Nice story here from Peter Moore, co-principal trombone of the LSO:
I’ve just had a fantastic few days in Dublin coaching and playing on the brass week. (For the brassers amongst you who don’t know anything about this, I’d suggest checking it out for next time!). Anyway, on my arrival to the airport (at 5 30 am…) the man behind the BA desk takes one look at my trombone case and tells me I’ll have to check it in to the hold. This has happened before – it usually takes some calm reassurance from me that it fits in the overheard lockers no problem, a little banter about it being my portable motorbike when asked “what is it?” and after a few laughs (hopefully) and a friendly smile they agree to let me take it on board, no problem at all.
It was an instant flat-out no from this jobsworth and after speaking to two of his superiors they told me that their policy changed last year and instruments will have to be checked in if they’re slightly above the required measurements given and that if I didn’t comply with this I wouldn’t be able to board the plane. The silly thing about this is that my trombone case is A) very narrow, B) very shallow and C) quite long, so logically it doesn’t take up anymore space than a regular suitcase as it can be pushed right to the back of the overhead locker.
Anyone flying with British Airways and their instruments or any other airline for that matter, be sure to check their policy before you fly and ring ahead to clear it with them if you can! You never know when the workers are going to throw the rulebook at you and show no understanding or empathy for your situation, like my scenario this morning when I explained that this piece of scrap metal was my livelihood and I depend on it being in top condition to work and earn my money. I explained that I travel around the world with it and it’s never been to big to fit overhead – I have probably averaged 30 flights per year over the last 8 or so years and on the three occasions in my life I have been made to put my trombone with the hold luggage, have collected it at the end to find it:
Either with a whopping great new crease in the bell of slide which made it unplayable and have to be repaired, or best case scenario, the lovely baggage handlers who take great pride in chucking the cases which are littered with “fragile” stickers even harder (I’ve seen them do it) have gifted me with a big dent to add to my growing number of dings due to sometimes being careless and clumsy at work!
They told me I could wrap it up at the excess baggage desk for 20 euros, so I wandered over to find the desk doesn’t open until 7 am (the time of my flight!!!!). I eventually got them to agree to me leaving it with the staff at the gate so it didn’t have to travel along the whole luggage belt. I rushed to the gate as now with all the arguing and back and forth to the desks, I’m now concerned about missing my flight. I arrive at the gate and have one last try to appeal to another dead-eyed jobsworth’s better nature. He goes onto the plane to check with the crew and returns swiftly to almost gleefully tell me that he’s checked with the crew and that I’m not allowed to take it on the plane and that I would have to give it to him right now. At this point I refused and said I wanted to speak to the crew myself, to which he reluctantly agreed.
And GUESS WHAT……
The nice lady onboard took one look at it and said kindly “If it fits overheard, that’s fine with me…” and by some MIRACLE it fitted (as I knew it would because it always does!)
I took my seat and smiled genuinely for the first time since stepping foot in that airport – I was pleased that I had won!!! But it was a horrible experience up until then.
So. Folks. Before you travel with your instrument, PLEASE read up on the airline policy to avoid all of this palava and if possible phone ahead if you can to clear it! And if all else fails, argue like mad!!!