Now Lufthansa refuse to board a cello at JFK

Now Lufthansa refuse to board a cello at JFK


norman lebrecht

May 28, 2017

From the Ahn Trio:

After spending 3k on flights for the trio plus cello to Bucharest, Romania to play at the Peleș Castle, we are denied flight because cello ticket was under the name Cello Ahn & Lufthansa said they cannot correct the reservation name for the cello.

After spending three hours on the phone with Lufthansa plus Expedia agents standing the entire time at John F. Kennedy International Airport with no place to sit anywhere by the check in desk…spent the entire day trying to go. #ahntriocrying Agent #ahntrio talked to said, yes, the cello should be booked under cello…which is what we did… also disturbing is neither #expedia nor #lufthansa willing to refund our tickets!?!!!

Can anyone help?




  • Steven Honigberg says:

    Same deal last summer on my way to Europe. Lufthansa insisted that my cello, booked under cello Honigberg, needed a passport. 3 hours later, my wife and daughter in tears, an agent came to our rescue. On the way back from Italy, Lufthansa insisted that I buy a one way ticket for the cello for $6,000. I found online and wrote the CEO of Lufthansa an email. We got a call the next day. Unbelievable.

  • Steven Honigberg says:

    This was the email address used one year ago: (Carsten is the CEO) (customer relations)

  • Ramón Jaffé says:

    Lufthansa became one of the worst companies to fly with a cello. After having made some similar absurd experiences I do everything to avoid to fly with them. They used to be in former times to belong to the best airlines for musicians, but around 8 years ago they’ve changed their policy and became as they are nowadays. Even if it might sound strange, my experience is that the best companies in that sense in Europe are Ryanair and EasyJet. They have very simple rules which you can find on their website. Following them I never had problems.

  • Gerardo Sanchez says:

    Let’s go to bomb both Lufthansa and Expedia fan page’s with this article

  • Leonora Bloom says:

    Yes here is my advice. My son a cellist was returning to US from Athens (having played a concert at the Megaro which included a Beethoven Trio) via Frankfurt and Lufthansa and the Frankfurt airport tried to pull that stunt. At first we tried to reason. Let them inspect ithe instrument. Show them the ticket. Explain to them who Beethoven is. Then escalate to-we need to get back to US ASAP for work-in English Greek French. Then escalate to screaming at full volume that Lufthansa will be sued if we are not on the next plane to JFK. The last bit worked. PS. was screamed in French English and Greek. PPS. plane we were in was half empty-cello had its own row and cello able to lie down.

    • FrequentFlyer says:

      Your son was extremely lucky, as this is usually the best way to get offloaded together awith the cello as a disruptive passenger.
      Absolutely not recommendable.
      Just book it as what it is: a cello. And not a person.

  • Cello85 says:

    Lufthansa has been the best airline for traveling with cello in my experience.
    However, you can’t book cello tickets any more with third parties like Expedia and use the old trick with putting Cello and your name.
    Only booking with the airline via phone and getting an extra cabin baggage ticket under your name is acceptable.
    As annoying it may sound, Lufthansa was just following protocol and rules,no offense!

  • Maik says:

    A Cello needs to be booked in a special way. If you book it yourself online with an Travel Agent i.e. Expedia, than the Cello will be booked as an additional passenger with the name LASTNAME/Cello. So for the airline it looks like a passenger with the firstname Cello. If you want to check in the airline check in systems requires passport informations.

    So before you book something online, when you want to travel with a Cello or an extra seat, call the airline!!!

  • Oskar says:

    Again, another hysterical article of this kind. If people always booked their ticket through an airline agent by phone, it would not only be clear that it is indeed an extra seat/ cabin baggage, but they would also save a lot of money, as one doesn’t have to pay all the taxes for the cello ticket, as opposed to a “living passenger”, who has to pay the full price.

  • Marg says:

    I must say my heart sank when I saw ‘Expedia’. I would never book with any organisation but the airline direct (and pay whatever extra it might cost me) in such a situation, so that the airline cannot put the blame anywhere else. And … get the agents name and ID number in case there is a problem at checkin.

  • Emily B says:

    Yes, I’ve found when flying with my cello to always book via agent (usually pretty easy over the phone). They need to override several system requirements since it is “cabin baggage” and not a person. I usually start online and find out which flights I want and then call to book. Then of course there is always the suspicious gate agent wondering if I’m trying to sneak cello on plane, but they are always reassured when you present ticket labeled “cabin baggage”

  • Classixfan says:

    Lufthansa is right! You have to book a Cello as bulk luggage with an extra seat and not as a passenger.
    To countries where a pasport has to be in the system, how are you going to do this with a cello?

  • Robert Revet says:

    If a passenger called Mr. Cello is flying, he would need a passport.
    To book a cello or a tuba or a bass you have to call the airline.
    Booking a 2nd ticket doesn’t work.
    So whose fault was that now?

    • Steven Honigberg says:

      How about the courtesy of a human being, not a robot following rules, to tell you this in a nice manner. “Say, the next time you will need to call an agent to book your instrument on a our flight. For now, I will let you through.” Wouldn’t that be more humane? Do human beings matter anymore at airports?

      • Robert Revet says:

        It has nothing to do with beeing a robot or a lack of courtesy. Apart from the fact that I’m sure Lufthansa would do anything to correct the situation, some things simply aren’t possible.
        As much as you cannot play a trumpetsolo on a cello, the airlineagent can’t check in a passenger without a passport.
        So a new and correct booking must be made. On a full flight, that could prove to be at least very time consuming, if not at all impossible.
        Refunding the old ticket after cancelling it, can only be done where it was purchased.

        • Steven Honigberg says:

          Robert, I have been traveling with my cello on aircrafts for 40 plus years. I remember when human beings were courteous and helpful. Was I supposed to look into my crystal ball and see that I no longer could book a flight for myself and my cello online? That I NOW need a passport number for my valuable pieces of wood and strings? When these rules changed, people like me and the Ahn trio run into dire situations. That’s where the human touch comes into play. Just like for me when an agent swooped in to help (after 3 hours of phone calls, tears and arguing) and when someone finally helped me in Italy – after 5 days of phone calls. Mind you, I had purchased by $1350 RT ticket for my CELLO. I’m blaming those Lufthansa employees (and its CEO) for not being at all helpful when they could have been much earlier. Compassion is a word I would like to believe will never go out of style.

      • Bruce says:

        ^ Short answer: no.

  • David de la Grande says:

    Robert Revet is exactly right, this wasn’t a bus or rail ticket. You cannot travel through international boundaries and into countries which require passports and ESTA’s without following the rules of air travel regardless of it being a Cello, dog or bike. Everything has a procedure or process and if your not sure what those rules are speak with someone who does like a travel agent. Classic example of booking online either to save time, money or both and failing with disastrous results. For what it’s worth I’m sorry this happened to you but it’s not Lufthansas fault and if you get any kind of refund for this you should consider yourself very lucky. Next time use a travel agent or call the airline direct, not an online booking tool. Best of luck!

    • Steven Honigberg says:

      Never mind me. I’m thinking of the Ahn trio’s cellist and all future cellists, who don’t read this thread, who will book their cellos on an international flight online thinking they have done their job.

      • Karen Young says:

        I’ve appreciated your comments on this thread, Steven. Will share with my cellist son who has run into some issues with flights (and for whom you signed a copy of your book a few years back when you wowed us in Idaho Falls with your Dvorak. At least I’m assuming you’re the same Steven!)

        • Steven Honigberg says:

          Thank you. I just love to play in Idaho. I’m not ranting as some say here. I’m making a point. We live in a computer age where many things are routinely done online. Why does one who plays the cello have to call the airline, be put on hold forever, to book a cello on a flight? Why can’t I do it on the internet like millions of others who manage their lives online? I was penalized for it and I won’t be doing it again. But what about the others who will certainly make the same mistake? Should they be penalized to the tune of thousands of dollars – denied permission to board, eat the ticket, buy another that’s more expensive, stay overnight in a hotel – by an airline that makes billions?

  • Birgit says:

    This rant is bullshit. Lufthansa was more than helpfull in this case. These passengers booked their cello as a male passenger (their fault or expedias) and not as cabin baggage.
    Lufthansa in NYC has given the authorization to the passengers and Expedia to refund the nonrefundable!!! tickets.
    Yes, of course they had to buy new tickets for a passenger and a cabin baggage (which, by the way is cheaper than tickets for 2 passengers).

    Especially for flights to and from the US passport datas have to be entered in the system for every passenger before a check-in is possible and they will be directly squared with the authorities. There is no way to enter fake datas for a male cello passenger into the system.

  • Joshua Gordon says:

    It’s a post 9/11 era, a cello seat can’t be booked on Expedia, Travelocity, etc.. Either go old school with a travel agent or contact the airline directly, and either way you must book the cello as cabin baggage, forget about giving it a name. I had good recent experiences with Delta, Eva Air, JetBlue, and Southwest this way.

  • DKMusic says:

    Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr earns $3 million dollars a year. The company is worth 1.75 billion dollars. Take that musicians trying to earn hundreds, I mean thousands of dollars performing your art in any corner of the world willing to listen.

  • Adam says:

    And if you’re a bass player…

  • matt says:

    why don’t you except you made the mistake? it makes no difference if carssten spohr earns 3 million. it’s the law. wrong ticket no bourdingpass. it’s for mr. cello not possible to get on board without a pass. if i travel to usa using the wrong visa i won’t get in. it’s the law. althought the mistake was made at the ambassy in berlin. cost me $175.-. could i count on human compassion? with the tsa? i have a visa but the wrong one. shit happens.