Another airline bans violins

Another airline bans violins


norman lebrecht

April 12, 2017

Ethihad Airways, which blows millions of pounds on football clubs, has furtively adjusted its hand-baggage policy to exclude small musical instruments. Musicians have begun to complain.

Ethihad is telling them that they must either buy an extra seat or put the instrument in the hold.

There is a third option, of course: avoid Ethihad.


  • NYMike says:

    Of course, no room for instruments on the bulbous AB380 in the photo

  • Anon! A Moose! says:

    “is telling them that they must either buy an extra seat or put the instrument in the hold.”

    I’ve never understood this. There is simply no logic to linking an extra seat to a bit of space in the overhead bin. Do do so implies that buying a seat entitles one to a certain portion of bin space, which is on its face provably not true. It’s not connected to weight. Or safety. Whatever reason there is for not allowing them in overhead, that reason still exists even if you purchase another ticket. They can gussy it up any way they like, at the end of the day it comes down to Because They Can.

    I once was forced to buy an extra ticket on the spot at check-in. As I argued with her the excuses scattered all over the map; it was completely obvious that there was no logical reason at all.

    • Lisa says:

      I agree. It’s all the more illogical when you see that they are requiring you to buy a seat for your violin, even if you put it in the tiniest case possible, but at the same time they let people bring on heavy suitases, huge backpacks, and garment bags. I have even seen a set of golf clubs! If you add up the dimensions, the violin case takes up no more space than most carry-ons ad weighs infinately less. I think there are some gigbags that are disguised as backpacks and have a formed shell inside for the violin. You can carry the bow seperated in a round container. After all, a bow is not an “instrument”. There are ways around it but it’s always a risk.

  • Robert King says:

    Whilst having huge sympathy with every violinist who has suffered like this, there is a pragmatic option for violinists needing to take a violin onboard planes: buy one of the cases now available that fits within the hand-baggage sizes set out by the airlines. A violin itself is a small item that sits well within cabin baggage sizes – it’s the bow that sends the case over-length: ergo, separate violin and bow, make a really compact case for the violin and have the bow(s) in a small tube.

    There are now a number of ingeniously designed cases in which the violin is admissible into the cabin as hand luggage, usually sitting slightly diagonally across the case, often in a secondary super-lightweight case within the outer case: the bows travel in a separate carbon-fibre tube that can be separated from the violin case – these tubes never seem to bother the airline as they are as small as a rolled-up poster (one of our concertmasters, who featured in SD a while back after a tussle at Schiphol, has a bow tube in her brand new case that doubles as the handle for the main case – an incredibly ingenious piece of design). An increasing number of TKC’s violinists now possess these neat cases and travel regularly on a wide selection of airlines without trouble: one particularly deft packer manages also to fit in all his concert clothes as well, so with no check-in baggage is always also first out of the airport.

    This has, in the end, to be the way forward – for the cost of an airline ticket or two, buy a violin case that is “legit” and rest easy (that said, violas are too long for most airline regs, and we haven’t yet heard of a similarly ingenious cabin baggage solution for these instruments).

    • M2N2K says:

      The problem with any such “solution” is that violin bows are longer than the maximum measurement allowed by most airlines as carry-ons, so no matter what kind of case is used, if they want to be nasty – and we now know better than ever that sometimes they do get terribly nasty – they may not allow any violin bow into the cabin. So – practice your pizzicato!

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Genuine question, but couldn’t you stick the bow down your jumper and carry it as “clothes you are wearing”. A bit uncomfortable, but you can always take the jumper/bow off when you get to your seat. I sometimes wear a coat with large pockets to carry stuff past the gate and onto the plane.

      • M2N2K says:

        You mean deceiving the crew that way? This would be more than sufficient grounds for throwing you out of the plane even after takeoff! Unless of course you donate your Tourte to the airline: a quarter of a million or so can always come in handy when fighting lawsuits filed by other passengers.

  • Bruce says:

    And don’t forget the stories of instruments that are still denied a seat by the flight crew even though the seat was paid for. (Too lazy to do the research, but I read about it on this site.)

  • Maria says:

    I’m afraid the hard truth is that to many, including people in the West, a violin is not regarded as being of any consequence whatsoever.

    Blame the airlines, by all means, but blame should also be directed at all organisations (including schools and the BBC) that airbrush anything connected to classical music out of their coverage.

  • Peter says:

    This is of course very annoying.
    And while I do think this policy is stupid I wonder if people can’t start avoiding to travel on airlines altogether as much as possible. Is it really necessary to travel around the world so much? Are there no opportunities to work or study more locally?
    In my opinion flying has become so cheap that everybody flies almost without thinking about it. The low price however has driven down the level and quality of the service and therefore it may be time to rethink using air transportation. And it would also help the environment.

  • Rich C. says:

    I wouldn’t fly Eithad, not because of their violin policy, but because they are shirt sponsors of Man City.

  • X.Y. says:

    See the Trinity case here:
    I know a often travelling violinist who is very happy with it.

  • Marg says:

    Another airline irony – Etihad is a major cultural partner of the Sydney Opera House and proudly boasts at how they bring international stars to Australia. Obviously none of the instrumentalists carry anything bigger than a piccolo.

  • Richard Savage says:

    We have taken this matter up with Etihad who have undertaken to look into it. I hope this is a more constructive approach than suggesting a boycott.