Rhinegold Photo credit: Markus Mainka

Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

British Airways under fire over small instrument policy

3:21, 20th December 2017

British Airways is facing widespread criticism after announcing that it will charge for small instruments brought on board.

Trumpeter Alison Balsom criticised the airline on Twitter on 19 December, describing it as a ‘greedy disgrace’.

A number of other musicians also came forward to express their frustration. Violinist Tasmin Little said she campaigns for musicians to take smaller instruments on board, as it is difficult to find insurance if they are placed in the hold, while harpist Hattie Webb said she now has to buy a spare seat for her instrument a lot of the time, even though it fits in the overhead compartment.

Initially, the company stated that there had never been a guarantee that musicians could take instruments on board as hand luggage. However, a BA employee later contacted the Slipped Disc blog, writing: ‘It’s true that we’ve changed our policy and we’re unable to allow musical instruments to be carried in cabin as hand baggage without charge. We ask all passengers travelling with musical instruments to contact us for assistance prior to their journey.’

Just a few hours after this, another member of BA staff offered clarification: ‘We will always do our best to accommodate smaller musical instruments in the cabin.

‘In order to ensure there is enough space for all customers to store their belongings, larger musical instruments, such as guitars and cellos, can be carried in the hold in a hard case. Alternatively customers can choose to buy an extra seat to carry them in the cabin at a discounted rate.’

The Incorporated Musicians Society is seeking to meet BA and is calling on the airline to adopt a musician-friendly policy.

Chief executive Deborah Annetts said: ‘Musicians are facing yet more uncertainty following British Airways’ mixed messages and lack of guarantees.

‘In the context of Brexit, ease of movement is increasingly important for working musicians, some of whom have to travel to Europe upwards of 40 times a year. It beggars belief that British Airways are putting more barriers in the way just as UK musicians are finding it harder to secure work on the continent.’

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