Exclusive: German airport refuses to let La Scala orchestra take off

Exclusive: German airport refuses to let La Scala orchestra take off


norman lebrecht

May 19, 2022

The La Scala Philharmonic last night ran into trouble at Hamburg airport.

After their concert at the ElbPhilharmonie, the musicians boarded a 2230 flight home to Milan, only to be ordered off the plane.

The reason? The airport was due to close at 2300.

What really happened was that the musicians arrived at 9 p.m. but ran into a staff go-slow. It took more than an hour to do security checks for 100 people, only one gate was open, and every instrument was triple-checked. Take-off was pushed back to 10.20pm. At 11pm the airport watch tower ordered everyone to get off. They were going home.

La Scala Philharmonic management arranged for the musicians to spend the night at a hotel before returning home this morning.

Ground staff at Hamburg airport are claiming they are understaffed.

Expect trouble if you have to visit that city.


  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    Lucky people of Hamburg it was maybe the first event outside of Italy of La Scala since the start of the Covid crisis.

  • Emil says:

    Given that Elbphilharmonie to La Scala is just 1100km door to door, I’d have hoped they’d do it by train. No reason to fly. There’s a direct Hamburg-Basel train, and plenty of options to Milan from there. No security checks and plenty of space for luggage

    • 12345 says:

      It’s 15 hours on 4 different trains as a fastest route.
      You should apply to be their logistics person.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      I don’t think there’s direct train and you have to cross Austria in places were there are mountains. It’s not a flat stage of Tour de France. I know that when the RCO is coming in Paris they take the train from Amsterdam but here it’s unfair to blame La Scala. And it must be a celebrations to see great foreign orchestras coming in town.

  • mary says:

    Stupid for orchestras to tour. Environmentally irresponsible and artistically irrelevant.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      Stupid, and unfair is to never see in his life a great foreign orchestra when you are living in a big city. Why classical would be only to blame? So we must cancell this week Cannes film festival? and the Champions league final at the end of the month? The ice hockey worldchampionhip now? If it’s done with several stages in the same area this kind of tour must continues.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      With this way of thinking I would never seen in my life on stage Chailly, Haitink, Zubin, Mariss, Fischer, Chung, Yo-Yo Ma and Martha and you know what? it would have been a very great pity for me. It’s maybe selfish but it’s a fact for someone who take very rarely the plane

    • Branimir says:

      Environmentally irresponsible… So, the new hysteria is beginning. How soon before we all get carbon footprint passports controlled by the carbon footprint police (made of eager volunteers, of course) deciding which of our travels and activities is or isn’t environmentally responsible?
      Artistically irrelevant…
      Fanatics always possess the whole truth about everything.

  • Fred Funk says:

    ONE more day of travel laundry for the viola players… What an outrage.

  • David Dreebin says:

    What a ridiculous situation and awful behaviour on the part of the airport staff at Hamburg. Why did each instrument have to be triple checked? Would have thought one thorough check would be enough. Good that the orchestra had funds to book all their players into a hotel for the night.

    • Tamino says:

      Somebody just made that up with the triple checks. Probably what happened is one violin or bassoon case had to be run through a scanner three times in order to be cleared.
      Unpleasant for the orchestra, but also risky planning by their management, trying to avoid to pay for the hotel night in Hamburg and squeezing in the after concert departure at an airport with a known 11 pm curfew.

    • Kevin says:

      I’m picturing the airport staff checking the triangle and cymbals three times!

  • David Dreebin says:

    Despite my recent comment, to be perfectly fair, I don’t think the orchestra management allowed enough time… If they knew that their airport in La Scala was going to close at 11pm they should have arrived at Hamburg Airport at 8pm latest. We are always advised to allow 2 hours check-in time anyway, especially for a sizeable group.

  • J at Large says:

    And there goes me thinking it was testament to La Scala’s appeal. Germany liked them so much they didn’t want them to leave!

  • NYMike says:

    A major city’s airport not open 24hrs/day? Who knew??

    • ItsDaSoundOfDaPolice says:

      I recently learnt this is to do with noise regulations as the airport is so close to residential areas… In fact if flights -which are supposed to land in Hamburg before 23:00h- get delayed, they are usually diverted to Hannover

    • M McGrath says:

      Yup, numerous major cities in Germany, maybe Europe, have airport “curfews” for reasons of noise abatement. Deals are arranged after years of negotiating with neighboring communities in and out of court. Even Frankfurt airport closes at 11 pm. Many were the times I’d be waiting for the last flight to leave Heathrow for Frankfurt and hoping we’d not be late and have to be rerouted to a nearby city. Fortunately, Frankfurt mgmt. makes certain exceptions for post-closure flights to arrive and depart. You get used to it.

      • Mus Musicus says:

        Yes, yet they have no problem with a police or even ADAC helicopter circling the entire night and keeping everyone awake. I live in Berlin. Insanity.

    • V.Lind says:

      Newark closes early. I recall getting there for a 9:00 p.m. flight and could not even get a cup of coffee, let alone a drink, while I waited. I have never encountered that anywhere else. I have flown in and out of Hamburg (without problems) several times, albeit always in daytime.

    • Andrea says:

      Hamburg airport is located very close to urban space. A friend of mine lives there. Without 11pm curfew you wouldn’t be able to sleep a minute. Same goes for Düsseldorf airport

  • Harpist says:

    Every. Single. Time when I visit there (my parents live nearby) the take apart my hand luggage to check for the 1ml fluid somewhere. Or a suspicious camera. Last time they even ordered the police to stand next to me while they totally ripped apart my hand luggage as I had – horror – not put some little 5 ml nose spray aside into the small bag or something alike. I wasn’t allowed to put my hand in my pockets. Very unfriendly security personnel (while the policeman next to me was very friendly). Only in Hamburg. In New York I lost never had to hand over my luggage. On may way back I now started to only pout books into the luggage and dirty cloths. So, not surprised at all.

  • fflambeau says:

    Shopporo (spelling?). The Italian word for strike. I remember bank and salt strikes in Rome when I lived there. It was not possible to buy salt for a long time. This is turning the tables.

  • Djeedoo says:

    Hamburg airport is the worst in germany. The security checks is a desaster, also luggage handling after landing can took one hour…

  • alexis piantedoux says:

    Filarmonica had an amateur management for this concert, far from professional, really far. Maybe the agency that build the tour or maybe the Filarmonica management. Interesting: who will pay for this mistake? One night in hotel for 100 person in Hamburg is not less than 10.000 euros… plus the new flight tickets…a totale disaster!

    • E says:

      Usually the airport would pay
      the hotels. At least when a
      delay for boarding a flight from Munich occurred during a transfer, two of us were given hotel rooms, and driven
      there…far out of town. Never knew that it might have been due to closing time (Feierabend).