Does that dumb airline know what it has done?

Does that dumb airline know what it has done?


norman lebrecht

July 13, 2017

We asked KLM to respond to Steven Isserlis’s account of the unpleasantness that he faced at Heathrow for trying to fly with a cello for which he had booked and paid for an extra seat.

No reply from KLM. No apology.

During the course of the day, more than 10,000 people have read Steven’s story on Slipped Disc.

That’s 10,000 people who will think twice or more before flying KLM again.

And 10,000 who will warn their friends before they fly.

Musicians have no power, but they are very frequent fliers – on all airlines except KLM.

UPDATE: A message from KLM: Dear Norman, thank you for your message. We would like to inform you that we are already in direct contact with the passenger involved. Thank you for sharing your concerns.


  • AvMv says:

    Another great cellist had a similar problem with KLM- Alexander Buzlov was traveling from Brussels via Amsterdam to Cape Town- together with his pregnant girlfriend , Violinist Alissa Margulis- KLM canceled the flight without explanation and transfered to a next flight with Lufthansa – but when they came to check in for the next flight it became clear that KLM annulated his cello ticket – so he couldnt fly and missed two rehearsals- no appology from KLM whatsoever

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Being KLM means never having to say you’re sorry

    • Edoardo says:

      Once I was supposed to fly with KLM from Amsterdam to Florence. At check-in it was found out that my non-refundable ticket had been refunded (I was unware of this and indeed it was not refunded at all….). After several people of KLM looked after the case and could not find a solution, it was clear that if I wanted to fly I had to by a new expensive ticket on the spot. I did beacuse I need to be in Florence the morning after.

      However, KLM called me the week after, explained that the antfraud system had terminated the bank transaction that resulted in that strange status of non-refundable ticket being refunded. They apologized, payed back both tickets and gave me 10000 miles as a compensation.

      I do not want to justify KLM for what happened to Steven, but also is not correct to generalize for the unprofessional behavior of an employee.

  • John says:

    I wonder if KLM is doing what United is apparently now doing, cancelling seats of passengers when they can get more money for the same seat from someone else? Read this:

  • Scotty says:

    Although Isserlis’s experience was terrible, I’ve had first-rate treatment flying KLM with one or even two expensive (for guitars) guitars.

  • Gasman says:

    Dave Allen has carried out an interesting statistical analysis of the air quality on planes over an 8 hour flight.

  • Una says:

    What planet are you on? I find not only your comments both heartless and arrogant but showing a total lack of basic humanity. It pays be kind and generous to people on this earth.

  • Julian Lloyd Webber says:

    The trouble is that all airlines are the same. One day they treat you well – the next they don’t. It’s all down to individuals who don’t know the rules so they make them up as they go along! I always approached the check-in desk with dread! Travelling with a cello is the one thing I don’t miss about playing.

    • Richard says:

      I have no idea why people are never paying attention to the fact that all they have to do is ask for the supervisor or manager when an employee is misbehaving. If that does not take care of the problem, then you go for the higher-ups and you don’t stop until you get somebody who has a brain.
      I have flown with a double bass, a cello, a viola, and over 20 violins which were packed in cases with over charges for the shipping. It was still cheaper than sending it FedEx.
      But asking [for the supervisor] works every time. It puts the fear of God into the employee. In fact most employees will try to correct the situation as soon as you mention the supervisor or manager.
      But in all honesty, it’s too late: unless if you are late for your flight, you should be asking and insisting for the manager simply for the fact that this employee needs to be disciplined by the company: and you can do your civic duty to the next passengers who might go through the same thing if you had not spoken with the manager.
      It works every time, it works every time, it works every time. I got one employee fired from an airline and she was totally unfit for working with that company. It was easy to see that she was not a people person, but it was even easier to see that she was an unfortunate idiot.

      • Steven Isserlis says:

        Hello! Someone drew my attention to this comment, so I thought I’d add my very last word on the subject!! Sorry, yes; calling the manager would perhaps have been useful; but the one thing I forgot to mention in my account (though I’ve told KLM) was that we (the nice Amex lady and I) DID ask to see the manager/supervisor; but the always obliging (!) refused point-blank to call him/her. And since there was no sign of him/her, there was nothing we could do. And yes, to other points that I’ve seen: most airlines, including KLM, can be really nice and helpful (BA have become SO much better in recent years, for instance); I was just unlucky on many fronts. Anyway, I’m glad that the story has garnered so much attention – hopefully that MAY have a good effect for future travellers (though I’m not holding my breath!) I haven’t heard back from KLM yet; but Amex have been (as always) wonderful. Many thanks for all the supportive messages – MUCH appreciated. And also thanks to the many check-in agents of many airlines who have been wonderfully helpful. (By the way, everybody at United was really nice on my last US tour.) Perhaps I’ll appreciate them even more in future! (And so will my cello.)

  • Peter Hokland says:

    – I am the someone with the update, I I would just add that this misery has not affected the playing of Mr. Isserlis, who gave a truly wonderful concert last night here in Middelfart, Denmark, with young Scandinavian musicians.

    Thank you Maestro

    Peter Hokland