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Bad air: EasyJet refuses to fly violin

October 30, 2017 by norman lebrecht

16 comments.


A message from Anton Sorokow, 1st concertmaster at the Vienna Symphony Orchestra:

Today I missed my connecting flight from Milano to Bari with easyJet because they didn’t allow me to take my instrument on board.

Although, I traveled with a special Trinity Traveling-Violincase, which fits perfectly with all dimensions, the easyJet personnel at the boarding counter tried to force me to give up my Guarneri del Gesù violin to the baggage section of the airplane, which I, of course, refused.

I will stay over the night in Milano and fly tomorrow morning back to Vienna because there are no other airline connections to Bari from here. It is completely disastrous situation, which unfortunately, nowadays, can happen to every violinist…

The consequences: 30 students at the Conservatorio de Bari were deprived of an important masterclass because one half-trained clerk at easyJet could not read the rules.

EasyJet must be aware that there is a European convention which obliges them to fly small instruments, like a violin, in the cabin. Someone needs to run a test case against these companies to see how high a fine the courts and the aviation authorities will impose against airlines that flagrantly break the rules on musical instruments. Is there a good lawyer in Milano or Vienna who is prepared to take this up?


Comments (16)

  1. Susanne Stanzeleit says:

    Easyjet are the good guys! Bad sadly you sometimes get check-in staff who are ignorant. It is always worth carrying a print-out of an airline’s rules, and the Easyjet website is the only one that actually even lists instruments you can take on board: Musical instruments are permitted for carriage as Hand Baggage provided that the instrument, including its case, does not exceed 30cm x 120cm x 38cm. Violins, violas, piccolos, flutes, clarinets, bugles and trumpets all fall within these dimensions.

  2. Mark Pemberton says:

    Just to clarify, there is no European ‘convention’. A revised Passenger Rights Directive was passed by the European Parliament but the clauses relating to musical instruments were struck out by the Council of Ministers, and in the end the Directive ground to a halt because of a disagreement between the UK and Spain over Gibraltar. So it continues to be at the discretion of each airline as to its policy on musical instruments.

  3. Gabriel Bania says:

    The information in both comments above is correct and we shouldn’t expect the solution of Gibraltar/instrument policy issues very soon in the current post-Brexit Europe. Even in the US, where such a musical instrument convention exists flight personals create these kind of problems from time to time. There was probably only a difficult person in Milano, who caused all this trouble. I don’t know what was the luggage situation on board, but it could be that he acted according to Easy Jet rules, which state:
    “Cabin space is limited and there may not be room for everyone’s cabin bag on board. If the overhead lockers are full we may have to put your bag in the aircraft hold.”
    So they can stop both regular cabin bags and instrument cases. Mr Sorokow was traveling with the Trinity Violin Travel Set, which means that he had his violin case inside the suitcase, perfectly within Easy Jet’s generous size limits, but it didn’t matter here. Sometimes it may help to be as early as possible at the check in, so there is a cabin luggage space still available. As the inventor of Trinity Set, I could suggest another solution, as described by one of the American Trinity users:
    “I wanted to let you know that the case really worked out well for my travel from Bristol to Denver via Frankfurt. First, the flight from Bristol to Frankfurt was a bmi flight in a very small regional jet, an Embraer. We call those a “puddle jumper.” Though the case meets their requirements for the overhead bin, they were gate checking everything. At the foot of the stairs I told the baggage man that mine had a violin in it and could not be checked. He kindly spoke with the flight attendant who looked deeply concerned and told me there really was no room. I told her that I had a plan. I pulled the violin out of the roller bag and the bow as well. She and the baggage man were delighted at the ingenuity of the case and relieved that there was a solution. The violin case and bow are tiny and fit easily into the bin.”
    So, taking out the minimal Trinity violin case and the bow case and leaving the suitcase to the luggage compartment could possibly help in this situation.

    1. DAVID says:

      Dear Gabriel, I just wanted to let you know that your case is the absolute best solution to traveling with a violin and that I am planning to buy one in the near future. In this particular case (no pun intended) it looks like the plane may have been quite full and that some passengers were required to check in their cabin luggage (I had this happen once when flying low-cost). I do believe this can be avoided by purchasing “priority boarding” on low-cost flights, which usually gives some sort of guarantee that cabin luggage won’t end up being checked in. The Trinity still remains the best solution as it fits the instrument into a luggage whose size is already pre-approved for the cabin, and being asked to check-in a cabin size luggage remains a rare occurrence — technically possible on low-cost flights (without priority boarding) but I would imagine next to impossible on regular flights.

  4. Michael Pearson says:

    I haven’t had a problem with EasyJet for years and I agree that to purchase ‘Speedy Boarding’ is an absolute must (and to turn up at the gate in time to take advantage of the purchase!) Whilst the airline do have a policy regarding musical instruments they do cover themselves by saying that the final say is at the discretion of the captain.

  5. Jaime Herrera says:

    There are always (at least) two sides to every story, no? It is possible (as has been pointed out) that our violinist showed up at an inopportune time and space for the fiddle had been already taken by an “earlier” passenger?

    1. Ricardo says:

      In cases such as these there are not two sides. The only thing there is here is ignorance and a blind adherence to a trend, whereby something that has NEVER been a problem is now a problem, only because it has become so. Violinists and violists traveled by plane for decades, and it was never a problem, until some moronic imbecile in a office decided to make a problem out of it, and an army of moronic imbeciles followed him (or her) like sheep.

      1. Ricardo says:

        …and I sympathize unconditionally with Anton (a superb player and super nice guy with whom I had the pleasure of playing a couple of years ago) and with all the other violinists and violists who have to put up with this idiocy again and again.

      2. Oliver Webber says:

        Well, to be fair to the airline, he did arrive 5 minutes after the gate had closed. EasyJet has one of the best policies on musical instruments as cabin baggage, and it seems a bit harsh to blame them so unequivocally here, when perhaps Mr Sorokow did chance his luck by arriving so late.

    2. Kerstin says:

      In the “express.co.uk” article the writer cites Anton Sorokow: “I arrived 25 minutes before the plane was due to depart […]”
      On the easyjet website it says clearly “Gates close promptly 30 minutes before your departure.” …

  6. Henrietta says:

    Why is he travelling on a low budget airline? Not that there’s anything wrong with it – I’m just curious …..

    1. Oliver Webber says:

      Personally, I often choose EasyJet because they have a particularly good musical instrument policy, ironically! (See my comment below). It really is much better than most of the other airlines I fly with. I think the problem was his late arrival – technically 5 minutes after the gate closed.

  7. Frieda says:

    If someone arrives late at the gate (gate closes 30min before departure!), it must be the same rules as for everyone. Even a first concertmaster carrying a 4million€ violin has to accept this.

  8. swiltsch says:

    If I get easyjet’s regulations ( http://www.easyjet.com/en/help/boarding-and-flying/boarding-and-on-board-services ) and Mr. Sorokow on express.co.uk (“I arrived 25 minutes before the plane was due to depart…”) right, he came to the gate 5min AFTER it was closed.

    Maybe not the smartest move if one has important appointments to meet! I’m glad that the rules apply for all of easyjet’s passengers alike.

    PS: The regulations for the transport of instruments seem to be rather straight forward too: https://www.easyjet.com/en/terms-and-conditions/music-instruments

  9. NiMe says:

    Would be nice to get even here the whole information as in “express.co.uk”: “I arrived 25 minutes before the plane was due to depart […]”
    BUT: “Gates close promptly 30 minutes before your departure.” citing Easyjet …
    And I wonder how one can expect to even get free space for the luggage when already late…?

  10. Oliver Webber says:

    I second the comment above from Susanne Stanzeleit that EasyJet are generally the good guys. Their musical instrument policy is clear, generous and fair, and as a fellow violinist I will always choose them when possible. I do often carry a copy of their policy just in case there’s a staff member who isn’t trained properly or doesn’t know the policy, but I’ve only had to show it once (in Sardinia).
    Clearly something has gone wrong on this occasion, but it very much seems as though Mr Sorokow has unfortunately left it rather late to board: if he really did arrive 25 minutes before the flight, as he said, then the gate would technically be closed, and he would be lucky to get on the plane at all. If that’s the case, it seems a bit harsh to blame the airline here. I can’t imagine that any of the other airlines, which generally have far less accommodating policies on musical instruments, would have been more flexible in those circumstances.


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