Airline Tells Violinist: $1,400 to Bring Violin on Plane

January 5, 2016, 9:51 AM · Sure, you can bring your violin on the plane, if you buy a $1,400 ticket for it...

That was the option Aer Lingus offered violinist Roberta Goldman, who wished to travel with her violin Wednesday from the U.S. to Europe. Goldman's flight goes from Boston to Malaga, Spain, with a stop for change of planes in Dublin. The equipment for both flights is an Airbus plane, a model which does have overhead compartments. Her violin is a Antonio Sgarbi built in 1901 in Rome, valued at about € 60,000. Goldman is traveling to a chamber music program called Rencontres in in Bayonne, France, on the Spanish-French border.

Despite a number of U.S. and European policies that allow for musical instruments, the airline insisted that the violin would not be accepted, as any carry-on is required to be no longer than 21.5 inches. (A typical violin case such as a Bam or Musafia is about 31 inches long). In desperation she asked if she could send the case as baggage and travel with the violin in her lap, but the airline said that would be a violation of safety regulations.


Recently adopted policies in both the U.S. and Europe would seem to allow for a violin (in its case, of course!) as carry-on baggage, despite airline policies regarding carry-on size: In January 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation officially implemented a law that authorized musical instruments as carry-on baggage onboard U.S. air carriers. Last February, the European Parliament adopted provisions aiming to to facilitate the transport of musical instruments on planes as carry-on luggage.

What does this mean for international flights? Perhaps this is the next frontier for lobbying for musician-friendly policies. Or, perhaps Aer Lingus is simply in the wrong.

As for Goldman, she has been busy contacting luthiers in Malaga and Madrid to see if she can borrow instruments for both practice and performance over her three months in Spain. And she's not feeling too happy with Aer Lingus.

"I will never fly Aer Lingus again, despite their good prices and easy to use website," she said. "They are actually flaunting the most recent TSA regulations, and well as the recent EU regulations, about carry-on policy for musical instruments."

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January 5, 2016 at 06:23 PM · I had two contrasting experiences when trying to take a violin on board. And in both cases, my violin was nowhere near as valuable as Roberta Goldman's violin.

1) I was considering buying a violin in the US and bringing it home with me on Alitalia, but was told by their customer service that I would have to purchase a Business-class seat for the violin at $4000, as there were no seats left in Economy. I did not buy a violin, of course. I asked the Alitalia representative at check-in whether I *could have* taken a violin on board. His answer was, "Of course..."

2) I did take a violin on board on Air Canada, after verifying in advance that it was allowed. The flight attendant was incredible - he made sure that no one put any luggage anywhere near my violin in the overhead compartment.

Alitalia - please get your story straight.

Go Air Canada - I will without a doubt fly with you again!

January 5, 2016 at 06:55 PM · While it's unlikely on today's crowded planes, if you

place your instrument in a mostly empty overhead, make sure you place it at the front of the overhead so that when the plane's brakes are applied after landing, your case does not slide forward and crash into the overhead's front end wall. Also, I prefer to sit across from the overhead so I can easily see what is happening v.v. items being placed/pushed/shoved against my case.

January 5, 2016 at 07:45 PM · Did she have other carry-on items? I've never experienced any problems. I usually travel with a double case, and have no carry on items besides the case.

January 5, 2016 at 08:26 PM · This is just getting silly, both for musicians and likely for airline personnel as well.

However...if I were a travelling musician I think I would just cave and buy the smallest violin case I could. If it helps minimize issues by airlines or individuals it’s worth it. An example:

GSJ Compact Traveller Violin Case

The above case is 30” long if you include the separate bow cylinder. The violin portion is 24”.

Current carry- on baggage dimensions are 21.5 -22" long.

A bow is 29" long.

A violin is 23.5" long.

A standard violin case is 31” long.

I realize that even the smallest case is a little longer than the baggage restrictions, but only by 2”…and hopefully no one will notice. They will notice a 31” case.

I would rather shell out an extra $400-800 for a travel case than worry about:

1. Cancelling my flight.

2. Paying $1400 or more for an extra seat for my violin.

3. Having to put my violin in baggage.

4. Sitting with it ‘naked’ on my lap during a flight.

And if I have to compromise at the other end of my flight…I’d rather borrow a bow than a violin.

Worst case (pun intended) scenario…you have an extra case stuffed in your closet.

January 5, 2016 at 09:38 PM · I'd rather borrow a violin than a bow.

January 5, 2016 at 10:38 PM · Travel without a bow? Or check the bow? Maybe if it's carbon fiber, but still... Both options seem pretty undesirable!

January 6, 2016 at 10:29 AM · What a terrible experience. I do wonder though why she had to fly to Malaga if her goal was a town on the Spanish-French border...

January 7, 2016 at 04:05 PM · I'm going to build a folding violin.

January 8, 2016 at 01:34 PM · The funny thing is Iberia airlines allows you to carry an instrument (up to guitar size, they are Spanish after all) as hand luggage.

I always fly with them if carrying my violin.

January 8, 2016 at 10:50 PM · My secret has always been that I just don't bring it up. I try to board at the start of my group and say nothing, just try to get it in an overhead asap before people start using that space for their COATS ! Southwest is also extremely gracious.

January 9, 2016 at 11:47 AM · Last spring, I took a violin from Glasgow, Scotland to Hong Kong and back on an Emirates flight. No-one batted an eyelid.

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