The bestselling Czech violinist Pavel Sporcl (200,000 CD sales on DG) flew business on British Airways for a UK date. Never again. Here’s what he tells us:
‘I have been flying many thousands of miles over the years, and as a member of the Czech Airlines program and their loyalty program OKPlus, I have earned a loyalty Platinum card. It allows me to have Priority Boarding with any Skyteam Alliance airlines. This means I can put my violin case in the overhead bin as one of the first passengers. And also, yes, it gives me a certain status of a ‘respected customer’ in case somebody wanted to forbid me to take the violin case onboard because of its (slightly) excessive length. I must add that for a long time I haven’t flown with a “trunk” violin case but with a case that copies the shape of the violin.
‘But this time I flew to London to perform with the English Symphony Orchestra. None of the Skyteam flights worked out for me, so I flew British Airways. In order not to get into the problems described above, I bought a ticket to for business class. Already in Prague at the counter I was told that my violin case is too long. But in London on the way back, I was clearly told that I cannot go on board with my violin case and would have to check it as a normal luggage.
‘I said: “This is unthinkable. There is a precious violin inside this violin case and I do not give it to anybody. In many such cases, only chips are left when violins have been handled this way…” I pointed out that I bought a business class ticket specifically because of this. The lady said the rules are the same even in business class. So I showed the case once more and pointed out that it only exceeds their maximum length by about 15cm, and only in length. Eventually I convinced her and she let me into the plane. But what would I have done had she continued to insist? I do not know, I think I would not have a chance, I would have to wait for the next flight, maybe buy a ticket with another company … I often read about some of my fellow violinists’ problems, even having to take out the precious Stradivarius out of the case and sit with it on their lap the whole way in order to check in the case in the luggage hold. It makes no sense – a violin case is really only 15 or maximum 20 cm over the length (while the full permitted width is not used).
‘I love flying. But this kind of thing makes it unpleasant, because one can never be sure if they let me fly with my violin. And for 15cm, to miss a concert or a rehearsal is very cruel. As a respected Skyteam customer, I may be protected, and so far nothing has happened to me there. But now that I realise that with some other airlines violinists are not save even if we go to the expense of buying a ticket in business class, I am horrified. I really do not know what to do. Perhaps just hope … And believe … Because always comes down to the people on the spot, and what they decide to do.’
We await a response from bottom-bumping British Airways.