Airberlin actively discriminates against musicians

Musicians’ woes continue to trickle in. This one is from Krishna Nagaraja, a violinist from Helsinki:

So, dear airberlin.
Weeks ago many musicians around Europe, including myself, wrote directly to your customer service to express their worries about your company not allowing our violin cases on board, since their measurements did not fit the requirements. The answer that was given to me is:
“we have started more strict controls to check the max size of 55cm length.”
“you can book an extra seat for the violin on a netto fare based price plus fuel charge.”

As hard to digest as it might have been, I swallowed hard and prepared to go to my next REHEARSAL (not leisure) trip to Berlin without my instrument: I had to ask my teacher to lend me a violin, and redefine rehearsals, where I won’t play but merely show some mp3 files to the musicians, thanks to your extra-seat policy.
That’s the law, ok. Or, IS IT, airberlin?

Helsinki airport, 23.2.2016, gate 28, h. 18:10. Flight AB8077, Helsinki-Berlin, departing at 18:40.
I am waiting for the boarding call, with my one small piece of hand luggage. I notice a group of 3 people sitting in front of me with a sizeable bag, what turns out to be a Wilson Tour Tennis Racket bag, I think it was one of those for 9 rackets. Clearly, its size was way beyond the allowed measurement.
I assumed they had an extra-seat for it.
Then we board the plane, and the Wilson bag is peacefully put in the overhead compartment, as any other piece of luggage, as would have been the case for not even one but at least two light violin cases.
No comment or arguing from any member of the staff, nothing.
I’m fuming, thinking about the instrument(s!!) that I left home for the “max size of 55cm length” issue.
We get off the plane, I approach the owner of the bag and he confirms he paid no extra seat. The bag had even been given the orange tag that labels authorized cabin baggage as you can see from the (alas, slightly out of focus) related photo below. The man was even surprised at my question, since he explained that “these are tennis rackets, of course they can’t be checked in…”
Are violins less delicate than tennis rackets, with all the due respect to tennis players?

So all in all, we have evidence here that a big bag clearly breaking the rules of airberlin cabin baggage policy was allowed on a flight where I had to avoid taking my small violin case for fear of either having to buy an extra-seat on the spot or, worse, seeing my violin brought away with checked in luggage.

The images speak by themselves. I urge every single musician, especially in Germany, especially unions and newspapers and similar, to share this story. It’s time to stop this hipocrisy and absence of transparency. Musicians are tired to be at the constant mercy of whoever handles their case at the airport desks and pay exorbitants fares just to do their job, while other passengers are allowed to bring huge trolleys, tennis bags, sometimes 3 pieces of hand luggage (as was the case, again, on this flight) with no problem whatsoever.

For what it matters, anyway, dear airberlin, you managed to convince me not to fly with you ever again in my life.

Yours truly,
Krishna Nagaraja
Freelance musician, Helsinki

luggage airberlin

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  • For them screwing their customers is one thing. Stupid but they will find out.
    But this…
    “you can book an extra seat for the violin on a netto fare based price PLUS FUEL CHARGE.” (capitalization by me)
    …can’t be legal. A fuel charge, just like for a passenger, for a violin?

    What is their justification for the additional fuel charge first of all in times of record low oil prices? Everybody knows the fuel surcharges were introduced, when the oil prices peaked at about 4-5 times of today’s price…

    And on top of that what is a fuel surcharge for a 5 kg item like a violin in a light case needed for.

    Air Berlin is run by idiots recently. I heard the new CEO worked for Fiji Airlines before.
    Maybe that explains his alienation to Air Berlin’s customer base, which comes from a very different culture, one that utilizes classical music instruments professionally and in high quantities and travels a lot with it…

    Probably in Fiji Islands a violin passed through the airport rarely. In Berlin there will be hundreds of passengers with violins on a normal business day.

  • Here’s a thought….

    Next time wrap your violin in a Wilson tennis racket bag.
    I’d be willing to bet no one would say a word!


  • OK folks, let’s do the math:
    The usual measurement requirements for hand luggage are 23x36x56 cm. That is 46.368 cm3
    My violin case (admittedly not of the most spiffingly robust or voluminous kind) has these measurements: 78x24x11 cm = 20.592 cm3
    I do realize that this will not convince any of the raving imbeciles, George W. Bush acolytes, who have concocted these 1/100 witted, asinine post-9/11 rules that have targeted the musical community, making our traveling life a misery. Neither will these mathematical facts manage to convince any of the ground personnel at an airport or the stewards/stewardesses inside an aircraft.
    No matter that a violin, viola or wind instrument case has NEVER, and never will, create ANY kind of problem of luggage storage inside an aircraft.
    No matter that musicians are among the people who contribute to make this disgusting world our lovely politicians have created for us at least a bit more tolerable.

  • How many of you stow your large/heavy handluggage under the seat in front of you?
    Probably none of you.
    Everyone needs to pack in the overhead compartments all their belongings. Why not putting your large/heavy handluggage under the seat in front of you.
    If you did that, maybe there wouldn’t be such an issue about the handluggage on the plane.
    Another thing: depending on your booked ticket you are alliwed to take one or two pieces of handluggage in the cabin.

    Can anyone explain me where was the ‘discrimination’ ? The rules of the air carrier are clearly stated.

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