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Instruments on a plane

This issue shot up the agenda last week as it was reported that BA was no longer offering travelling musicians the same level of certainty as other airlines (such as easyJet), despite using a violin and pop-up orchestra in their advertising.

Following the ISM-led campaign we received clarification from BA who now say they aim to allow small instruments on board. However, this leaves too many musicians without the certainty they need before they set-off for the airport and we are calling on BA to further improve their offer.

The current position means that only one major UK based airline – easyJet – has policy which clearly states that instruments around the size of violins or guitars are allowed in the cabin as hand baggage - and without extortionate fees for extra seats.

In America, however, the story is very different, with the US Government in February deciding to regulate airlines in support of their professional musicians. Airlines are now required to allow instruments that can be safely stored in the overhead compartment or underneath the seat into the cabin as hand baggage.

At the same time it also guarantees that musicians with a large instrument such as a cello will be allowed to purchase an extra seat in the cabin.

We all know why this is an issue, and the stories and case studies that have come out of the ISM's survey on the issue are staggering: smashed violins, flute cases tipped upside down by security staff with all the parts falling out onto the table and keys being bent out of shape, cellos lost, and instruments worth €200,000 being put at risk. A list of over 1,000 case studies details why change is necessary. And musicians have been campaigning on this for a long time.

But it wasn’t until January 2011 when easyJet revised their policy in response to the ISM’s campaign that things began to look up. Unfortunately, until things improve, British Airways are holding this situation back.

The UK is moving in the wrong direction whilst the US is protecting its professional musicians. And what does it mean when your closest global competitor in the music industry chooses to protect its musicians whilst the UK chooses to do nothing? We risk losing business and losing our lead.

So the Government must follow the US lead instead and regulate as soon as possible to protect musicians’ rights and ensure that small instruments can be carried in the cabin as hand luggage.
Until then, it is up to individual airlines to follow the lead of easyJet and allow instruments to be carried as hand baggage.

The reason for all this is simple: musical instruments are fragile, often priceless and contribute, through the music industry as a whole to a large and growing part of our economy. To not regulate puts jobs and growth at risk for no foreseeable gain.

Henry Vann
Public Affairs & Policy Officer