An airline for musicians to avoid at all costs

An airline for musicians to avoid at all costs


norman lebrecht

December 11, 2013

Earlier this week, we reported that Veuling, the Spanish budget airline, forced two violinists in a string quartet to carry their instruments unprotected on board, or face a steep financial penalty. They were quite rude about it.

This now appears to be the airline’s policy. Violinist David Peralta booked an Iberia flight from Amsterdam to Barcelona and found his ticket assigned to Vueling. Iberia, apparently, is a part-owner of this shaky company.

In order to take his violin case on board, Vueling made him pay an extra 300 Euros for an extra seat (below). David, who is principal second violin at the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, describes this as ‘blackmail’ and warns all musicians to avoid this dubious airline. We call it daylight robbery and strongly advise everyone to take care when booking Iberia as well. Read David’s account here. 



  • Bad for Vueling! But I must say that my exprerience travelling with that budget airline is very good. But I’m not a string player.

    • Martin says:

      Ibearia and Vueling are pretty clear on their non-acceptance of musical instruments on the airplane. No musician should book.


      Musical instruments

      Musical instruments that do not exceed the standard measurements 30x120x38 cm. may be carried with you in the cabin.

      Carriage requirements:

      As carry-on baggage:

      Musical instruments whose dimensions do not exceed 30x120x38 cm (standard guitar measurements) may be carried in the cabin as the sole piece of permitted carry-on baggage.*

      As checked baggage:

      A musical instrument can be checked in as part of the passenger’s personal baggage allowance. The maximum permitted measurements are 190x75x65cm with a maximum weight of 45kg. If the weight is between 23 Kg and 32Kg an excess weight surcharge will apply. If the weight is between 32 Kg and 45 Kg, it will always be considered excess baggage. If the musical instrument is additional to the permitted checked baggage the same surcharges as established for other equipment will apply*.

      On an extra seat:

      If you wish to use an extra seat to carry a musical instrument, please contact your Iberia Bookings Centre, where you be informed of the permitted maximum measurements for your journey and will be told whether or not its carriage is allowed.

      * For flights operated by Iberia Regional Air Nostrum or Vueling (IB8XXX and IB5XXX), these companies’ specific regulations will apply.


      Your hand luggage is what you can take on the plane with you, providing it does not weigh more than 10 kg and is no larger than 55x40x20 cm.

      Remember, regulations at the boarding gate are very strict. If the size or weight of your luggage exceed the permitted limits, you’ll have to pay a charge of €35 per bag each way.

      Excellence Fare

      Only Excellence fare allows you to take hand luggage weighing up to 14 kg, and you’ll have guaranteed space on board.

      Musical instrument

      Take your musical instrument with you with Vueling! Check in your musical instrument and take it wherever you go.

  • thekingontheviolin says:

    I recently booked on line two tickets to Miami and avoided the cheapest deal with Virgin knowing they have a negative policy towards violins. I booked the next fare with Delta. After receiving the ticket the time was identical to the virgin flight so I phoned the company with much eine kleine Nachtmusik to endure. I was informed that Delta now operates with virgin staff and uses their flights. Delta rules are ok for violins but when I queried whose rules would be followed the hapless girl had no idea. I exploded (I have a technique which implies legal proceedings, escalated the call and spoke to an Indian who grovelled without resolving my doubts. As there were to be two of us with two violins I was not prepared to take the risk. The Indian phoned me back and gave me two pieces of bad news. First the virgin staff follow their rule not Delta and second my purchase was legally binding.I asked “is this call being recorded?” He answered affirmative.. I said good came out with many bad words prefacing carefully that this was in no way an insult of a personal nature to the telephone staff but informed them they were guilty of theft, misrepresentation that I was a lawyer of international standing and that the publicity to which I have acces would do them and Vrigin and Delta more than the 2.5 k dollars damage.

    He escalated the call in panic to a pussy cat english woman with velvet voice who tried to “help me understand”…

    I was the more successful in helpfulness. We came to a gentleman’s agreement to take the next price up which was American Airlines.

    The Indian man phoned me back to say “As a goodwill gesture” they would take the original price for the A.A flight…..Why do we have to go through all this?

    Norman, a request??? Could someone post a list of airlines with a simple yes no ticked box feature?

    Two weeks later we both went el al to Israel. They are strict about size (cubic) but when it came to the practicalities they couldn;t careless about hand baggage a full jumbo was crammed with so much extra hand baggage it was comic. I and my colleague took 2 violins, 2 computers 2 bags full of drink cigars perfume and two bags for tefillin and prayer books. El Al is not easy on people but once through the security they are not bothered about hand baggage.

    • Having read this comment, I am so glad I’m a singer so do not have the problem of transporting a separate instrument in an Instrument Case.

      I know that the ISM have campaigned hard about this issue.

      I do have string playing relatives, and would not want any of them to go through the experience that “thekingoftheviolin” has experienced. For my own “little Prince” – I have a son who plays the violin. I would not want him to go through such an experience. Neither would I wish to go through such an experience transporting my recorders, or my Oboe/Cor Anglais.

      Musical Instruments are not best designed to travel as hold-luggage, and their players develop an intimate relationship with their instruments. I’ve known a French Horn player who on tripping on a flight of stairs was more concerned about her horn than she was about herself – she had the instrument in her hands at the time rather than in its case.

  • PK Miller says:

    The horror stories get more horrific with every posting. I, too, am a singer and my “instrument” travels with me. My husband has a student whose oboe was smashed by baggage handlers of a major US airline. She could not have afforded to buy a separate ticket and thought it would be safe in the baggage hold. She & her parents are suing the airline but not holding out too much hope. One would think, in this day & age, with people of all sorts, not just musicians, traveling extensively, bringing expensive laptops, notebooks, etc., as well as musical instruments, airlines would be more sensitive but I suppose it’s all about the MONEY. It’s also a sad commentary on the diminishing state of customer service across the board. Does anyone think the latest airline merger in the US is going to bode well for travelers? Is Rush Limbaugh a Liberal????

    • Let’s take that last line and run with it. Life in the USA took a serious hit when Tom Leykis stopped his drivetime show in LA. Easily the best Shock Jock on the airwaves. Limbaugh was too predictable. And as for Dr. Laura…

      @ Thekingontheviolin, above; Seeing as everyone is in thrall to (i.e. petrified of) religion at the moment, just say your violin is a huge copy of the Talmud/Bible/Koran/Baghavad Gita/Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying/Whateffingever and threaten the airline with suppression of freedom of religious expression if they refuse to let you take it in the cabin. Then watch yourself be bumped up to Business Class with a free copy of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Prost!

    • MWnyc says:

      Have she and her parents not yet taken photographs of the smashed oboe and posted them, with an account of the situation, on the web? Then put the word out through social networks and sites like this one?

      It’s worked before …

  • OBOE SMASHED BY BAGGAGE HANDLERS: – Do they know how much even a “beginners model” costs?

  • Anton Mueller says:

    Read just in time this article, I was about to buy 4 ticket for my family but now I will avoid this.I will also tell my other friends about this!

  • Henry says:

    Thanks for this Norman.

  • This is worrying also because Iberia is now a partner of BA. I wonder if it is possible to by a BA flight but end up with these pirates, and whether BA and Iberia have amended the small print of their T&Cs to permit this abuse.

    • Martin says:

      BA = call them, discuss your needs, then get everything in writing. This is what I just learned from reading theinformation regarding “Musical instruments on British Airways” on their website.

      Musical instruments on British Airways

      Musical instruments can be taken on board as part of your free hand baggage allowance providing they fit within the maximum bag dimensions. Where possible, we’ll also try and accommodate instruments that are slightly larger.

      What’s my free hand baggage allowance?

      Larger instruments can be carried as part of your free checked baggage allowance or as part of an additional purchased allowance if required. We’ll even carry instruments larger and heavier than the standard checked baggage limits, up to 45kg (99lb) and 190cm x 75cm x 65cm (75in x 29.5in x 25.5in), providing you notify us at least 24 hours before your flight. (A double bass will be accepted even above these dimensions.) Instruments over 23kg may incur a heavy bag charge.

      It may also be possible to purchase an extra seat for your instrument, depending on availability. You’ll need to call us to discuss your requirements as extra seats cannot be booked online.

  • bobtatfore says:

    First, a disclaimer; I don’t play the violin or any musical instrument. However, there are companies that make cases (e.g., Pelican, Haliburton) that do transport sensitive electronic and/or camera equipment. My guess is that something can be made to transport a musical instrument safely in a baggage hold. If I were a professional traveling with my instrument, I would certainly investigate that.

    • Yes you can put your 3m strad in a flight case, but you won’t find an insurance company prepared to cover the risk caused by extreme low temperature and potential damp, so it’s a bit of a high-stake lottery. Bass players have to do it but they are more likely to hire an instrument in situ rather than take the risk.