Another airline declares war on musical instruments

Another airline declares war on musical instruments


norman lebrecht

November 15, 2011

The Norwegians may have backed down on their refusal to allow a cello in the cabin, but you don’t push an Aussie air crew over that easily. Oh no, you don’t, mate.

At least that’s what my mate Tor Fromyhr Tor Frømyhrexperienced  when he tried to hold onto his 1890s Degani violin, worth the price of a downtown apartment, during a flight from Canberra to Brisbane at the weekend. He was made to remove the instrument from its case and put it on the floor, underneath his seat, exposing it to serious risk of damage. Happily, the violin survived for Tor to play the Bartók concerto in Brisbane.

Tor, who is head of strings at the Australian National University, went to press with the story. Qantas refused to comment. I’d avoid booking with them until they do.

Every now and then, airlines start an anti-instrument campaign, usually under the guise of ‘security’or ‘anti-terrorism’. Mostly, they back down, once the bile rises in the passengers’ gorge. Come on, Qantas, say sorry and start again.




  • Julian Rowlands says:

    I find the problem is more to do with inexperienced and/or over zealous employees than airline policies – the latter being too loose to offer proper guidance. Often the small print states that instruments are carried in the cabin at the discretion of crew, which is no use when one is buying the ticket, but we do anyway because how else do you get to the gig?

  • Mark Powell says:

    At moments like this, I’m extremely happy to be a clarinetist. . . though at security I have been asked to assemble the instrument, so a crack TSA employee could peep through the barrel to the bell and declare it “safe for mankind.”

  • Michael P Scott says:


    I wonder if you didn’t mean, “…so an on crack TSA employee…”

    But perhaps that only MY experience.

    : ^ )

  • Peter Hatfield says:

    Here´s a Norwegian answer to a Norwegian problem…

  • Michael Wheatley says:

    This is utter nonsense! I played a Cavani violin (also 1890’s) for over twenty years, and a fine violin is NOT so fragile that it must be cradled in one’s arms all the time. My violin rested beneath my seat countless times on many travels, in its well-designed case, and suffered no damage whatsoever. It’s not as though they wanted to throw it in with the luggage. :/

  • Tor Frømyhr says:

    Michael, you miss the point entirely. The case went in the luggage hold while the violin and bows went totally bare i.e. unprotected by my fine ‘well designed’ case which was ‘thrown in with the luggage’. I have travelled extensively for over 40 years and have never been subject to such a situation. I also take care to not comment without reading or pursuing the facts.

    • Michael Wheatley says:

      You are absolutely right! Somehow I missed the part about you being forced to remove your violin from its case. That is *completely* ridiculous!

      How on Earth is it not enough to inspect the case and its contents at security?!

      Thanks for pointing out my oversight! 🙂

  • Musicforkids says:

    I’m a drummer and I hold my drum set in my lap.

  • Perhaps Quantas should take a lesson from ‘United breaks Guitars’. Over 11 million hits and a considerable impact on United’s share price, with an accompanying media story that just won’t go away. Quantas could easily get their own wings clipped.