British Airways: Sorry, we had too many musicians on board

British Airways: Sorry, we had too many musicians on board


norman lebrecht

June 10, 2016

The airline has finally explained why it required Cecilia Bernardini, leader of the Dunedin Consort, to remove her violin from its case and hold in on her lap last weekend for the duration of an Amsterdam-London flight.

It said: ‘We are sorry that our customer was unable to make use of our extra hand baggage allowance for instruments on this occasion, as there were an unusually high number of musicians booked on to the flight.’

Oh, fff’s sake…

cecilia bernardini violin2


  • bratschegirl says:

    I’ve been on countless flights where multiple passengers have brought bags roughly the size of water buffalo into the cabin with nary a peep from a single flight attendant. I’ve been on flights accompanying an entire orchestra where something like 40 violins and violas, plus numerous small woodwinds and brass, have been brought on, without denying any other passenger their share of overhead space, and I highly doubt that this was the case here. What, really, is the source of this fear that too many violins on board will cause the collapse of Western civilization? Try again, BA.

  • Omega says:

    Brits are very bad at lying. Something they should learn from the French. I can appreciate a good lie, but this is beyond pathetic. What a miserable tw*t who works for BA.

  • Robert King says:

    If we take this message at face value, whoever it was at BA that came up with this comment has just potentially lost the airline much of the business (and that’s a lot of business) that it has assiduously built up over decades carrying orchestras across the world. Carrying an orchestra – who within one convenient booking by a specialist travel agent who knows what they are doing can fill half an plane (and group fares are rarely cheap fares nowadays) – certainly ensures, every time, “an unusually high number of musicians aboard”. So are we now to assume that there is a likelihood that some instrumentalists in an orchestra will be denied boarding with their instruments if they fly BA?

    BA now need simply to make a clear, unequivocal policy on carrying musical instruments in the cabin. Assuming that they still want the business of orchestras, perhaps they could just copy EasyJet’s pragmatic policy (basically that musicians and their instruments are welcome). It just requires someone senior at BA to issue a decree (on which, I had fruitful correspondence directly with the Commercial Director of Eurostar a few years ago which nailed down the rules for transport of cellos on Eurostar). Someone senior at BA now needs to be decisive.

  • Brian B says:

    But why force her to remove it from its case? What am I missing here, BA?

    • Robert King says:

      A violin on its own (ie without its case) is a small and light creature which fits well within the hand baggage dimensions. A violin in a normal sized and shaped violin case (rectangular – we all know them) is unfortunately longer than the maximum length allowed as hand baggage (the extended length is due to the bows).
      There are however various brilliantly-designed cases on the market that mean a cased-violin can sit within the hand luggage regulations (in many models the bows go in a separate “tube” which doesn’t seem to upset the airline check-in staff). As it happens, even before this incident Cecilia had ordered one particular style of these specialist cases (a particularly ingenious design) which will be delivered within a few weeks now, so she shouldn’t have this problem again. Such cases are relatively expensive but, realistically, every violinist who flies for their living is going to have to get one in the end – it’s gradually happening but not many orchestral violinists are flush with spare cash at the moment.

  • Matthew Gue says:

    So the reason was lack of space? They still did not explain why she was asked to remove it from the case!

  • Marg says:

    Kudos to BA for the most novel explanation I’ve read for such inane action! Especially as Ms Bernardini didn’t appear the plane was loaded with other musicians with their instruments already eating up the storage bins.

  • Cecilia Bernardini says:

    Erm.. Just pointing out that there were only a few members of the Jools Holland band on board, I counted 5 in total (one of whom also had to fly with his “naked” instrument on his lap). This argument of BA doesn’t make any sense, moreover because the flight was not at all full as they’d told us before.

  • Nick says:

    A new low for an airline that in most respects is rapidly becoming worse than quite a few low cost carriers.

  • James of Thames says:

    “[A]n unusually high number of musicians booked on to the flight.”

    I suppose that one violinist constituted an unusually high number for the airline.
    What a pitifully lame answer.