Lufthansa’s new rule: Pay to take your viola on board

Following Lufthansa’s seizure of a viola at Helsinki Airport on Thursday, concertmaster Florian Donderer wrote to the German airline asking for clarification of its viola policy.

Here’s what LH tweeted him back:

It depends on the Check-in at the Airport, if there is enough space to transport the instrument in cabin, as it … exceeds the measurements for hand luggage. However passengers have the possibility to reserve a seat for their … instrument against a charge. That way you can make sure, you are able to transport the instrument in cabin.

That’s helpful.

If you are a viola player, do not think of flying Lufthansa. They really don’t understand musicians.

lufthansa orchestra

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  • There are a lot of airline horror stories on Slipped Disc. What I find so bewildering isn’t that many airlines don’t seem to be particularly accommodating to instruments, but that many don’t seem to have explicit policies, and even if they do, they often don’t seem consistently applied. Whether it’s instruments or something else, when I show up to a flight I want certainty: to know what the rules are, and that they will be implemented.

  • This is pussy talk! A Viola doesn’t fit in the overhead compartment. It may fit in the Business Class “wardrobe”. If you don’t have a Biz Class seat – nice try. During this time of the year it’s most probably full anyway.

    So, what do you expect? An extra seat for your Viola? If so – pay for it.

    • Having toured all over the world with various orchestras, I can assure you that violas do indeed fit in the overhead compartments of every plane I’ve ever been on.

  • I fly Lufthansa (and its minions, Swiss, Austrian) regularly and, moreover, generally like the orderliness, fairness and plain functionality of German public culture. Except for the small space in coach, it is a pretty decent airline, and Munchen, Zurich and even Frankfurt are by far the best European airports in which to change planes. Yet one have admit that Lufthansa is, in my experience, a particularly nasty airline about carry-on luggage. First, in addition to often stringent enforcement of size restrictions on carry-on luggage, they impose a 9 kg weight limit rule that, in flying dozens of airlines across the globe, I have never seen anywhere else. I do not understand the point. Second, employees often tend to enforce hand-baggage rules even when one is carrying fragile or essential materials (e.g. medical supplies), or when one is connecting to a US carrier for a transatlantic business class flight. Third, they do so sometimes with a particular type of inflexible and unsmiling rigor that overlooks obvious exceptions, such as string instruments. But I do see the point of the commentator above. Lufthansa is what it is, and will eventually see its lunch eaten by low-cost carriers if it is not more flexible. So, in practice, your choice is to strike a deal with another airline, or to fly Lufthansa business.

    • I should add: it is nonetheless sad that in a country of true musical excellence and a long tradition of amateur music-making, the flag carrier cannot do better than this. To this Germany has come.

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