How to stop British Airways smashing your violin

How to stop British Airways smashing your violin


norman lebrecht

December 06, 2018

From Dmitri Badiarov, of Badiarov Violins:

Enjoy British Airways! The only airline I had issues with in my entire life (oneviolin destroyed on a flight from New York to London. Damage $30,000).

To give justice, later they allowed me to put the violin in its case because there is, of course, space in the cabin on this fully booked flight.


Always speak to the captain or to the crew.

They are usually more likely to listen than those kids at the gate who must follow instructions from the superiors.

And the cap on this flight was more than willing to help ❤️

So, even if the kids at the gate tell “you can’t speak to the captain, check it in or you can’t fly”.

Even if they tell you that they are the bosses.

If they insist that there is none superior, kindly remind them that after all they are just employees and you want to speak to the superiors.

There is no such situation where you have no right to speak to the superiors.

And remember, the worst nightmare of an employee is loosing the job they obviously do not enjoy.

Happy Travels!


  • Rogerio says:

    Here is a better tip (particularly for violins);

    – Read the airline’s policy on transporting musical instruments very carefully.
    – Do exactly as it states.
    – Be mentally prepared to pay an extra seat.
    – If you choose to disregard any of the above, be mentally prepared for extreme stress.

    • SVM says:

      I agree with the first two points above, but then I would continue as follows:
      •Print the relevant sections of the policy, and have them handy as you go through the airport;
      •If you are challenged over taking an instrument, show the challenger the printout, and point out — politely but firmly — that you are entitled to take the instrument;
      •Explain that your *instrument* insurance policy will not cover any damage to the instrument if it goes in the hold;
      •Explain that, consequently, you will not fly without your instrument under any circumstances… instead, you will make a claim with your *travel* insurance provider, and assist them in suing the airline to recover the cost of putting you on an alternative flight with a more helpful airline;
      •If, as a result, you are denied boarding, insist on having the denial put in writing officially, signed by the relevant employee (and, if you have a camera to hand, take a photograph/video);
      •If forced to buy an extra seat, insist on having a detailed itemised receipt, and, if possible endorse their copy thereof with the expression “paid under protest”, and pay with a credit (*not* a debit) card (so that you can dispute the transaction later — in the UK, section 75 offers robust protection for goods & services costing between £100–£30000, *if* paid in part or in full by credit card)

  • Andrei says:

    @Dmitry: You must buy a seat for your Viola da Spalla or Violoncello da Spalla (I don’t know the difference!). Anyways, since they really don’t exist in books and you hold the patent obviously Airlines don’t have any policy for such instrument (Yes, I have spent a good amount of time to look for shoulder mount cellos and didn’t find a reliable source).

    If it was a violin, you shouldn’t have issues with One World or Alliance group airlines if you put it in a shaped case such is Gewa concerto, Bam & …

    P.S. I love the sound of Spalla and your work 🙂

  • Julius says:

    Thanks for publishing this advice! My trumpet case is the legal size for all overhead bins, but I have not been immune to scrutiny from airport employees (particularly at CDG and Orly). If there is any question, I will insist as you say. I once had a problem with Vueling that led me to do something similar to you, but not without a fair amount of shouting.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Here’s an even better tip: fly Emirates. Haven’t been able to fault them after 3 round-the-world trips.

  • Jonathan Dunsby says:

    It would be good if our ace contributor Anthea Kreston gave her tips on this. She’s long been a big traveller with violin and surely has helpful ideas

  • Melvin Goldsmith says:

    any proof this actually happened?