French soloist calls for strings boycott of Spanish airline

Tweet from the violinist Renaud Capucon:

Renaud tells Slipped Disc he was flying from Valencia to Paris.

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  • One often gets what one pays for. This is exactly what to expect from a low rent, no thrills city bus on wings.

    • Maybe, but it is happening on major airlines all the time too, and the discounters probably take some of their cues — especially for obnoxiousness — from them. There has to be a concerted, to coin a phrase, effort to address the overall issue. Mainly to achieve the consistency between what airlines say on their websites or in letters to musicians and what the ground staff and cabin crew do.

    • If the abundance of airline vs. musician encounters shows one thing to be true, it’s that it doesn’t matter one bit whether you’re booked on the lowest of low-cost airlines, a regional airline, a “flag carrier”, in ultra-economy, premium economy, business or first class, there’s always a heightened possibility of getting ######. This is exactly what to expect from a low rent, no thrills city bus on wings many to most airlines.

      • But the whole thing rests on recalcitrant staff, who often refuse instruments in the face of written material presented to them on official airline letterhead. Airlines have different policies, which is their right. But when the policy says yes to violins. and a violinist has confirmed this with the line before booking, and waves a printout of the policy in the face of ground staff and are still denied, the result is usually loss of money to the flier or loss of the flight, sometimes jeopardising a work commitment.

        This is presumably due to disgruntlement at their employment. They are probably underpaid, definitely undertrained and likely underappreciated — they are usually contractors, not employees, and unlikely to get and of the perqs employees occasionally get. Cabin crews are trained to please, or used to be, and the will to serve their public may still remain in those who chose the job despite the raft of lower-rent airlines encouraging them to be distant, even surly.

        There is no way to change the culture of airlines — to return them to the heady days of yesteryear when you actually believed a cabin crew member when they asked “May I help you?” But surely in law there is a way to enforce a business to desist from false advertising, from saying on their website or in correspondence that a violinist may take his instrument on board and then having that denied, or a fare being demanded in order to accommodate the instrument. Since when did cabin crews collect fares anyway? And we have had reports here of players actually being told to disembark after a dispute. These people have bought tickets, in good faith — at least compensation must be paid, and if a gig is lost, for that too. Damage to reputation for missing a gig is irreparable.

        Can’t someone step up and organise something? The airlines are regulated. They have organisations. This needs to be dealt with comprehensively and systematically.

      • It does matter which airline you’ve booked. Although there is always a chance something will go wrong, some airlines, such as Vueling and British Air, are notoriously resistant to allowing instruments to be carried on. Others, such as Turkish Air, Eurowings, and Southwest, are much better.

        • As I said above, the airlines have the right to set their own policy — though if an effort were to be made to get pro-instrument policies enforced, it might as well include an effort to get more to permit small instruments and large ones for an extra fee.

  • Sure am glad my travel days are over, mostly.

    The airline and TSA people have their rules and there are no rewards or benefits for bending them or being reasonable. Quite the contrary.

    Gregor Piatigorsky used to travel with letters from the presidents of the major airlines giving him permission to carry his cello on board. Of course back then the presidents of the major airlines probably knew who a Gregor Piatigorsky was and likely went to his concerts.

    You do not have to get too far removed from our insider world of musicians and music lovers to find those who have no conception of the cost/value of fine instruments (and bows by the way), or their fragility, do not believe it when you tell them, and are not interested once they do learn. And mere price is of course only part of the intrinsic “value” of an instrument to the performer.

  • In Hong Kong, the subway has barred passengers from bringing cellos and other large musical instruments onboard. One needs to apply for a permit to bring an “oversized” instrument.

  • Europeans can travel by plane. Maybe musicians are too greedy, trying to cram too much into their schedules with too little time in between. Hearing a concert by someone who just landed and can’t wait to leave is no pleasure. An artist makes roots where they play.

    • Maybe musicians are not well-paid and need to jam their schedules in order to make a living! Have YOU ever needed to pay for an instrument of that quality. Do you know how much they might cost?

  • Appalling. The Capuçon brothers are beloved soloists in Spain. One particular gesture of their goodwill comes to mind.

    In 2012 an SOS went out for Spain’s Orquesta de Extremadura (OEX), in a dire financial crisis, about to be scrapped. The OEX is in Spain’s poorest region, and struggled mightily to survive the recent economic crisis.

    Every professional orchestra in Spain decided to post a video playing “El Candil”, a popular Extremadura folk song, in solidarity.

    Renaud & Gautier Capuçon were our soloists that week. When they heard about the OEX, they were deeply moved & adamant about showing their support. They stepped right up to the front of the orchestra, and alongside our director, Maestro Lionel Briguier, joined us in a hearty rendition of “El Candil” which we posted on Youtube.

    The video’s not the best quality, but it shows the kindness and gracious gesture of support of Renaud and Gautier Capuçon for Spain’s youngest, and most financially vulnerable orchestra.

    The OEX is thriving now, but I can’t believe that a Spanish airline would treat Renaud so poorly after his kindness to Spanish musicians. Someone should fill Vueling in on the history here.

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