Eminent violinist is refused boarding by Qantas

Eminent violinist is refused boarding by Qantas


norman lebrecht

July 23, 2017

The distinguished soloist and teacher Ole Bohn was forced to miss his plane tonight after a Qantas official refused to allow his violin on board.

Ole, former concertmaster at Norwegian Opera and now professor at the Sydney Conservatorium, was due to fly by Qantas from Santiago de Chile to Sydney.

Here is what he tells Slipped Disc:


‘I was denied boarding the plane, QF 28 Santiago-Sydney on July 23 at 1:30  unless I put the violin in the baggage hold , something I explained I couldn’t do.

‘The manager Christian Carlos, refused to show me the rules he was referring to. I have later been sent Qantas rules on musical instruments where it specifically states that you can take violins onboard. I have never had any problems before and I even hold a Gold Card from Qantas.

‘I have now been rebooked on a Latam flight which is leaving 11 hours later.

‘It has really messed up my agenda. I was supposed to get into Sydney on Monday evening, sleep to be ready to teach and rehearse on Tuesday morning. Later that day I fly to Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, to teach at a festival . Now there will be two nights on airplanes and no teaching on Tuesday morning in Sydney.’

We have asked Qantas for an explanation.



  • John Grabowski says:

    > We have asked Qantas for an explanation.

    Don’t hold your breath.

    • Sue says:

      They’ve got an excellent staff Diversity program, though.

      • Father Ted says:

        He should get his Solicitor to do a letter/email to the CEO in advance of travel, works wonders, choose one of the nasty Sue, Grabbit and Runne firms, they get good results! I extracted several apologies and was upgraded to Club with free booze.

  • Dick says:

    It doesn’t matter how many times you have flown in your life with your instrument. What matters is that you get there very early so that you can address every little issue with every possible idiot who is going to come your way. I go to the airport 5 hours before when I’m doing an international flight, except in the United States. Then I get there 3 hours before. The United States have it sorted out a little better.
    Something is missing from the story here because an overhead bag is larger than a violin case.
    In my case, because I have a torn rotator cuff, I am allowed to board with the pre-boarding. If I lift the violin case over my head and my shoulder fails, if I have pre-boarded, nobody will be there who would be hit by the case. It has the added benefit that the violin will always fit in there with no luggage.

  • Chris Nicholls says:

    This is a copy of the information regarding carry-on baggage on Qantas’ Web site:

    “Musical Instruments
    A musical instrument in its hard-shell case which weighs no more than 7kgs and does not exceed the maximum dimensions for musical instruments set out above, can be taken as Carry-on Baggage and must be placed in the overhead locker.

    If its total linear dimensions are 105cm (41in) or less, then it will be equivalent to a 105cm (41in) bag in the Carry-on Baggage Table. If its total linear dimensions are between 105cm (41in) and 142cm (56in) then it will be taken as equivalent to a 115cm (45in) bag in the Carry-on Baggage Table.

    Please measure your musical instrument before arriving at the airport. A small musical instrument, for example most violins, usually fit within the musical instrument allowance. Larger musical instruments, for example most guitars, do not fit within the musical instrument allowance as detailed above. You must check in your larger musical instruments, alternatively you can purchase an extra seat and carry as a Bulky item.

    We recommend arriving promptly to board your flight to ensure you can place your musical instrument safely in an overhead locker. All baggage is subject to security screening. Visit the Australian Government TravelSECUREThis link will open in a new window. website for more information.”

    If you are carrying an instrument that conforms to the above, print this page out and carry it with you when you travel by Qantas :



  • Sam Cheung says:

    Diversity of staff cannot help the plight of musicians. We need tolerance of them !

  • Tor Frømyhr says:

    After my previous experience with Qantas, I finally went back to them believing I could trust them, in fact I have just completed an Australia tour with them with no problems at all.
    This must be publicised far and wide. It is a total failure of staff training as was my previous issue.

  • Jann says:

    Last time I checked, Qantas was happy to take instruments in the cabin…

  • Olassus says:

    People should look on a map and consider the geography of Santiago to Sydney to Hohhot. How ambitious, how blasé, how foolish, to make plans and engagements in a 48-hour timeframe on three continents crossing both the dateline and the equator with flights of 10-hour or more duration and ignore all chance of delay or impediment. Besides, this is no way to live. Better to stay in one place and help one set of people and conserve the ozone. How shameless and indulgent to then advertise the behavior and whine so publicly.

    • srw says:

      to olassus-you know nothing about how this man makes his living.

    • music_montreal says:

      @olassus, i do hope that this is an attempt at humour/sarcasm.

    • Tor Frømyhr says:

      Now that is an inane comment by some anonymous commentator who knows nothing and doesn’t know they don’t know anything about what is a terrible situation. Musicians travel, they carry instruments, they are caretakers of some of the most valuable artistic pieces of world heritage for which they pay huge sums for the privilegeof being the custodian. We take our responsibility very seriously. Qantas must train their staff in their own rules.

  • Marg says:

    This is not good. And a couple of weeks ago an Australian bass player returning from study in the US arrived back to find his bows (properly packed for travel) smashed. You cant even figure out how it could have happened by accident. Something amiss in Qantas …..

  • Ricardo says:

    It is clear: musicians have become dangerous criminals.
    This sub-mongoloid trend – whereby travelling with a violin or a viola has been made to become a problem – that has developed in the past decade or so is only one more symptom of the sick world we live in.
    Carrying a violin or a viola or an instrument of similar dimensions has NEVER caused any problems of space in overhead baggage compartments, anywhere in the world. Back in the late 80s there was this company called North Flying, a pitiful excuse for a low-budget company that made Ryanair (spit!) look like the ultimate luxury experience: there was room for some twenty people on board; people drank and smoked inside; deafeningly noisy propellers etc. Guess what: I travelled with them several times taking the violin with me. No-one batted an eyelid.
    So, yes: a trend. Some imbeciles have made imbecile rules in their sleep. Some of them have woken up just long enough to amend them and allow DANGEROUS violinists and violists to take their DANGEROUS instruments on board (as we have been doing for the past 8 decades or so), but forgotten to tell their employees about the changes. A cabin staff member with a chip on their (forgive the grammar) shoulder, a bad start of the day or a dodgy love life, sees an instrument case entering their cabin (their kingdom, the only place in the world where they feel in control and where they feel they can aggrandize their otherwise pitiful selves) and proceed to ruin the trip for the DANGEROUS violinist or violist, just because they believe that they have the right and the power to do so.
    Buy a separate ticket for your DANGEROUS violin and viola? Yes, Ryanair (spit!) actually expects you to do so, but at least it is buried somewhere in their rules and regulations. But otherwise, the cynicism in such an expectation is arrant: go on; buy another ticket; we (the air company) exist in order to make money; you, the customer, are only a necessary nuisance on the way to that aim. It goes without saying that musicians do not (unless they are rich – an oxymoron in at least 99% of cases – or have someone else to take care of their finances) have the available cash to dish out on an extra ticket every time they travel with their instruments.
    Cellists have become accustomed to having to buy tickets for their cellos. It is the only way to prevent the dopey, careless ground staff from smashing them to pieces (as they do, time and again, with basses, guitars and other instruments). Who cares! An instrument got smashed? Buy another one! Music is only entertainment, after all. Dee-daa-dee-daa-dee. Nice noise in the background or in our headsets while we go on about our business. Or some pretty racket some characters make on stage while we take photographs for our ultra-cool Instagram page or infra-Cromagnon videos for our happening YouTube account.
    The only consolation in all this is that, if this has become a trend, all trends tend to turn around. So, perhaps in ten or twenty years it will be common again to take violins and violas on board without anyone batting an eyelid.
    In the meantime I, for one, will have to forgo the occasional pleasure of travelling abroad and take my music to unfamiliar places with the aim of sharing beauty and the possibility of a better world with people other than my chums and local associates.

    So, there are at least two courses of action:

    I – do nothing and wait for this nonsense to turn around by itself
    II – find out where the rules are made, put your life on hold and invest a few years in making this nonsense turn around

    Perhaps the length of time in which the desired goal will be achieved will be similar in both courses of action.

  • LeeAnn Train says:

    It seems there is a sudden surge in harassing musicians before a flight. Some arrangements have been made for months where others a couple of weeks.

  • david Segal says:

    it’s still amazing to learn that airlines are so inconsiderate and do not give a dam s…
    so what is the solution?