Lufthansa to musician: ‘You chose this line of work, you must pay for it’

Lufthansa to musician: ‘You chose this line of work, you must pay for it’


norman lebrecht

June 19, 2019

Eva Zöllner flies Lufthansa at least twice a month with her accordion. Today, returning home from Venice, she was refused boarding.



  • Ricardo says:

    Arseholes… I’ve had trouble with this company too. I spit on their corporate feet.

    • Lufthansa says:

      it is a problem of airlines in general, and of their attitude towards musicians. beside that Lufthansa is super friendly and MUCH more professional than MANY other airlines – did you ever fly with Air France ? or with some americans ? (i m still a huge fan of the professionality of Lufthansa). spitting on someones feet isn t normal in Europe but maybe it will become so with so many people from foreign cultures.

      • Ricardo says:

        Yes I have had the misfortune of flying with several other companies that were musician-unfriendly.The problem here is that this has become an issue in the past decade or so. I have cellist friends who would walk into a plane with their cello and the cabin personell would somehow manage to get it in. Now violins and violas are problematic because of the arbitrary dimension restrictions (even though those instrument cases are, in cubic measurements, under the required limits, but try to explain that to an airport worker!). So, if you pay the instrument is in (i.e. there is room for it), if you don’t pay there isn’t. Is it just me or does this have a whiff of arrant venality? And, by the way, I am a European and am not impressed by the racist undercurrent at the end of your comment.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      I’d be using the trains in Europe if in the position of this musician. Fast, spacious and reliable – especially DBB and ÖBB . The latter’s Railjet is superb, especially First Class.

      • Mr. Knowitall says:

        Venice to London is a real schlepp by train. Almost anyone would fly.

      • SVM says:

        In general, I agree with preferring trains over planes where the journey time would not thus be extended absurdly. But trains are sometimes significantly more expensive (because aviation has unfair tax advantages, notably the Chicago convention, and the EU’s attempts to introduce an aviation tax do not go far enough and are meeting strong resistance from the aviation lobby), and are not always a paradise for large items of luggage:

        Another problem is that train-booking options are not very discoverable, especially if you are trying to find a cheap fare with a modicum of flexibility (one tip for booking UK train travel online: if you can, opt for a traditional paper ticket rather than “self-print” or app-based tickets, because nonrefundable paper Advance tickets can still be amended given sufficient notice, but “self-print” and app-based tickets tend to be completely unchangable). And as for unusual requirements, such as extra luggage… well, earlier this week, I was travelling on a UK intercity train with a bicycle, and the procedure for booking a bicycle space was a nightmare (cannot be done at the same time as booking the ticket; when I contacted customer service through a web form, they told me that no bicycle spaces were available; only when I found the specific telephone number and the specific menu options did I manage to book a space for my bicycle, and then I had to call twice and send a follow-up message because they got the booking wrong on the 1st attempt!).

        So yes, trains are a great idea, as long as the train companies offer a level of flexibility, value for money, and customer service commensurate with the understanding that people prefer trains because they want to *avoid* the hassle, expense, environmental damage, and unpleasantness of flying. Unfortunately, many train companies seem to instead be taking a leaf out of the airlines’ books.

  • Andrew says:

    There is a logic to it. If the instrument doesn’t match the standard baggage allowance for the chosen fare, or requires special treatment over and above that of what standard passengers expect, why shouldn’t there be an extra fee? Provided there is clarity up front, I don’t see the problem.

    • Alan says:

      100 per cent correct. Sick to the back teeth of people moaning about airlines. If you travel much at all you should know what the rules are. You might get away with bigger cabin bags or musical instruments regularly but at the end of the day if it’s too big it’s too big.

      • Luigi Nonono says:

        Especially when Europe has such good train service.

      • Bill says:

        The problem is when airline staff are not familiar with, or choose to disregard, the airline’s own policies. Anyone who travels regularly with an instrument just wants to know, in advance, what the policy they will be expected to follow is. You can’t prepare otherwise — and if you answer “just buy it a ticket” you’ll prove that you have not been paying attention, as airlines have been known to bump the instrument in favor of a living, breathing passenger.

  • HugoPreuss says:

    If I have an extra suitcase I have to pay extra for it. If my suitcase is too heavy (too many books) I have to pay extra for it. A while ago I flew with a huge computer and had to pay a lot extra for it. An accordion or a double bass is not a piccolo flute. There is no god given right to fly with extra luggage, even if its contents are capable of producing beautiful music.

    • Ned Keene says:

      You defend Lufthansa’s culture of petty cash-snatching greed so very eloquently. They were lips were salivating as she arrived at the check-in counter.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      My sister was a load control manager for a leading international carrier and I can tell you these things are calculated to the nearest detail. Everybody has to pay for excessive sizes and weights and there is a very good reason for it. Use trains whenever possible!!

  • Bruce says:

    I read the tweets (link) and it says she was almost refused boarding. I didn’t see a reason why.

  • musicians on airplanes - fight for your rights says:

    oh my god, those stupid comments. she flew for many years (like all the violinists and violist) and was allowed to take the instrument (as usual in two parts) on board. but now the airline changed their conditions. apart from this disputable fact it is an impolite, rude and stupid comment from a worker who obviously has no idea of what the problem is. THIS can’t be accepted since ANY musician knows how many Troubles we get while travelling and going on airplanes.

  • V. Lind says:

    I wish some RESPONSIBLE journalist, preferably one with access to major press or media, would get on this story about airlines and musicians, as all that goes on here is continuing records of legitimate complaint. The airlines are entitled to set their rules, yes, and the travelling musicians must learn them before flying. Presumably they will be reasonable, AND CONSISTENT. But ground staff or cabin crew must also be apprised of the rules and apply them as written, not at their “discretion,” or, more often it seems, ignorance.

    It is this, not some sense of entitlement because “it’s not just a job for us,” that matters and that may finally get to the root of the eternal problems. As pointed out above, we all have to pay excess baggage when we have it. Airlines have to accept that delicate instruments need to be transported, and safely, and consider ways in which this can be done without impeding other passengers’ rights. (To overhead cabin space, etc.). Given that, they may set their rules and make sure that if musicians comply with them the rules are honoured by everyone employed or contracted by the airlines. This is clearly not being done, and it should not be a crapshoot every time a musician turns up at an airport as to whether he/she can travel with the instrument. There are surely fair trading implications here.

    While solutions are sought from seemingly isolated musicians making isolated complaints to unsympathetic airlines over admission to the plane and damaged instruments, they might seek support from travelling athletes, some of whom have similar problems. They tend to be a more vocal and effective lobby — though they seem also to have found more effective ways of packing delicate equipment safely.

    But the main problem is to get rules out there and applied. and if it takes airline shaming in the press/media, so be it.

  • SVM says:

    We can blame the airlines all we like, but we are all partly culpable as consumers: our insatiable appetite for cheap flights enables the aviation industry’s /modus operandi/ of low headline fares, punitive surcharges for extras, and woefully inconsistent customer service. I would be interested to know whether taking musical instruments in the cabin used to be such an ordeal back in the days when an item of check-in baggage was included in the price (in other words, when passengers were not competing for every cubic centimetre of luggage storage in the cabin).

  • Mike Schachter says:

    No surprise, I am not a musician just someone who flew economy with them recently, worse service than any of the cut-price airlines. Will not repeat this error.

  • Bob Slagle says:

    Let’s remember that next time the airline pilots go on strike.

  • christopher storey says:

    I have to say that if I were a fellow passenger, and another passenger wanted to stow a piano accordion in an overhead locker, I would be very unhappy indeed. These instruments are astonishingly heavy , even in two parts , and if dislodged in heavy turbulence, or for that matter a heavy landing , could kill . On safety grounds, I think there was much to justify the airline’s stance

    • Bill says:

      And this differs from any other heavy carry on how, exactly?

    • Chris says:

      Astonishingly heavy? Not so heavy as to prevent the player from holding it when playing it – maybe 10 or so kilos?

      • christopher storey says:

        Reply to both Bill and Chris : it differs in that it is unquestionably the densest instrument of its size, and secondly , if it were to escape an overhead locker , particularly in a heavy landing, its effective weight could be increased considerably by say a 2g force imparted to it. It is certainly heavy enough even without g loading to cause brain injury and/or a broken neck, either of which could be fatal

      • Mr. Knowitall says:

        That’s right, more or less, for a complete accordion. Broken in half for travel, as this woman does, maybe 7 kilos a half per piece in its cases, which is a kilo less than most airlines’ carryon limit. A 7-kilo half-accordion wouldn’t be any more dangerous than a 7-kilo suitcase loaded with blue jean jackets and unmentionables.

  • Michael says:

    If airlines charge for extra weight, then why not weigh all passengers and charge those that weigh over the limit extra? Extra weight is extra weight. It wouldn’t be PC, but why should overweight passengers get away without having to pay extra?