Southwest Airlines smashed my cello

Southwest Airlines smashed my cello


norman lebrecht

February 13, 2016

From Mike Block, a busy chamber musician:

Excited for my second SOLD OUT show in a row here during this trip to Portland, OR! The only downside to this trip is that southwest airlines destroyed my cello… The picture here doesn’t show the fact that the neck fell off, and there were four large cracks on the top…

Thanks to local luthier Caitlin Pugh for her brilliant and quick restoration work, and the use of a loaner for these concerts! Tonight’s show is a duo concert with the great Rachel Barton Pine for “friends of chamber music” organization.

smashed cello

See world’s worst airlines for musicians.


  • Brent Hudson says:

    Do airlines accept any responsibility for this kind of damage?

    • RICARDO says:

      As a noted English guitarist might have said, the short answer is “no”. The long answer is “nooooooooooooooooooooo”

  • E says:

    You should have bought a seat for your cello and had it in the main cabin with you. There is NO guarantee that checked luggage won’t get damaged in the cargo hold

  • Rachel says:

    I’m guessing he checked the cello? This doesn’t happen when u buy a seat for the cello. I don’t any know a single professional cellist who would put any cello in cargo. The extra seat is just part of the life. Flight cases are a joke…. I would never check my instrument under any circumstances. My husband was forced to check his NICE tuba and they destroyed the flight case and dented the instrument. When I check a suitcase, it gets scratched, scuffed, broken, etc. WHY expect any better for the cello? I’m so confused! Just buy a seat for it like EVERY OTHER PROFESSIONAL CELLIST.

    • Ben says:

      Some of us have a sense of justice, some of us imagine a better world, some of us can’t buy extra seats for our cellos. So we ask “Why is the system so bad? How can it be fixed?” It would not be difficult for airlines to take care of a cello, and I don’t see why we can’t demand that they do so. It’s a pity they’ve taken away our legal recourse and all that’s left to us is calling attention to their vile behaviour. It’s nasty when our own community’s response is “You should have paid the racketeers extra money.”

      I doubt this is what you intended, but your comment reads a lot like “She was raped? She should have dressed more modestly.” Perhaps dressing more modestly would have prevented _this_ rape, but telling potential victims to just make ourselves less vulnerable is a stopgap at best. The line between effective advice and victim-blaming can be pretty thin.

  • Eric Broomfield says:

    I am a luthier. Several Airlines have paid for damage to client’s instruments. It takes a claim and a detailed list of the damage. I do tell players not to check their instruments despite FAA regs.

  • John Irish says:

    Ridiculous. No airline could guarantee in cello in the baggage compartment. Be a real cellist and get a seat for the cello.

    • Scott Fields says:

      Sure they could. People check their dogs and the critters aren’t returned smashed. Sometimes they’re dead for other reasons, but not from having been stabbed by forklift tines.

      Airlines could choose to provide special handling for musical instruments, perhaps for an extra charge. But many choose not to.

  • Dave says:

    Ah! This week’s broken instrument by the airline article. I am not contented until I read one of these stories. Again, does it ever dawn on these musicians to purchase a separate seat for their precious instrument? Evidently not.

  • Richard says:

    Purchasing a second seat is of course the best option. Then again, how many working musicians do you know that can afford to increase their travel costs by 40% and still make ends meet? Yes a flight rated case is a must …… 850.00$ to 1400.00$ … Ouch! …. The air carrier is the responsible party for my luggage as part of the price of my ticket. They lose it or they break it they buy it or they fix it. WTF happened to customer service. Put the peons into a tin can pack them like sardines and it’s tough if something just “happens” to their belongings. Got to keep up that profit margin.

  • Tom Mendenhall says:

    Next time after you board a plane, watch out the window when they are loading luggage into the plane, they are just throwing stuff around, buy an extra seat and you will not have that problem.

  • Cellistin says:

    You guys are soooo smart with your ‘buy an extra seat for your cello’ comments – guess what: I always did so, unfortunatelly some airlines let you buy an extra ticket and then won’t let you board the plane with your instrument (!). That’s what happened to me on a flight back to Europe from South Africa. To give you a taste: one of the stewards told me that he wouldn’t board unless the cello leaves the cabin (!). Thank you South African Airways, never again.

  • Anthony Dietz says:

    Southwest Airlines baggage policy states: ‘Some musical instruments (e.g. double bass, cello, etc.) cannot be secured in a seat and must be transported as checked baggage.’