Tuesday, August 15, 2006


I'm sorry to say that the latest on carrying hand-baggage on flights to/from Britain is that violins appear to be a no-no.

Tom has been carrying his violin into the cabin as hand-luggage for 25 years. Yesterday we hung on for about ten minutes to get through to the airline on which we are meant to fly to France next month, listening to pre-recorded platitudinous messages about their wonderful customer service. Finally Tom was told by some idiot of a rep that he can put his violin in the hold. He explained that he can't: it's liable to be smashed by those shott-putting bag handlers, being 150 years old and worth a five-figure sum. 'In that case you can afford to buy another ticket for it,' said the rep, who evidently hadn't listened to the platitudinous messages about their wonderful customer service.

Another call to the same company, answered by a different rep, produced the information that the new regulations about the size of hand-luggage have been in place since 1 August. A visit to the website produced, after much searching, a kind of afterthought suggesting that they've been in place since 1 July. Nobody mentioned this when we bought our tickets to France. We have the distinct impression that the airline is using the current crisis to cash in.

We're supposed to fly to Nice for a week's long-awaited holiday, then to Nantes for the St Nazaire Festival (hence Tom's need for his violin), then home from Nantes. We may have to ditch the whole plan and drive across northern France to St N instead, thanks to the airline, which by the way is refusing to offer a refund even though this situation is their fault, not ours.

Apparently orchestras on tour should be OK because they have organisational clout and proper equipment. It's the individual violinist, travelling between small chamber music festivals, who is basically up s**t creek without a fiddle.

BUT even as I write, conflicting information is still emanating from every orifice of the airline in question: the latest this morning is that the 'new' regulations about hang-luggage size are the same as the 'old' ones and that the airline can be 'flexible'. Confusing, but promising. So, no panics yet, please...

UPDATE: 12 noon. I think Tom has got it sorted, though I'll only believe it when we are actually on that plane. There's no problem with the French internal flight from Nice to Nantes - the rep we spoke to there seemed to think that Britain and the US have gone completely bonkers, and she may be right. Advice in the meantime: check with the airline before you travel, be polite and persuasive and try to get something in writing about taking the fiddle aboard. A forum on Violinist.com earlier this year about problems on a particular US airline saw several ladies advocating tears as a suitable last resort!