British Airways: small instruments allowed as hand baggage

Violin player: photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

British Airways (BA) has clarified its instrument policy, making it easier for passengers to travel with violas and violins. However, anything bigger must be put in the hold unless a second seat is purchased.

Wording on its website now specifies that passengers may ‘take small musical instruments in the cabin as part of (but not in addition to) your free hand baggage allowance, subject to the space available.’

Larger musical instruments, such as guitars and cellos, must be carried in the hold as part of a passenger’s checked baggage allowance. However, due to concerns about the temperature and pressure in the hold – as well as rough handling of baggage – musicians are effectively forced to purchase a seat for their instrument.

Speaking to The Times, cellist and principal of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Julian Lloyd Webber said: ‘Airlines need to understand that musicians are some of their best and most loyal customers, flying all the time all over the world.

‘They don’t take this into account at all. They can be obstructive and unpleasant.’

Commenting on the issue, Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians said: ‘In the context of Brexit, ease of movement is increasingly important for working musicians, some of whom have to travel Europe upwards of 40 times a year.

‘We are concerned that British Airways are continuing to leave professional musicians in uncertain situations when travelling, when other airlines have managed to develop more musician-friendly baggage policies.

‘We have written to British Airways asking for a meeting and urge them to consistently allow smaller instruments including violins and guitars in the cabin as hand luggage.’

Meanwhile, the Musicians’ Union (MU) confirmed on its website that it has been in discussion with BA over the policy development, following MU members getting in contact to say they had previously always been able to store guitars in the overhead lockers.

It reported that BA stated there has been no actual change to the airlines’ policy in the last two years but that ‘the messaging to all airport staff needed to be made clearer regarding smaller instruments.’