportation shall permit a passenger to carry a

(B) information provided to correct a condition that compromises safety, if that condition continues uncorrected; or

(C) information provided to carry out a criminal investigation or prosecution.

violin, guitar, or other musical instrument in the aircraft cabin, without charging the passenger a fee in addition to any standard fee that carrier may require for comparable carry-on baggage, if--

‘(A) the instrument can be stowed safely in a suitable baggage compartment in the aircraft cabin or under a passenger seat, in accordance with the requirements for carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the Administrator; and

‘(B) there is space for such stowage at the time the passenger boards the aircraft.

‘(2) LARGER INSTRUMENTS AS CARRY-ON BAGGAGE- An air carrier providing air transportation shall permit a passenger to carry a musical instrument that is too large to meet the requirements of paragraph (1) in the aircraft cabin, without charging the passenger a fee in addition to the cost of the additional ticket described in subparagraph (E), if--

‘(A) the instrument is contained in a case or covered so as to avoid injury to other passengers;

‘(B) the weight of the instrument, including the case or covering, does not exceed 165 pounds or the applicable weight restrictions for the aircraft;

‘(C) the instrument can be stowed in accordance with the requirements for carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the Administrator;

‘(D) neither the instrument nor the case contains any object not otherwise permitted to be carried in an aircraft cabin because of a law or regulation of the United States; and

‘(E) the passenger wishing to carry the instrument in the aircraft cabin has purchased an additional seat to accommodate the instrument.

‘(3) LARGE INSTRUMENTS AS CHECKED BAGGAGE- An air carrier shall transport as baggage a musical instrument that is the property of a passenger traveling in air transportation that may not be carried in the aircraft cabin if--

‘(A) the sum of the length, width, and height measured in inches of the outside linear dimensions of the instrument (including the case) does not exceed 150 inches or the applicable size restrictions for the aircraft;

‘(B) the weight of the instrument does not exceed 165 pounds or the applicable weight restrictions for the aircraft; and

‘(C) the instrument can be stowed in accordance with the requirements for carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the Administrator.

‘(b) Regulations- Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this section, the Secretary shall issue final regulations to carry out subsection (a).

‘(c) Effective Date- The requirements of this section shall become effective on the date of issuance of the final regulations under subsection (b).’.

(b) Conforming Amendment- The analysis for such subchapter is amended by adding at the end the following:

‘41724. Musical instruments.’.

Recent signatures


    1. The EU Commission gives positive feedback to the FIM campaign

      In a memo issued on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013, the EU Commission announces new measures aimed to take account of the musicians' concerns. See http://tinyurl.com/dyk4jmo

      This is a major step towards the fair treatment that has been requested for so long by musicians and their organisations.

      Many thanks to all those who are supporting the FIM campaign and, in particular, to Katie Melua and Janne Schaffer. We have never been so close to success!

    2. Reached 40,000 signatures
    3. Why musicians should not fly with Qatar airways

      Although Qatar Airways has been elected best airline in the world 2 years in a row, musicians are strongly advised not to fly with this company. Here’s why.

      This Summer, Jon Oliva’s Pain band faced denial of check-in by Qatar airways because of 3 soft guitar cases that the musicians needed to bring onboard (they had bought a total of 13 tickets). The letter that the band manager wrote to the airline company is self-explanatory: http://www.fim-musicians.org/post/dont-fly-qatar-airways

    4. Read what happened to cellist Paul Katz when flying WestJet

      Read Paul Katz's scary story about his trip from Calgary to LA with WestJet. Although he had bought a second seat for his Andrea Guarneri cello (made in 1669), he was not allowed to keep it on board.


    5. Mr Bach MEP writes to Commissioner Kallas

      Mr Georges Bach, Member of the European Parliament (Committee on Transport and Tourism) wrote to Commissioner Siim Kallas on July 18th, requesting the EU Commission to take account of the musicians' concerns in the review of EU regulation 261/2004.

      The support messages from Katie Melua and Janne Schaffer have been attached to this letter, as well as a list of the first 25,000 signatories of the petition.

    6. Reached 25,000 signatures
    7. Katie Melua supports the FIM campaign!

      “It is always exciting for a professional musician to be given a new opportunity to perform abroad. This is what our life as performers should be, performing for as many people as possible in as many possible places throughout the world. Unfortunately, this can become a nightmare as soon as you reach the airport check-in or boarding gate.

      There is no way you can predict how the airline company will treat you and, in particular, whether you will be allowed to take your instrument on board with you. You may very well end up not travelling at all and miss your engagement just because you haven’t been authorised to fly with your guitar in the cabin. This has happened, and continues to happen to many musicians in Europe and elsewhere around the world.

      I do hope this can be changed and fully support the FIM campaign[…]. Please don’t let airline companies decide whether or not we may perform abroad: our jobs, our careers, our lifes as artists are at stake here!”

      Katie Melua

    8. UK and North-American media report about the FIM campaign

      Music Week, Classical Music Magazine, Music Room, The Stage, Foot Stompin', CMU, Arts Journal, Great Musical Instruments, Pal Canada…

    9. The Strad magazine echoes the FIM petition

      The well known magazine reports about the FIM initiative. Their post (see link below) includes numerous comments and testimonies from musicians.

    10. Swedish guitarist Janne Schaffer supports the FIM campaign

      Janne Schaffer is a Swedish guitar player. He played in 55 ABBA tracks, published 12 solo albums and took part in more than 5,000 sound recording sessions.

      "[…] I strongly support the FIM campaign and encourage all musicians to do the same. I also urge European Commissioner Siim Kallas to listen to our request. It is time for airlines to be fair to music performers! "

      Read his full message on the FIM website: http://www.fim-musicians.org/post/janne-schaffer

    11. Reached 20,000 signatures
    12. Almost 4,000 signatures after 48 hours: goal upgraded to 10,000!

      Considering the terrific success of this campaign, we should be able to reach 10,000 signatures and more!

      We're on the right track!

    13. Reached 3,000 signatures
    14. That's a fantastic start: 1500+ signatures after just 1 day: thank you!

      If we want to get full attention from EU authorities, we need to keep promoting this campaign as widely as possible! Please go ahead and share this link with all your fellow musicians.

    15. Reached 1,500 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • Luca Formentini DESENZANO DEL GARDA, ITALY
      • over 1 year ago

      I have received a mail about "A draft amended regulation has been published by the EU Commission on March 20th, 2013" but the tinyurl link it contains doesn't work. Does anyone know more aabout it ?

    • Eirik Mentzsen BERGEN, NORWAY
      • over 1 year ago

      Last time i brought my guitar with me abroad, a Spanish airline refused to let me bring the guitar as hand luggage. The resulting damages to my instrument and others like it should not be an option when travelling!

    • Jonathan McMillan LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
      • over 1 year ago

      Because I have travelled with gear and had lots of hassel with the computer equipment I've needed to take.

    • Bendik Toming LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
      • over 1 year ago

      Because I'm a musician

      • over 1 year ago

      I´m a professional musician


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