British Airways refuses doublebass complaint

British Airways refuses doublebass complaint


norman lebrecht

July 11, 2019

Message from Marco Behtash, sub-principal bass at London’s Royal Opera House:

I recently traveled with my double bass to the States and was treated horribly by British Airways staff in San Francisco when I arrived for my return flight. The staff supervisor at check-in was aggressive and antagonizing from the moment she saw me line up for check-in with my double bass. When I kindly asked if I could leave the flight case to one side so I wouldn’t have to snake through the queue with it, the supervisor Connie Chan blatantly ignored my question and instead began threatening that I ‘can’t fly with that’ and ‘that’s too heavy’ and ‘that can only fly cargo’.

When I made it to the counter she again insisted that my instrument was too heavy to be allowed on board and that anything over 32kg is classed as cargo. I tried to explain that the bass had traveled TO California from London on the very same BA aircraft and found BA’s own guidelines on an iPad for her to read (basses are allowed up to 45kg), after which she conveniently changed her story to ‘you didn’t notify us 24hrs in advance’. When I insisted that I had called not only 24 hours but weeks in advance as my booking clearly showed she dismissed me by yelling literally ‘you argue for nothing!’.

I later spent hours on the phone with BA trying to get some kind of apology and rectification only to be told by about 10 different representatives that my only option was a formal claim with customer relations AFTER completing my travel.

When I returned for my new flight 24 hours later, I asked again for some kind of compensation for the ridiculous service of the day before. I was told that I was lucky to be rebooked at all. I should mention that also on my outbound journey BA failed to load the bass on my aircraft, despite me being on time and their flight leaving over an hour late. The bass therefore arrived a day late in San Francisco.

I am appalled at the treatment and service. I should say I have traveled happily tens of times on BA with a bass and without problems, although the time before this was at least 3 years ago. Things seem to have changed with the airline and I would like it to be known that BA is no longer consistently reliable for travel with a double bass (or anything else large presumably), and that the friendly and professional service they advertise is not at all something they consistently deliver. Their staff are obviously unaware of their own guidelines, they don’t make an effort to listen to a customers’ point of view or wishes, even when they fall well within the customer’s rights, and worst of all they lack the basic decency to actually try and make a situation right once it has clearly gone wrong.

I think bass players should know that British Airways cannot be relied upon to transport our instruments and that they are liable to surprise travelers with very costly and unwarranted delays and cancelations.


  • Out of stock says:

    I realise that one cannot always pick one’s airline, sadly, on account of one’s destination but I recently flew from Heathrow to Canada with Air Canada..
    The service I received was second to none. Air Canada Cargo at Heathrow treated both my bass and myself like gold dust. The chap in charge at the Cargo office took personal responsibility for getting my bass to the terminal, oversaw its loading onto the flight I was on myself and told me it was a privilege to be flying my 17th century Italian bass with their airline. Yes, of course I paid for the privilege, but hardly extortionate amounts and my instrument arrived in Halifax totally safely. The chaps there were even excited to be helping out. Given that one is unlikely to be able to fly a bass for no charge, unless very lucky, I have nothing but praise for Air Canada.

    • Rustier spoon says:

      One wonders what there is to give the “thumbs down” to in the content of this comment!!!

  • John Sorel says:

    Yet another British Airways staffer who’s long forgotten that it’s passengers who pay their wages.

    Connie Chan doesn’t need an aircraft to fly – she simply jumps on her broomstick, and launches into a rousing chorus of ‘Defying Gravity’.

    In a world in which you often cant rely on things too much, British AIrways deliver an unfailing promise that combines traditional British misery and rudeness with grotesque inefficiency and jolly-old ‘muddling through’. On my last flight on BA, from Moscow to London – a journey time of just under four hours – they managed to depart 3.5 hours late. We got into LHR so late that all the connecting transport services (flights, trains, buses) had left, and passengers were left to find overnight accommodation at their own cost (the BA Service Desk was deserted). The Captain saw fit to harangue passengers over the intercom for the duration of the flight, saying that BA was not to blame, because the outbound flight had left late ‘due to operational reasons’.

    Never, ever, again. Utterly British. Utterly useless.

  • n nescio says:

    “I think bass players should know that British Airways cannot be relied upon to transport our instruments”. Indeed, but the airline really, really fails with human beings. I`m sure they are quite capable of carrying cabbage, though.

  • christopher storey says:

    British Airways has gone steadily downhill since the merger of BEA and BOAC. I go back to the BOAC days when it was a properly run airline. It continued to be so in a merged form for perhaps 20 years after which the rot set in in a big way . The management , now under the IAG aegis, is laughable, and after the suicide note written at this year’s Paris airshow where Walsh declared full confidence in the Boeing 737 MAX with a large order, I wonder how long it can survive

  • LydiaWahlberg says:

    This account of a musician, his instrument and British airways went south when the name Connie Chang appeared. [redacted: racism]. I must admit British Airways has been declining for several years,

    • MMorgan says:

      Is the complaint that he used her name? I hope we’re not saying that giving someone’s name is now a racist act.

      • Nils Angmar says:

        Usually when you read “[redacted: …..]”, it means that Norman has removed something inappropriate from the poster’s comments and specifies the reason for the removal.
        In this case, giving someone’s name is not a racist act but giving someone names (as LydiaWahlberg ostensibly did) can be.

    • septcordes says:

      I’m sure that mentioning her name was to assign responsibility to the individual giving bad service, and that racism was not a part of it. We don’t know Connie’s “race”, only her name which may not reflect her own ethnic origin. Back to the point of the post, which was bad service.

  • Waiting for Godot says:

    They’re not called Bloody Awful for nothing. One round trip was enough for me.

  • Mr. Knowitall says:

    Starting maybe two years ago BA became much worse for any musical instrument. It is no longer suitable for musicians who travel with instruments.

  • Ed in but not of Texas says:

    Since you were delayed 24 hours by an airline traveling to an EU country, you may be entitled to compensation under EU Rule 261/2004. My wife and I have recovered compensation several times for delays both from and to Dublin and Paris and the US the last couple of years. You can file your claim either with the airline directly or through a third party such as or There are others. It may take several months to get your money and third party companies do take 25% or so of the recovery, but you end up with something for your aggravation. We recently recovered compensation from Air Canada using one of these services, even after Air Canada denied our direct claim.

    • Mike_T says:

      That would be the same Air Canada that received such a glowing encomium in the first post, yes?

      • Ed in but not of Texas says:

        As far as I know, there is but one Air Canada in the whole of God’s creation. And, as far as I know, one is more than sufficient.

  • It’s too bad, back in the 80’s and 90’s BA was a classy airline, even in Coach class on their transatlantic service. An acme of British professionalism.