Ask British Airways to support musical instruments as carry-on items

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Ask British Airways to support musical instruments as carry-on items

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Started by Paula Muldoon

Dear BA,

I am writing on behalf of the musical community in Europe regarding a recent incident in Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on 4 June 2016.  Cecilia Bernardini, a violinist flying from Amsterdam to London for a concert at the prestigious Wigmore Hall, was forced by BA staff to carry her 18th century Italian violin on her lap with no case, while her case (not designed for rough travel) containing three valuable bows was checked into the hold.  

This is unacceptable behaviour by the BA staff; while of course we musicians understand the many stresses associated with working at an airport desk, we believe that BA needs to understand that the instruments we carry around are not just the tools of our trade but also priceless works of art.  If any instrument or bow were to be damaged because the staff insisted on its being transported in an unsafe manner, it would be a tragedy not just for the individual musician but for the dozens of musicians who will play it in the future and the thousands of audience members who could have been moved and inspired by the instrument.  

You say on your website that “at the core of our brand lies 'To Fly. To Serve.'... our promise to our customers.”  This promise was broken in Schiphol, but we would like to work with you to repair the relationship of the musical community.

Currently, easyJet has a very clear policy that allows musical instruments including violins and violas, which are somewhat longer (although generally slimmer) than the usual carry-on luggage size, to be carried on.

I call on BA to institute a similar policy to clearly allow musical instruments to be carried on as hand luggage - otherwise musicians will be forced to go to other carriers which allow us to carry our instruments.  This policy should be made available on your website and circulated to all airport staff.  Your current policy allows far too much leniency for staff to insist on checking violins/cases into the hold, even when (as was the case with Cecilia) there is plenty of space in the overhead lockers.

BA in the past has always been known as a good airline for musical instruments, so let’s work together to ensure that this continues.

Best wishes,

Paula Muldoon
London-based violinist
Member, Musicians’ Union (UK)
M.Mus Guildhall School of Music & Drama
B.M. University of Michigan


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