Airline to soloist: A cello will cost you six fares

Airline to soloist: A cello will cost you six fares


norman lebrecht

June 06, 2014

In case anyone thought it was getting easier to fly the friendly skies, here’s a horror tale that came our way today from the cellist Raphael Wallfisch.

Raphael had a concert in Rome and rang British Airways to ask what it would cost to book his 1760 Gennaro Gagliano cello in the cabin.

He’d have to buy six seats, he was told, to carry the cello in safety. Oh, and the seat configuration was only three across. tricky, that.

He flew Easyjet.

When will they ever learn?


raphael wallfisch


  • Richard Bamping says:

    As far as I know, a Guarneri is about the same size as a Gagliano – strange that British Airways only require me to buy 4 tickets for my cello from Hong Kong to Manchester. I am flying instead with Virgin who have demanded that I remove the endpin from the cello and send it in my luggage, just in case I suddenly turn crazy and decide to wreak havoc on the flight.

  • Sebastian Comberti says:

    For what it’s worth, the story is even more surreal. I myself booked RW’s seat (for our Cello Course
    I had booked RW’s seat myself yet when attempting to add a seat for the cello, was told by the Jobsworth at BA that they could not discuss it with me for reasons of ‘data protection’, despite the fact that the data being protected was provided by me in the first place!
    Much gnashing of teeth whilst listening to looped Bizet on guitar….

  • Matthew McFarlane says:

    I would love to see a movie where a cellist really does go mental on a plane and starts stabbing people with his/her endpin. That would be great entertainment. I believe they could borrow this soundtrack by Schnittke (from the Soviet airplane disaster film, Air Crew.)

  • Lindsay Groves says:

    Time for a Facebook page devoted to this subject? I would hope that players of other instruments would try to avoid flying with these insane carriers? It seems to change week to week, which ones are the worst. Wish we could use industry employee names and ranks, along with the news. This will only change when it costs them money. In order for that to happen, we need instant information.

  • hans nygaard says:

    I fly Easyjet whenever I can – Easyjet has a formulated carry on policy, specifically mentioning cellos and how to book an extra seat online. Cheap and convenient, recommended !

  • James says:

    It would be just your luck, sir, that your luggage would go missing and you’d have a cello but no endpin.

  • Buss McCormick says:

    You know how dangerous those end pins can be!

  • bratschegirl says:

    A cellist of my acquaintance was once denied boarding on a flight for which she had duly purchased a seat for the instrument. Turned out someone associated with the airline had seen one too many Godfather movies and was freaked out by her extra strings. I wish I were kidding.

  • Barbara says:

    I did not fly with my cello recently, but from 2004 to 2006 I crossed the Atlantic 6 times with British. I always had my cello on one extra seat, and it cost me one extra ticket. Nor 4 seats, nor 6. What happened???

  • Virginia says:


  • Susan says:

    His cello would have been entitled to 6 martinis!

  • If I never have to fly again it will be fine with me. The first flight I brought a quite large glass-covered signed framed print. Yes, first flight, so I was ignorant about overheads…the very pleasant flight attendant said, “why don’t we put it up in the cabin”…It rode shot-gun with the pilot

    Second flight, carried a violin in a shaped case and put it in the overhead…no problem

    Third flight had a 16½” viola in a Jaeger case…it took every inch of the overhead…no problem.

    Now, you must remove your shoes, drop your knickers and get a procto just for the privilege of boarding. Peanuts are a carcinogen and pretzels are valued more than pieces of eight

  • The King's Consort says:

    I don’t want to spoil the fun, but at TKC we choose to fly the orchestra on BA whenever we can because it works for cellos! The secret: we use a travel agent who knows how to make such a cello booking… We get our travel agents to book a cello seat for each cello (and that way we don’t pay any taxes – just the flight cost), and our travel agents even pre-book the window seat for the cello, next to the player. We did it last on Friday and it worked yet again. Yes, sometimes you get a daft check-in operative and have to explain to them where the info is in the computer system (we always carry a print out that our travel agents have given us), but we’ve not yet on BA had a real cello disaster when we’ve used our travel agents – whereas we have on most other airlines.

    Moral, I guess, is to use Specialised Travel. Yes, we pay a bit more for their considerable skills and experience (usually off-set by not paying those airport taxes), but my heavens, it’s worth every penny. (I hope I haven’t just tempted fate – in which case, Norman, I’ll be back to you recounting every inch of the story…)

  • Will Schofield says:

    Just endorsing TKC comment… Even though BA, having got rid of the blue rope, now have a complicated trick involving multiple seatbelts to secure the cello in the seat. Not always implemented, thank god, and not as bad as Cathay Pacific who insist on putting the cello in a big blue bag.

  • Martin Stanzeleit says:

    Well, the calculation seems logical: Three seats for the cello, and three seats for the poor cellist, who’s had a mental breakdown on the way through security…

  • Teddy Schwab says:

    My name is Teddy Schwab and I’m the manager of Symphony Tours. We are a travel agency that organizes all the flights and travelling matters of many orchestras all around the world. We have used and use British Airways a lot for European or Intercontinental flights (even though we are based in Spain) and the airline has always booked only one seat for each cello without any problems. BA automatically assigns the window seat for the instrument and the seat beside it for the musician.