The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) has condemned a recent change to British Airways' carriage policy which means that small instruments can no longer be carried as hand luggage and placed in overhead lockers.
The change to policy was made with no public announcement or consultation and has left musicians, the music industry and tour operators angry at the retrograde action.
In the last two years, the ISM has received over 1,500 cases of musicians who have experienced problems when taking their instruments on planes. In January 2011, the society reached a breakthrough agreement with easyJet and is now calling on British Airways to follow their example, as well as that of carriers in the USA, and implement a consistent policy for the carriage of musical instruments.
British Airways' policy previously allowed for the carriage of small instruments as long as they were less than 126cm. This allowed for instruments such as violins to be transported safely in overhead lockers. The change to this policy means that instruments now have to be less than 56cm x 45cm x 25cm to be carried as part of hand baggage allowance. These measurements prohibit the transport of a small instrument such as a violin. The policy now requires instruments to be checked as baggage and placed in the aircraft's hold which carries the greater risk of damage to valuable items. Otherwise, BA advises musicians to purchase an extra seat for the carriage of their musical instrument but gives no guarantee that an extra seat will be available.
Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of ISM, said:
'Given that easyJet changed its policy to support the creative economy and our professional musicians, it is baffling that British Airways has taken such a retrograde and damaging course of action. It is unreasonable to expect precious and valuable instruments to be placed in the hold of an airplane and it can be prohibitively expensive for musicians to purchase an extra seat for a small instrument such as violin.'
Julian Lloyd Webber said:
'It is almost unbelievable that British Airways should discriminate against musicians like this. The airline needs to realise that it is a service industry – and that includes providing a service to musicians who are among their most regular customers.'
Pippy Trentham, Director of OneStage Specialist Concert Tours, said:
'Seemingly overnight, British Airways have changed their official luggage regulations so that musicians carrying certain instruments can no longer take them in the cabin of the aircraft. Many passengers booked their seats long before the regulations changed and are now faced not only with additional charges but also the worry that their valuable instrument may be damaged in transit. It’s hard to think of any equivalent purchase where this would be acceptable.'