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International cellist is grounded at Heathrow

July 13, 2017 by norman lebrecht

65 comments.


A tweet last night from our friend and neighbour Steven Isserlis:

So we asked for a full account of his disastrous day. Here it is:

Today started well, with the presentation of the Cobbett Medal for chamber music, in a quaint and fascinating ceremony (lots of traditional costumes, stiff half-bows and banged gavils) at the beautiful Skinners’ Hall in the city of London. (And no, nobody tried to skin me.) From there, I took a mini-cab (why are they called that, when they’re generally bigger than black taxis?) to Heathrow Airport.

There was a lot of traffic, but nevertheless I arrived around 2 hours before my KLM departure to Amsterdam, from where I was to connect to a flight to Billund, in Denmark. I approached the check-in agent, who looked at me without love. I don’t know why; normally I get on well with check-in agents (until they start to give me too hard a time about my cello, anyway); but this one and I just didn’t hit it off from Minute 1. I informed him immediately – as one has to do –  that I had a second seat for my cello; he merely shrugged and went on with what he was doing. Then he looked sharply at me. ‘Have you paid for the cello seat?”. I assured him that I had, and offered to show him the letter on my computer which my brilliant travel agent, Merlin (really!) at American Express, always provides in case of trouble, showing how the cello seat is booked. He looked at it without great interest and handed it back; then he looked at his own computer screen.

‘There’s no cello ticket,’ he said. ‘I have to call the ticket desk.’ I was beginning to fume – and time was beginning to get tighter. The agent spoke on the phone, then hung up and looked at me.   ‘The cello ticket’s been cancelled,’ he said. I assured him that it had NOT been cancelled, having been booked in late May and not altered in any way since then. He shrugged (he was good at shrugging). ‘You’ll have to call your travel agent,’ he said. ‘Now stand aside and let the next customer approach.’ I did so (not, I confess, without a few muttered swear words, which is never a good idea at any stage of the airport experience). I called Amex; of course Merlin had left, and I was put on hold for rather a long time as I was passed from person to person who, it was thought, would be able to sort the problem for me. As I was on hold, the check-in agent snapped at me, quite unnecessarily: ’Take your bags further away’. Charmed I was not.

The people at Amex said they’d call me back when they’d talked to KLM; I waited for rather an alarming chunk of time, but eventually somebody knowledgeable-sounding called me.  ‘Can I speak with the check-in agent?’ she asked. I had to wait until he’d finished dealing with another customer – deliberately slowly, it seemed to me; but eventually, I was able to go up to the desk. ‘My travel agent would like to speak to you,’ I told my non-friend. ‘I don’t speak to travel agents,’ was the response. At this point, I blasphemed. ‘You have to calm down, sir,’ he told me, ‘or I’m not going to check you in at all’. I took a deep breath – and spent the next five minutes telling him what the Amex lady was saying on my phone, and repeating his replies to her down said phone. She insisted that she had talked to KLM, that the cello had been booked correctly, and that if he reloaded his screen, all would be well. He did so. ‘Nothing’s changed,’ he announced. ‘It’s still cancelled.’

‘Ask him if he has the number of the ticket desk,’ she said. ‘They’ll just tell her the same thing,’ he said. ‘There’s no point in her calling.’ I relayed this. ‘Just ask him for the number,’ my Amex lady said firmly. I duly asked. He turned to a colleague of his, and asked her something. ‘Incredible!’ I said to my caller. He whipped round. ‘What am I doing here? I’m trying to help you, and you’re complaining. I’m through with you – you can go to my colleague.’ And with that, he beckoned the next passenger over, and started serving him. End of my dealings with this delightful human being.

I stood astonished; but there was no time to protest, because the flight was due to leave in 45 minutes – and it was the last flight out that night. His colleague – once he was free to deal with me – was much nicer; but told me there was nothing he could do. He suggested I go to the ticket desk (something I should probably have done an hour earlier, in retrospect). I had been tweeting little flashes from my experience as it unfolded, and at this point I received a helpful tweet from KLM. ‘A request to transport a musical instrument needs to be placed 48 hours in advance due to limited space of the aircraft,’ I was told. I THINK some foam may have emerged from my mouth at this point.

Over to the ticket desk I went, poor Amex lady still hovering in telephonic attendance. They seemed to know about my problem, and were working on it. ‘I think it’ll be fine now,’ said my Amex lady desperately. ‘Would you mind if I leave you to it?” ‘PLEASE stay with me,’ I begged. She good-naturedly assented – which was a relief, because the ticket agent was having difficulties. He asked me for the ticket number. I asked Ms Amex. ‘I need to speak to him,’ she said. I relayed this. ‘I’m not supposed to speak to travel agents,’ he said, ‘but just this once’. I gratefully handed her over. They spoke for a bit, and he went back to his computer with renewed energy. Two colleagues of his came over and started to join in the fun (?). On it went – the flight was now officially closed; and they all seemed to be getting increasingly stressed. Eventually the first agent shook his head. ‘It’s no good,’ he said. ‘There’s no cello ticket.’

By this point, I was too exhausted to protest – and anyway, I could tell that he’d really been trying to help. Ms Amex said she’d call KLM and then call me back in 5 or 10 minutes. While I waited, I asked my ticket-agent friend if there were any more flights to anywhere in Denmark left that night. He searched, and found one to Copenhagen. leaving in less than 2 hours, from another terminal. 20 minutes went by – no call. Finally Ms Amex called back. ‘KLM will give you a full refund,’ she announced. The trouble is that they were looking at the wrong ticket number.’ We discussed the possibility of my getting the late flight to Copenhagen – which of course would be far more expensive. ‘Well, they won’t cover that,’ she said brightly. ‘It’s possible that insurance will.’ Not exactly reassuring (though I’m not complaining – she was lovely); anyway, I decided to go for it, since it was my only chance of making it to the rehearsal the next morning.

I took a taxi between terminals – by far the quickest way, though I was a bit shocked to find out that it cost £22 – and arrived panting at the Scandinavian Airlines ticket counter at the new terminal. I explained what I needed, and a sympathetic lady at the counter set to work. I managed to get Ms Amex on the phone again, and she waited with answers to any questions they would have. My ticket-lady’s boss came up to her. ‘You’ve been working too long; you should take a break,’ she said. ‘Not while she’s doing my ticket!’ I exclaimed in desperation. The boss acquiesced. The quest to provide the cello ticket continued – interminably, it seemed. The ticket-lady and her colleague disappeared into a back room, occasionally emerging to ask for details of the cello dimensions, my email address, and so on. The minutes were ticking by…

Eventually, some 45 minutes before the flight was due to depart, the ticket-lady emerged triumphant. ‘Here it is!’ she announced, brandishing a piece of paper. Then she looked at it, and her face changed. ‘Oh dear – there’s a mistake; you and your cello are sitting separately.’ Back she vanished into the back room. She came back fairly speedily, however, and pointed me in the direction of check-in.

I rushed over, and was greeted by a nervous check-in agent. ‘One moment, sir,’ she said. I waited. ‘This is my first time checking anyone in,’ she confided. Good timing. There was a lot of fumbling and whinnying – but eventually, my suitcase disappeared down the chute, and I held my boarding-pass in my hand at last. Security went by quite smoothly, and, with ‘last calls’ being menacingly announced over the tannoy, I arrived breathless at the gate.

‘Can I see your luggage receipt?’ asked the gate agent. I handed it over. ‘Hmm…for some reason, your luggage has been deleted from the system,’ she said.

 

UPDATE: Does that dumb airline know what it has done?


Comments (65)

  1. Steven Jay says:

    Goodness me Mr Isserlis! These things happen, staff have procedures to follow and you should not expect to be treated above anyone else. Now find out why it happened, claim on insurance, make the necessary adjustments and adjudications, wipe the foam from your mouth and move on.

    1. Nicholas Clapton says:

      So you would have remained all sweetness and light if this had happened to you, I suppose? Like hell you would!!! Mr Isserlis was treated appallingly, and his “status”as an artist has absolutely nothing to do with it. Passengers who have paid for a service should have a right to receive it, period, and not be messed around by the combined incompetence of computer systems and sheer bloody-mindedness.

      1. Steven Jay says:

        And, yet, most passengers are not able to call upon their celebrity and the longest ever article in Slipped Disc to report on it.

        1. Amahl Arulanandam says:

          On the contrary, whenever this happens to a musician, there is usually an article about it, celebrity or not. Also, how can you say that customer service employees have no obligation to help a customer resolve an issue?

          1. Lynn says:

            Steven Jay likely works fir KLM.

    2. May says:

      “Staff have instructions to follow…” You’re not serious, are you? How about: staff are representatives of the company and have an obligation to the customer to resolve the problem, regardless of where it originated. KLM obviously did not act in a dignified manner. Mr Isserlis is not foaming at the mouth, he is asserting his rights as a customer. I sincerely doubt that you, Steven Jay, would have remained complacent, had this happened to you.

      1. Steven Jay says:

        Staff have no obligation to any customer to resolve any problem.

        1. Scotty says:

          We have unveiled the person responsible for training KLM ground personnel. It’s Steven Jay!

        2. Ry says:

          Customers are literally their job

        3. Ry says:

          Customers are literally their job, buddy. You screw your customers, you’re done

        4. Gail Ford says:

          If they don’t think they’re under any obligation to help customers, maybe they should try some other kind of employment.

    3. MacroV says:

      Really? He PAID for a seat for his cello. His cello’s money is as good as any human’s, and he was entitled to take himself and his cello on board. KLM somehow wrongly cancelled the seat for his cello, or otherwise messed up or was difficult. Errors are fine, bad attitudes by the people who are supposed to be helping you are not. Celebrity (and really, he’s a classical music celebrity, not Beyonce) has nothing to do with it. Plus, Mr. Isserlis travels (with his cello) all the time, and presumably doesn’t have this experience often. Which is good, but it also means most airlines and their staff know how to handled this, so why doesn’t an employee of a supposedly great airline like KLM not?

    4. Scotty says:

      Steven Jay, Mr. Isserlis’ alleged “mouth foaming” consisted of a single tweet until this site’s editor asked him to elaborate.

      1. Martin says:

        That’s funny. I counted at least three.

    5. Loren says:

      Moderator, can you delete Steven Jay’s troll-tastic post? He’s clearly not a musician and doesn’t have much purchase on the issues in play, here. Thanks.

      1. Steven Jay says:

        Please delete Loren’s troll tasting post. She doesn’t live in the real world, and clearly cannot spell her name properly.

      2. Anastasia says:

        Hear hear Loren! I couldn’t quite believe his comments. This is sadly, an example of regular problems encountered by far too many musicians – especially cellists.
        Bravo Mr I for posting and let us hope that many airlines will try to improve their treatment and give their staff some decent training!

      3. mich says:

        Can you please delete Loren’s troll-fascist post ? She clearly has nothing to say apart from claiming jackboot-rights to censor postings that she doesn’t agree with. She should cram a sock in it.

    6. Jay Bernfeld says:

      Dear Steven Jay, I will try to keep my cool, yet I am appalled at your lack of true empathy and above all at your lack of perception and imagination. First of all hiding behind procedures, which change very rapidly in the world of air travel. Services are pared away every year and I hasten to add that the professional travelling musician is frequently better versed than ground staff, and entirely better informed than certain surly agents, but let’s leave aside the question of violence and hostility on the part of airline staff- I trust that you are all taking care of that little problem. The airlines have made it quite clear that they have little to no patience with ‘out of the box’ travelers and what a shame! I lament that you have not made the effort to imagine what it is like to have a cello as a constant travel companion, which means that you are assured that not one voyage passes correctly, mostly owing to airline incompetence, ignorance, or indifference. I have been traveling for 45 years now with a cello case and feel very sorely tested. Try that mile walk in our shoes Steven Jay….And last but not least, I was brought up to help people in a fix, and still try to do so. These instruments are not mere objects, they are very, very expensive tools of our trade with which we share very strong relations. To leave someone in a state of worry about a priceless instrument helpless seems to me a special type of sadistic cruelty. It seems to me that Mr Isserlis was not asking to be treated above anyone else, but to be treated fairly as EVERY client, even ones with special needs, deserves. How about if we don’t move on but try to solve this problem before the airlines destroy more in a steady line of instruments or leave more traveling virtuosi stranded. Sorry for going on, but this is serious.

    7. Brian B says:

      “staff have procedures to follow”
      Nonsense Mr. Jay.
      Among those procedures is to make sure they are looking at the right ticket number.
      They were not.
      Inexcusable.

      1. Steven Jay says:

        In which case, make the appropriate complaint to the company or pursue legal proceedings. Don’t foam at the mouth and write a Daily Mail Them v Us rant.

    8. Christopher says:

      Steven, you obviously don’t travel a lot with a musical instrument.

    9. Richard says:

      Let’s say that you worked for the airline in the same position at the counter, and then , yoy espoused your little diatribe.
      I would call for the manager on duty and there would be a very good chance that you might be fired.
      Marshall Fields department store in Chicago was the first to state that the customer is always right. This is why you have managers, supervisors, and corporate managers.
      You would make a lousy employee and an even worse representative for the airline.

    10. Ebubu says:

      Beurk !! When this will happen to you personally, we’ll see what amount of foam you’ll have to wipe off your mouth !!!!

  2. Nick says:

    What a horrible encounter! I hope the first KLM agent is well and truly disciplined. But I can’t help feeling that Amex is more than partly responsible. The ticket number seems to have been an issue. Why did Amex not provide the correct ticket number and a print of the full ticket with ticket number and not just price paid for Mr. Isserlis’ phone? Also, knowing that flying with instruments is becoming more and more difficult, why did Merlin or anther of the Amex staff not double-check the instrument arrangements with KLM on the morning of the flight? I’d have thought this is part of a responsible travel agent’s duties. And for the Amex lady basically to ask Mr. Isserlis to deal with it on his own is dreadful! I would certainly change my agent. Lastly, is it not possible to do internet check-in with KLM at least 24 hours in advance? That would likely have shown up any problem with the cello – and a lot more time to sort out the problem. If no problem, then the two boarding passes would have surely been issued well in advance.

    1. Steven Isserlis says:

      Thank you – I can’t normally reply to comments, but I do have to defend Amex here. Merlin is as amazing as his name implies. He ALWAYS follows the correct procedures (he never allows anyone else in the office to book the cello, because there is always a problem when they do), and double-checks with the airline before I fly. I’ve never had a travel agent like him. Booking a cello seat is difficult! The cello doesn’t get a boarding-pass, just a blocked seat – which makes things yet more complicated. And the Amex lady who eventually dealt with me was really lovely – she only suggested hanging up when she thought all would be fine. When she realised that it wouldn’t be, she stuck with me through thick and thin – well, mostly thin. In the end, she spent hours on my case. So I can’t complain about Amex. KLM, on the other hand. Anyway, many thanks for your sympathetic comments! It was NOT the best day of my life…

      1. seppo kimanen says:

        Thanks Steven for the well written story of this awful experience! Having traveled with cello since 1965 things have gradually become worse each decade. Before 1980, or so, cellist might get extra free meal or drink for the instrument. Often it was possible to avoid buying a ticket and bring the cello to the cabin if there were vacant seats. For me live concerts with tight connection between audience and performer is essential when making music. However, now all the problems with airlines, security checks and so on are such a nuisance that I understand Glenn Gould. He considered live concerts an outdated activity.

      2. John says:

        Sounds like pure hell, Steven. I hope you had no such difficulty when you journeyed to Denver a few months ago for your recital at Gates Concert Hall. So glad to hear you for the first time and to hear Zara’s cello still being played brilliantly fifty years on. Thank you.

      3. V.Lind says:

        I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Isserlis about Amex agents. I fetched up in London some years ago, planning to do some relatively exotic travelling from there. I looked in at a couple of Thomas Cook’s I passed — I had given up on one in Glasgow, but this was LONDON — and when I inquired at one about a flight to Caracas, which I had to tell the girl was in Venezuela, she got up from her desk-cum-vanity table, idled over to a world map with flight routes on it, and started fingering the map of Africa as she sought in vain to find Caracas. (She would do well at KLM, or most other airlines described in these fora).

        Walking down Haymarket, I saw an Amex travel office and gave it a try. It was night and day. Nothing seemed beyond their abilities, and their staff knew without reference guides where places were. In those days travel to Albania was very restricted, and I found a possibility that I asked my agent to check out — and book if possible — for me while I was in another hemisphere. When I got back she had not managed to secure me a place, but kept on it till the last possible moment, phoning me with regular updates on her efforts and results till she prevailed and I was found a place in lieu of a cancellation. The quality of training of such agents, as well as the quality of person they engage, is something airlines — as well as many other businesses — could well be studying and emulating.

        1. Harpsi says:

          Mr Lind: It wasn’t necessary to describe your unpleasant Thomas Cook experience by referring to a “girl” and her “cum-vanity- table” from which she “idled over to a world map.” It was obvious why she passive-aggressively dealt with you.

    2. Amahl Arulanandam says:

      More often than not, due to the special nature of a cello ticket (as Mr. Isserlis said, it doesn’t get its own boarding pass, simply a blocked off seat on your boarding pass), advance check-in isn’t possible. You have to complete your check-in at the airport, with an agent.

      People who are talking about him wanting special treatment etc. are most likely people who have never flown with an instrument.

      1. Richard says:

        Typically the airlines handle the cello ticket as an extra seat. You buy the ticket under your own name under the title of an extra seat as if one were a large person taking up two seats.
        In addition, the cello is always supposed to be behind the bulkhead and by the window. If the seat in that position were in an orchestra, the cello would be the concertmaster. It sits all the way to the front and all the way to the right.

  3. David Lloyd says:

    Well Mr. Isserlis! I admire your tenacity. The last time I saw you en route to anywhere was Oporto airport, where we were patiently waiting in the line that leads to belt removal, temporary seperation from valuables etc. I travel as little as possible by air in attempt to reduce needless stress and improve my quality of life but from time to time we have to avail ourselves of the most convenient modes of transport. I eagerly await the technological development that will lead to the “energizer” (as in Star Trek) which will bring more kinds of stress without any shadow of doubt. BTW, air travel plays havoc with gut strings!

  4. Andrea says:

    You can’t check-in online with a cello unfortanetely. My experience with KLM has thankfully been ok. But i will call to double check before my flight next week!

  5. Niall Brown says:

    Unfortunately all to common a story within the cello community and a surprising level of incompetence within the airline industry. Although I don’t travel with my cello on planes nearly as frequently as Steven does I never the less always book my own cello seat directly with the airline over the phone as this avoids unnecessary stuff ups with intermediary and incompetent travel agents or if possible fly with the likes of Ryanair or easyJet who allow you to book the seats for yourself and cello online quickly and effectively. With them I’ve never encountered problems….

  6. Brian says:

    It’s becoming simply disheartening to travel with an expensive instrument these days. Inside Japan is impossible, even for violin and viola – bloody-mindedness at the counter for ANY internal flights – even if you’ve arrived internationally on the SAME PLANE where the instrument fit perfectly well in the overhead bin, they pretend the plane has somehow magically shrunk. KLM just couldn’t be bothered in this case – and needs to pay the ‘bad publicity’ bill. And these bills need to keep hitting them over the head until they pay attention.

  7. London Cellist says:

    When are the professional bodies and trade unions (yes, that’s you, MU, DOV et al) we pay good money to supposedly represent us finally going to act and sort out this issue with the Department of Transport and the airline regulatory bodies once and for all? Flying has become a game of Russian Roulette for musicians and it appears to be getting worse by the week. How hard can it be to bring in universal regulations and procedures that are not subject to the personal whims of each individual check-in agent?

    1. Ebubu says:

      You’re so right. It seems pretty amazing that these not so rare specific arrangements have not been taken care of at the highest level of regulations, even though it concerns a very small “market” of customers….
      Talking about boycott, it’s obvious that a boycott of these companies by professional musicians would probably incite the staff to a big party, but not so much if the boycott is extended to regular customers. I’m no cellist, but after reading this story I’ll think it twice before buying a KLM ticket to anywhere and check thoroughly for other travel solutions. (idem with United…)

  8. Steven Honigberg says:

    I’m frightened that this kind of ordeal can and will happen to me each and every time I travel with my cello. As the London Cellist says it feels like Russian Roulette at most ticket counters around the world. The helpless feeling is sickening. Who was this KLM agent? Name? He should be let go from his misery immediately.

  9. Richard Savage says:

    There are 2 reasons for increasing problems with cello bookings:
    1. The insistence of some (not all) airlines to include the cello CBBG booking and fare in the passenger PNR – with no separate record
    2. Down-skilling of staff manning check-ins who have only rudimentary knowledge of reservation systems and accounting
    When the check-in clerk finds they can’t process the cello seat, they tend to refer the passenger to someone at the ticketing desk who does understand the system. Those people are often very busy or simply not around out-of-hours. If no luck with that option, they regularly try to fob off the traveller with “the travel agent entered the information wrong” or, as in this case, claim it was somehow cancelled. The passenger doesn’t stand a chance against ignorance leading to wilful lying, and the travel agent can do little against such misrepresentation.
    We report all such cases to the airlines and regularly ask for meetings to improve their processes. They are refused on the basis that musicians are a small (and not very profitable) proportion of the travelling public. We believe that the background issue is the culling of so much middle management in carriers that there is no-one left to progress such issues. “Leave it to customer relations to apologise after the event – it’s cheaper!” A comment to Stephen: the KLM system doesn’t interface well with Amadeus. So if Amex booked it on the latter, there could be corruption between the two programs. And a comment to those who suggest boycotting some carriers – on many routes that cellists use, there is little or no choice.

  10. Joel Friedman says:

    Alas, with situations there is only two things companies can understand: publicity or money. Post, repost often. Post, repost frequently. If enough media pick up the story they will feel the bite. That this happened to an exceptionally prominent musical, not without media connections, could help a bit. You hate to make a big stink, but sometimes that is the only thing that moves things along. Sigh…

    1. Anastasia says:

      Well said Joel!

  11. Steven Honigberg says:

    Yo Yo where are you when the rest of us (little people) cellists need you most? We need a spokesperson with his stature to speak his mind. He does travel often, albeit first class, but certainly he has encountered trouble with his cello booking before? No? Do you think this would have happened to him in Steven’s exact situation?

    1. Richard Savage says:

      Yo Yo Ma’s first complaint about repeated poor treatment at the hands of airlines was in a piece in the New York Times in 1981. You could also look at what Lynn Harrell suffered. Sadly, the increasing incompetence of check-in staff is not influenced by name, reputation or even class of flight. If it were Adele or Jay Z, they might react differently..

      1. V.Lind says:

        Exactly. They have no clue who these people are, and are unclear on what a cello is.And they are so ill-mannered, undereducated and uninterested — the “whatever” generation — to say nothing of ill-trained, that there is no hope with them.

      2. Steven Honigberg says:

        I respectfully disagree. Yo Yo Ma is one of the most recognized names in the world. More so than Macron, Merkel, May, Perlman or name any pianist. Even if someone doesn’t know what he looks like they would surely recognize his name. He would have had carte blanche in Steven’s case, I believe. For all I know he is taking private jets to his engagements these days so the point may be moot. If he still takes commercial airlines I think he needs to become a spokesperson. Harrell’s beef with the airline had to do with miles earned for his cello which at one time was given happily by the airlines to us. It made sense. We pay for the instrument to sit next to us. No more. I believe he was banned from the airline but I’m not certain why. Or perhaps it was self imposed. I don’t think he reads this blog.

  12. Bruce says:

    While complications of flying with a cello are nothing new (Piatigorsky has a story in his memoir about having to purchase tickets for “Mr. Gregor and Miss Cello Piatigorsky”), the unwillingness of airport staff to try to help straighten out any complications seems to be getting worse. An attitude of “I’m sure we can figure this out” has become “why do you people think you can get away with something like this, and why do you expect us to help you do it?”

    What is almost more discouraging is the assumption of members of the apparently music-loving public (coughStevenJaycough) that the airlines are in the right, and that simply trying to travel with a stringed instrument is in itself an attempt to unfairly obtain preferential treatment, regardless of arrangements already made, letters written, tickets purchased, and best efforts by the very experienced traveller and very experienced travel agent.

  13. Gerald Mertens CEO of DOV (Berlin) says:

    By the way, national musicians unions as well as FIM are already talking to their national airlines. DOV is in talks with LH Group, MU with British Airways. The EU Concil has unfortunately withdrawn a common EU solution of instruments as carry ons. However, DOV
    won’t stop working on this problem on behalf of the members.

  14. Nathan Davis says:

    By this time I imagine you’ve discovered that “Merlin” has disappeared in a puff of blue smoke. I must have had Morgan LeFay for my travel agent…she sold me the wrong kind of German Rail Pass. I arrived in Frankfurt at the beginning of April and had to deal with a similar ticket agent at Deutsche Bahn….it was necessary to pay out of pocket for a completely new pass!

  15. MacroV says:

    In this day of technological wonder, you’d think it would be possible to book a seat for a cello – maybe a box you could tick on the website that allows you to indicate that the occupant of the seat is something other than a living, breathing human. You pay for the ticket, you should get the ticket, boarding pass, meal, and frequent flyer miles.

  16. Ben says:

    Do you know why ignorant, bullying, non-caring, reckless people tend to work in the airlines industry as ground crew and flight attendants?

    They are too dumb to operate a gas pump safely, let alone any office desk clerk.

    They are too mentally unstable to work in a kitchen.

    They are too bullying to work in the health care sector.

    They are too chicken to work their job without support and empowerment (from police and TSA gangs)

    They have anger management issue that need constant outlets (that would be you, your dignity and your belongings)

    They have the backing of the management, which is even worst.

    Last but not least, they are too full of themselves, believe that they are too cool to work elsewhere

    Voila!

    1. John says:

      I’d love to see YOU try to do their job, Ben.

  17. Pamela Frame says:

    Musicians, I say let’s not travel until this nonsense stops. If people want to hear concerts let the rumpus begin. This is ridiculous. Play locally.

  18. Steve Honigberg says:

    All of this reminds me of the time I was “forcibly” asked, when the doors were closed and the plane ready to starts it journey, to move myself and my cello from the middle of the aircraft to the very back which happened to be right next to the lavatory. I kept asking why, trying not to make a scene, all the while telling the over zealous agent, who was broader and taller than me, that I had flown many times in the middle of an aircraft without any problems. “Visually impairs the people behind you, sir. They can’t see the screen,” he said to me (not true at all btw). Upset, I asked his name. He would not tell me nor did he have a name tag on his shirt. For the rest of the flight I had to deal with a lavatory door that kept getting stuck on open – so I kept closing it myself from my seat. Thanks American Airlines.

  19. Tom says:

    If I were a check-in agent, and all musicians announced they were boycotting my airline, I’d throw a party and invite all my co-workers.

    There’s something a bit ridiculous about making a career lugging a large, very expensive antique from place to place and expecting every service employee along the way to recognize what a special antique you have and what a special individual you are. Obviously it works for a select few, but as we regularly find out on SD, not all the time.

    Google maps says it’s a 13 hour drive from London to Billund. How long to fly, door-to-door ? Much less I’m sure, but surely musicians must consider driving, or sleeping while paying someone else to drive as a sensible alternative to flying.

    1. Scotty says:

      Absolutely right. It is insane for anyone to attempt to fly anywhere, especially if they need to take things with them. Everyone should stop flying places. People who insist on booking flights shouldn’t be such pampered little babies that they expect to actually board a plane; just purchasing a ticket should be enough of an experience for them. Prima donnas who insist on boarding airplanes should fly naked and even then should consider themselves blessed if the plane takes off. We should all walk everywhere.

      1. Bruce says:

        Come now, be reasonable. People should be allowed to drive (and remain clothed if they choose).

        Your airline comments are already fairly common practice, however (except for the enforced nudity… so far).

    2. Bruce says:

      “There’s something a bit ridiculous about making a career lugging a large, very expensive antique from place to place, having purchased tickets to have it seated next to you, and expecting every service employee along the way to recognize that you have paid for a seat for your instrument and that they should therefore allow your instrument to occupy the seat that you have paid for.”

      There. FTFY.

  20. Ani Umedyan says:

    This is old an inefficient Europe… they should start learning and adopting from Asian standarts of service and hospitality,instead of frowning on Asians…
    I ‘m not an asian, but i live here last 9 years and i hate going back to EU….

  21. TOMMY IMNOMAN says:

    “It is insane for anyone to attempt to fly anywhere”

    Right. Flying puts 12 kgs of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere EVERY DAMN SECOND. That’s pure pollution. And why play a silly instrument like cello? It looks really dumb. Why continue, Steven? Read my lips: I will go on with my personal boycott of all concerts.

  22. Jac van Steen says:

    Dear Steven …what an adventure !!! Except playing cello wonderfully , you are also a great storyteller ( as you are in music ).
    Conducting far easier !! And travelling as a conductor? A baton , a score and a toothbrush ( could be used as a baton ) and a good book is all you need.

    Good luck and toi toi .
    Jac v Steen

  23. Anne-Laure Bretigny says:

    I am a humble cellist and I don’t travel often with my cello, mainly because of cello-feindlich airline employees.

    Hope next time Mr Isserlis finds a more educated person behind the desk.

  24. David McKellar says:

    Steven Jay, you are the poster child for everything thing that is wrong with corporate think. I represented major corporations for 30 years as a client representative and never lost a client. Why the hell do you think that happened? Because I treated them like dirt?
    It was because I NEVER lost sight of the cardinal principal that my job was to provide solutions to problems, to assist customers in every way I could. Without customers, YOU HAVE NO JOB!
    YOUR attitude is atrocious and indefensible. If you worked for me, you would be fired on DAY ONE!

  25. Ulrich Maiss says:

    I had a similar experience with KLM, traveling from Berlin to give a masterclass in Texas. To make a long story short: despite having booked excess baggage for my electric cellos and technical gear I ended up in Texas with just my cello and what I was wearing
    I had sacrificed my clothes to storage at the airport to have room for the most needed equipment and ended up having to change the whole idea of my masterclass because I couldn’t bring all of my instruments.
    Traveling with KLM is definitely no fun when you’re a musician…


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