British Airways flies into instrument trouble

Flying BA from Amsterdam to London for a Wigmore Hall concert last Saturday, the violinist Cecilia Bernardini was made to remove her 18th century Italian violin from its case and hold it on her lap throughout the flight.

cecilia bernardini violin2

The case, containing three valuable bows, was checked into the hold.

BA are generally good with musicians and this may have been an Amsterdam aberration. To avoid a recurrence, a petition has been launched to persuade BA to clarify their rules and oblige staff to treat violins with respect.

Read it and sign here.

cecilia bernardini violin

 British Airways’ reply here.

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  • Hopefully it was just a disgruntled gate attendant. Poor lady, she must have been frantic the whole time. I’ve always had good service from BA with the cello. It’s time I made a fabric bag for the cello, to protect it out of its case. I have already made one for my treble viol, no worries about scratching. Still have to hold it like a baby though.

    • “Hopefully it was just a disgruntled gate attendant.”
      Nescient airline staff is another possibility. This happened to me on what was then US Airways and is now American Airlines (unfortunately on a transatlantic flight). The quite friendly gate attendant told me that the instrument could be brought into the cabin, while the case and bows had to be placed in the hold. While insistent, she was polite, even apologetic and handed me a bin liner to “help protect” the instrument until on board, where a flight attendant could “maybe find a blanket or something”.

      • Interesting about USAIR and AA. I have flown many times from the UK/US and vice versa, and have always had good service from
        them. A long time ago they allowed me to take the cello on the plane if there was an available seat. The cost was minimal. Now however it goes in the hold. After being checked and strapped up I take it to the plane door and pick it up from there on arrival. No hassles with them. So far nothing damaged. Still have to pay though, between $100 and $300 each way, depending on how much other luggage I have.

        • While my admittedly limited travels on pre-merger AA were without problems (traveling with or without a viola), I never had much luck with pre-merger USAir, there always seemed to be something.
          The particular flight in my previous post was a USAir flight from Philadelphia to Zurich. The gate attendant surprisingly insisted that my instrument must go into the cabin but the case may not, due to the flight being completely booked (it wasn’t in the end) and limited overhead space on that particular aircraft type (a Boeing 767). Bizarrely, this wasn’t limited to instruments either. Several people were made to gate-check their laptop cases and carriers and take only the laptop itself into the cabin.

      • US Air has long had a terrible reputation among the musicians I know for pulling exactly this sort of stunt. Now that we finally have the actual FAA rules clarifying that violins/violas/similar sized instruments [AND cases] MUST be allowed into the cabin as long as they fit in the overheads, there have been fewer instances of this on US domestic flights. Overseas is still a crapshoot.

        I flew BA with an American youth orchestra a couple of years ago, and despite prior agreement and assurance that all violins and violas would be allowed on board – all musicians submitted the dimensions and weight of their cases in advance – all the violins and violas were intercepted at the gate and put below before the adults realized what was happening, and of course once they’d been taken there was no way of getting them back. Thankfully, there was no damage to any of them, but it left us determined to avoid BA in future.

  • I understand the frustration of the passangers, however if something you feel priceless as per the article, you have to take dedicion out of airlines hands buy a extra seat. As this violin is used as business tool perhaps cost of ticket can be tax deducted.

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