Cellists, beware KLM

Cellists, beware KLM


norman lebrecht

October 05, 2017

Jacob Shaw tells us:

Terrible KLM turns into another anti-cello airline: On the way to concerts at the Salida Del Sol festival in Marbella,I have been stranded in the airport today as KLM refusing to rebook my cello after they cancelled my flights this morning.

Their system “doesn’t allow cellos to be re-booked after cancelled flights on the same day”…. I had to buy flights with Norwegian for 700 euros in order to make it for tonight, with no guarantee from KLM to pay it back as “it’s your own choice to travel with a non-KLM partner”.



  • Krista says:

    Sold the cello £20k – where now ? Somebody mentioned Stockport/ not much of a legacy is it? You’ll pay more for seat to hear it than I can afford to move it. Bonkers !

  • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

    Sell the cello for 20k, then spend 2k on this electric cello by Yamaha, and you will have happy flying in the rest of your life. Thank me later.


    BTW, why we seldom hear such news about double bass player? How do they manage the logistics? And what about harp players?

    • Robert King says:

      Double basses (and harps) fly in a special flight case and, because of their size, are always checked into the hold as excess baggage (often at significant cost). At check in you need to have a credit card at the ready, and have a big smile ready for everyone concerned at all stages of the process. Ideally spend your time in the departure lounge looking out of the window to watch the flight case going onto the plane, and not being left on the tarmac (we’ve seen that one). The instruments nonetheless sometimes get broken (if you throw 40kg of flight case straight out of an aircraft onto the concrete 10m below, nothing inside can survive that – we’ve seen that one), or occasionally are totally destroyed (ditto); sometimes – despite the payment – the airline refuses the case, or loses it. Then at the destination, remember that the flight case will always arrive after all the other luggage, sometimes on a far-away belt at the other end of the airport. When (if) all that has gone right, and you still have an intact bass at the destination airport, you may get to the tour bus (after midnight, because the flight was late, and everyone wants to get to the hotel) and find that, despite having sent 10 emails checking the size of the bus’s baggage hold, they’ve changed the bus, and now the bass case won’t fit (there are solutions to that too).

      Double bass players seem resigned to such a fate: probably because, let’s face it, lugging an awkward shaped and heavy instrument around for 30+ years of your career makes for a pretty stressful life. And that’s before you’ve started trying to work out what the principal cello is doing with the bowing in bar 47. I have only massive admiration for the resilience of double bass players.

      • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

        Thank you for the nice and detailed explanation. It’s really helpful.
        So, as always, the cry babies aren’t the ones who suffer the most.

        • Robert King says:

          Cellists have a tough time in airports too – a very large book could be written about the dozens of problems and huge stress experienced every year checking in for correctly booked (and fully paid) cello seats.

          Today’s poor cellist [above] looks as if he had paid fully for two seats (one for him one for the cello. Then his flight was cancelled, and apparently the airline decided that they would fly him, but not his cello, on a later flight… That’s hopeless – you can’t just throw a cello into the aircraft hold, unless you want €20 of firewood at the other end. Anyone in his situation would quite rightly be irritated. So the only option at that moment is the credit card. But if you are being paid perhaps EUR 300 and the new flights cost you EUR 700, that’s not such a happy day.

          • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

            There is still one thing which puzzles me a little bit though. Unlike virtual reality headset designers, cellist is not a newly emerged profession. How did cello players in the past deal with such problems. They didn’t travel or what?

            I think we should also gradually realize our limitation as human-beings. Just because there exist all those seemingly convenient ways to travel, doesn’t mean we have to travel all the time. Space trip to Mars will be available to public in the near future. But do we need orchestra touring to Mars?

            Your example of 300 EUR without extra coverage of travel, hotel and meal cost wasn’t mean to be serious, right ?!! I don’t know anybody in my world who would do a business trip without such basic costs fully covered …

            But seriously, isn’t it possible to make a new type of cello which can be disassembled and flat packaged by ourselves like Ikea products? I mean, some of the woodwind instruments can also be dissembled into smaller parts before being put into the case.

          • Scotty says:

            ANALECK: Cellists didn’t change. It’s the way airlines treat customers that did. There are carbon fiber cellos and breakdown cellos, and solid body electric cellos, but they don’t sound much like cellos, let alone much like very fine cellos.

            I don’t interpret complaining about capricious decisions on the part of airlines as “whining.” Although I’m a guitarist, I have cellists in several of the ensembles I lead. Travel by air for us has become much more difficult in the last decade.

            As for bassists, most jazz bassists are now forced to travel the way pianists do: without an instrument. Venues provide a bass and the musician just hopes for the best.

          • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

            Scotty, thank you for specifying the problem. Now I know it’s the airlines who have tighten up their regulations to make it more difficult for cellists and bassists to travel.

            It actually fits pretty well to the current landscape of the civil aviation industry. Many companies have been having a difficult time, some of the big names in the past have already closed the door. While 30 years ago, it was a privilege to have a chance to travel by plane, now air travel is almost as trivial as taking a bus, well, just more unpleasant …