String Instruments & Accessories

Airlines and Instruments

November 08, 2016

Airlines and Instruments

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I’ve just been reading the latest horror story about Airlines and their seeming inability to accommodate string players on board. This appears to be an ongoing vendetta against Cello players especially, but also Violin and Viola. On the one hand it is understandable that airline security can easily be spooked by a violin case resembling an AK47 or sawn-off shotgun, but a simple physical examination would surely suffice? I remember well in the dark days of the Apartheid regime when a member of the Soweto Quartet was stopped by the police, who obviously suspected the shaped case was something sinister. Thankfully a rather more cultured senior man stepped in and the poor Violinist was instructed to play there and then to prove his bone fides. This, of course he did and was allowed to pass on.

We once had an Armenian violinist working for us and he recounted many stories of how his violin playing eased off many a tense situation in the army. Especially, he told us, the Russians were enthralled by virtuoso violin playing, which apparently stood him in good stead on many an occasion.

So why are we so neurotic in the West? Why can something not be worked out simply by Airlines to transport valuable instruments. They must surely know that an 18th century instrument is not only a very expensive tool, but also an invaluable work of art which would be a tragedy to lose, affecting future generations. We read of a Cellist who even booked a separate seat for her Cello under the name (tongue in cheek) of ‘Chuck Cello’. She cleared this with the booking office and the Airline but was refused at the check in as it needed a ‘ESTA visa’. While this may very well be so, surely there are clear guidelines and a firm policy which can be adhered to by all the main Airline carriers?

On the Violin front there are the ‘Cabin’ cases by Bam which fit into the carry-on dimensions for the overhead locker, but even then we hear of players being refused. Valuable bows can also be a nightmare – who wants to be separated from their precious Bazin! The answer here is of course the bow cases by Pedi or similar, which can be kept by you as you board. Lightweight Cello cases at 2.9Kg containing a precious instrument are simply not an option to be thrown into the luggage compartment.

It would be good to have comments on this subject with real time experiences of Airlines both good and bad. We can then highlight them here and also be in a position to advise the many frustrated callers we get.

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