This airline does not like violas

This airline does not like violas


norman lebrecht

May 23, 2017

From Colin Brookes, violist of the Ulysses Quartet:


Small bump on return trip traveling with Ulysses Quartet from Osaka International Chamber Music Competition at the airport in Itami, May 23rd.

Flying ANA, we reach the security gate where 3 of us, 2 violinists and violist get held up. Before we even put our stuff through the X-Ray machine a man picks up Tina’s violin without speaking to her and began to walk away. Later they try to inform Tina and Rhiannon that they must check their instruments.

My viola is set aside and I was told to wait. Measurements are taken, and dozens of messages relayed over walkie-talkie back and forth to supervision. Meanwhile, the violins are eventually approved as carry-ons, with a little shouting and argument. As I wait next to my viola, they take more measurements and inform me that it is above the regulations for length as a carry-on.

I am told the plane is too small, and people have carry-ons so I must check it. Firstly, to get to Osaka on May 10, we transferred in Tokyo and flew the exact same route and *exact* same plane model. There were no problems bringing the instruments on the plane and priority boarding was graciously offered. We inform them of this fact, with my ticket stubs as proof. This fact is ignored, and their response is a repetition of their size regulations.

We argue that according to their website, valuables and “works of art” must be excluded from checked luggage. They refuse to budge and insist I must either check it, buy a seat for it, or take it out of the case and leave it bare “with a cushion” and check the case.

A final “attempt” is made to fit it in an ANA approved case, which turns out to be a violin case and much too small. By this point, the flight is being held past gate departure time, and in a last ditch effort our cellist Grace suggests the viola can fit behind her cello in a seat already purchased by our travel provider.

ANA representatives accept this solution and we run to the plane. Once the manager escorts us to the purchased seat, he approves the safety regulation of the viola tucked behind the cello. The fact that it came down to that is mind-blowing. We are just trying to make the world a better place by sharing our music, and it’s only harder to do this when airlines like ANA give us so much difficulty. Please share this and do anything you can to get these rules looked at and changed. We’ll be reaching out to the airline directly.


  • Olassus says:

    ANA = world’s best airline.

  • Dan says:

    Apparently, life imitates art…which imitates life:

    (Specifically at 1:03 in the video)

  • L.F. says:

    ANA = All Nippon Airways – Inspiration of Japan