The world’s worst airlines for musicians

The world’s worst airlines for musicians


norman lebrecht

February 08, 2016

Here are the airlines to avoid, according to our bulging complaints bag.

1 Ryanair
The Irish budget line make it their business to be horrid to everyone, but they reserve a special extra nastiness for musicians.

2 United

Only one piece of carry-on, to be stowed under seat. And no miles for low-fare fliers.

The Dutch are rude to divas and even ruder to dogs.

4 WestJet
Our reader’s advice: ‘Cellists: Never. Fly. WestJet’.

5 American Airlines/USAir
Unkind to instruments. And worse to concertmasters.

6 Easyjet
Locked an orch in an airless corridor for half an hour. No apology.

7 Alaska Airlines
Alaska have the same tender concern for baggage as Sarah Palin does for truth.

8 Southwest Airlines
See Alaska, same problem.

9 Vueling
Probably the worst of the lot. Repeat offenders who never apologise, let alone compensate.


10 Air Canada
Multiple complaints

Dear readers, you fly these companies at your own risk. Do let us know if we’ve forgotten anyone.



  • Sarah says:

    I’m not sure this is totally fair and I feel that I must say that for me Easyjet have been fine recently. Get to the gate early or book speedy boarding and you should be fine.
    No problems getting my bass clarinet on at all.

    Also Ryanair with a ticket was fine last time for me. It was only €10 and worth paying that for Mr Extra Item Seat.

    For me personally, I get to the gate early so I am first or near to first on the plane and therefore on before the overheads fill up. I’ve explained a couple of times (including to AA on an American leg of a BA flight) that it was clarinets and a bass and fragile ad even got it on a very tiny plane in the USA.

    Other airlines that have been great recently include BA, Flybe and Lufthansa.

    I hope I’m not jinxing things by speaking up, but I think for me it’s worth saying thank you to these companies as my experiences are that things recently have gotten much better compared to a few years ago.

    that said – I wouldn’t fly Ryanair without a seat for my bcl, but they state their rules very clearly.

  • Max Grimm says:

    Well, unless musicians are more concerned with dogs than their respective instruments, I’d remove KLM from the list. As long as your violin or viola case fit into the overhead bins, there shouldn’t be a problem.

  • Moosdorf says:

    SKY Airways Chile sell tickets for Extraseats and print them out for CELLO but the pilot refused me to enter the plane. “A cello is a dangerous good and not allowed in the cabin!” he explained. I argued that I bought the ticket from a official ticket counter of SKY but he said: “I am responsible for the safety of this plan and therefore I do not allow you to take it on board.”
    It took me 30 minutes of loud conversation to get an “exeption”.

  • Scott Fields says:


    Air Berlin

  • YK says:

    To this list, I need to add British Airways when some years ago made me check-in my expensive violin in the suitcases from London to Chicago. When I arrived in Chicago nobody from the company knew where my violin was – it was not in the flight’s arrived suitcases. I was lucky I found it after some search. Because I fly often and spend a lot of money in flights, I promised to myself I will never fly British Airways again!

  • Wouter Raubenheimer says:

    KLM has always been super accommodating, even when travelling with a larger group of musicians. In the last 17 years my viola and I have never once been refused on board a KLM flight. Slipped Disc should be careful before publishing just any complaint they get, they stand to loose any kind of credibility very fast doing such.

    • Scott Fields says:

      KLM has been great for me as well. That’s why I have them on my best list. Once, for example, when I was returning from one of those gigs where I needed a classical guitar and an electric guitar, I left both on the tarmac to be loaded onto a puddle jumper that had tiny overhead bins. When we landed I discovered them in the cabin. A flight attendant had rescued them because, he said, he was worried about them riding in the hold.

  • Helene Kamioner says:

    You may also add Air France and United. Nightmarish!

  • yuma says:

    KLM has been always sympathetic with music instruments. ANA (All Nippon Airline), by contrast, took 900 dollars by check-in without having any attitude of the discussion, it was no security reason on board but overweight. There was any advance notes by selling ticket at that time (KLM/SAS/AF/JAL/LH all have never made any issue), and in this way making us pay far more expensive price than the price of a extra sheet with no information before gave us very bad impression.

  • Jimbo says:

    Pakistan International Airlines.

  • Neil van der Linden says:

    I always had good experiences with KLM. They sometimes even gave upgrades to musicians.

  • Siri says:

    What is KLM doing on this “worst” list?? They’re excellent! Even when the overhead cabins were full, they would always put my violin in a special compartment at the front or back of the plane.

  • opus131 says:

    I’ve traveled on Southwest Airlines with my viola on more than one occasion and never had a problem.

  • Martin says:

    KLM is definately the best company I have flown with. I play trombone and fly regularly, never a problem with KLM. Vueling and Ryanair are the worst. Vuing damaged my instrument so bad it was unrepairable and since it’s in their rules they have no responsability for damaged musical instruments. Absolutely horrible!

  • Sakura says:

    I’d also remove KLM from the list! Even a double case (violin+viola) was no problem.

  • Dean says:

    I am surprised by the mention of Air Canada as an offender. I travelled with them last summer and nobody even blinked at my bassoon, even when I was one of the last people to board on a fully booked transatlantic flight. I have nothing but praise for them.