Disgraceful airline loses a double-bass

Disgraceful airline loses a double-bass


norman lebrecht

July 29, 2015

Robert Black, a member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, loaded his double-bass onto a flight from Fortaleza, Brazil, to New York. That was a week ago. Since then there has been no sign of the instrument and no help from the airline, TAM, which is the largest in Brazil.

Here’s the story in Robert’s own words:

The unthinkable seems to be happening. I returned to NY from Brazil on TAM airlines on Tuesday morning (7/22) – but my double bass had not been put on my flight. I filed a lost baggage claim with TAM. It is now 3 1/2 days later and the airline has no idea where the instrument is. I’m trying to stay optimistic, but also starting to fear the worst.

To all of the students and teachers at the Festival Eleazar de Carvalho in Fortaleza – as the festival concludes and you start to travel home through various airports, be on the lookout for my bass and let me know if you see it. The case looks like this.


double bass

Now 5 days after losing my double bass, TAM Airlines still cannot find it. After countless calls and email messages, they cannot provide me with any information.

Time to go to some agencies outside of TAM.

The bass is one of Patrick Charton’s B-21 models he made for me in 2009 (No. 13). It is a very unique and distinctive instrument. There are only about 30 of these instruments in the world. It easily stands out and cannot be confused for any other bass. There is a unique dedication inscribed inside. In the following photos, especially notice the neck block, scroll, and f-holes.

double bass2

Along with the instrument, there were two German bows – one made by Robert Dow and the was carbon fiber.

What makes this situation even more unbelievable is that on my TAM flight from NY to Sao Paulo, the bass wasn’t delivered until the next day. On my TAM flight from Sao Paulo to Fortaleza a few day later, the bass wasn’t delivered until the next day. And now my TAM flight from Fortaleza to NY – 5 days and no bass. This is not the typical overweight-oversize bass case – it is 48 x 30 x 12 inches and weighs 50 pounds. There is room on the planes for it.


Message for TAM: Get that bass back to Mr Black or face the concerted wrath of musicians.

h/t: Daniel Wolf



  • Marilyn says:

    This is horrifying. I cannot imagine how an airline can be so careless. I’ve never flown TAM and probably will never do so after hearing this.

  • Prewartreasurw says:

    Anyone think to check the overhead lockers?

  • Scott Fields says:

    Here’s a note I sent directly to Mr. Black, but now with a second bassist’s name redacted into Mr.X.


    Years ago, at the beginning of a tour, Northwest lost Mr. X’s (my bassist at the time) bass. The value then was about 30k. It was in a Gage case.

    Because of a security backup, they are shifted him from flight-to-flight, finally making him stay overnight and take a flight to a different city, Milwaukee instead of Madison, Wisconsin. By the end of the process he had no paperwork showing that he had checked anything and the airline said that they couldn’t help because the computer showed that he had not checked luggage.

    After arguing with the Milwaukee staff, I decided to drive to the Madison airport 1.5 hours away, with a furious Mr. X in tow. At the Madison Northwest check in I asked them to look in the luggage area to see if they had a contrabass that they couldn’t explain.

    Five minutes later they rolled it out and gave it to me without me having provided paperwork or having to sign anything. The tour started that evening.

  • Art Serating says:

    Obviously the work of the vast network of airport employees who find their low paying jobs insufficient to support their families so they steal from us on a routine basis.
    Many airports have installed video cameras in baggage areas to try to prevent such nonsense.