Ryanair targets violinists

February 11, 2008 at 05:00 PM · This weekend on my way home from Italy I was denied boarding with my violin case as handluggage. I was directed to the ticket desk where I was informed that Ryanair now requires you to purchase an extra seat for an instrument. On the day the rate for a one way trip was the neat sum of 300 Eu (despite the fatc I paid 100 Eu for the entire flight). Pay or you cannot go home. I carried the UK rules that allow you to bring an instrument on board but they refused.

After 30 min of arguing I was allowed on board but told this would not happen in the future (Italian are mostly reasonable people).

On the Ryanair website I found the following:

"Smaller musical items such as a guitar, cello, violin or viola which exceed our cabin baggage dimensions may be carried in the cabin if a seat for it has been reserved and the appropriate fare paid. There is no checked baggage allowance associated with the purchase of an extra seat."

In others word violins and violas are now put in the same bracket as cellos despite the fact that they fit in the overhead compartment. This is in my view unreasonable and I hope it's due to a mistake.

Has anyone else had problems with Ryanair?

I will contact them to clarify the problem and get back.

Replies (38)

February 11, 2008 at 05:38 PM · I am speechless. I can't believe they can get away with this.

But I felt comforted after reading this on Wikipedia:

"In October 2006, Ryanair was voted the world's most disliked airline in a survey by the TripAdvisor website, and in November 2006, it was revealed as the subject of more complaints than any other airline in the EU. The BBC reported that 56% of respondents said Ryanair caused "the biggest headaches" for air travellers in a poll taken in 2003. 60% of all complaints to Ireland's Commission for Aviation Regulation were about Ryanair. "

February 11, 2008 at 05:46 PM · More from Wikipedia on this airline, who, in my mind, deserves the bad press for this violin carrier discrimination.

Customer service

Ryanair has been criticised for many aspects of its customer service. The Economist journal wrote that Ryanair's "cavalier treatment of passengers" had given Ryanair "a deserved reputation for nastiness" and that the airline "has become a byword for appalling customer service… and jeering rudeness towards anyone or anything that gets in its way". In 1997, a woman claimed Ryanair reneged on a free travel prize. The matter was referred to Managing Director Michael O'Leary, who was described as aggressive and hostile.

Ryanair staff have been accused of behaving rudely to passengers. They have been accused of using foul and offensive language and attempting to grab a boarding card from a passenger, behaving in a menacing manner towards passengers and rudeness towards a passenger who asked for a non-alcoholic drink after passengers were kept in a plane for three hours due to a delay.

The airline has come under heavy criticism in the past for its poor treatment of disabled passengers. In 2002 it refused to provide wheelchairs for disabled passengers at Stansted Airport, greatly angering disabled rights groups.

(You can access the whole article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryanair)

February 11, 2008 at 06:12 PM ·

February 11, 2008 at 05:51 PM · so, ask, what is the "cabin baggage dimensions"?

February 11, 2008 at 06:12 PM ·

February 11, 2008 at 05:48 PM · "There is no checked baggage allowance associated with the purchase of an extra seat."

Now that is the raw deal. You aren't just paying for the seat; you are paying more than for your own seat!

February 11, 2008 at 09:06 PM · Travel Easyjet instead - they don't mind violins at all. If you read some of the professional pilot forums, you'll find plenty of posts which reckon Ryanair is a major accident waiting to happen. I personally wouldn't fly them even if someone paid me to.

February 11, 2008 at 09:12 PM · Just don't travel on this airline then...

February 12, 2008 at 07:15 AM · Ryanair have a cabin luggage checker just before the check in desk.If your violin case fits in this and it should as mine has no problem in doing so then it must be allowed on board as cabin luggage.A violin case is smaller than a lot of the suitcases that get passed through.However having said this the company wrings money from as many loopholes as possible in order to keep the 'lowcost'which when you had up the total cost of the journey is not 99 cents.

February 12, 2008 at 08:18 AM · The allowable hand baggage dimensions at Ryanair are 55cm x 40cm x 20 cm, which is shorter than the violin itself. Was that the Perugia airport where you had the trouble by the way?

February 12, 2008 at 08:33 AM · boycott.

February 12, 2008 at 09:56 AM · No it was Bologna Forlí.

February 12, 2008 at 01:48 PM · I have written the following letter to them:



Customer Standards Dept.

Corporate Head Office

Dublin Airport

Co. Dublin


Dear Sir/Madam

Reg: Musical instruments as hand luggage

I am writing to let you know about an issue of great concern to many musicians in Europe. Ryanair has for the last years, perhaps unknowingly, been a great sponsor for classical music in Europe by providing cheap travel and thereby enable musicians to perform where budgets are limited. As a performing musician I am grateful for this.

For the past 7 years I have travelled frequently with Ryanair, often weekly. I bring my precious 18th century Italian violin with me, an object too fragile and valuable to check as baggage. I have always brought the violin on board and put it in the overhead compartment. No one has ever questioned this until last weekend in Italy where I was denied boarding and asked to buy an extra seat for my instrument even though it fits perfectly in the overhead compartment.

On reading your baggage rules you demand that for Cellos, guitars, violins and violas an extra seat must be purchased. I would urge you to reconsider this rule. For cellos and guitars in bulky cases it is obvious that an extra seat is needed, but for violins and violas it is not needed, as they fit in the overhead compartment. Your main competitor Easyjet along with all other European airlines allows bringing violins and violas as hand luggage. The UK Department of Transportation in its latest rules also states the right to bring an instrument on board.

I strongly urge you to remove violins and violas from your section demanding an extra seat as this is of considerable financial burden to musicians and cultural life in Europe. "

February 12, 2008 at 07:36 PM · This is terrible - and it is so important that we bring this sort of thing to one another's attention. In the USA Delta Airlines was particularly bad for a long time. But the musician's union and others brought enough pressure to bear that they changed their policies for the better.

February 12, 2008 at 09:34 PM · Tell me about it...my friends who studied abroad and used Ryanair hated it...just all around horrible service.

I was actually told by Air France on return from Barajas/Madrid to JFK/NYC that I was not allowed to carry my violin on the plane. I kept it with me anyways and no one on board questioned me.

I'm pretty sure my boyfriend was able to fit his classical guitar in the overhead cabins of some planes also.

In both cases (no pun intended) they actually fit better than most people's luggage that they cram on there.

February 14, 2008 at 12:37 PM · So I got a reply:

Dear Mr Knudsen,

I acknowledge receipt of your recent letter.

Following your correspondence in relation to the carriage of Musical equipment and Cabin luggage.

Cabin Baggage

Each passenger (excluding infants) is permitted to carry one piece of cabin baggage on board (free of charge). It should weigh no more than 10kg and not exceed the maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm. Due to security restrictions - certain items cannot be carried in cabin baggage - click here for details. For the safety and convenience of all passengers, cabin baggage must fit underneath the seat or in the overhead compartment.

Musical Equipment

Large musical equipment including but not limited to harps, double bass and drums are inherently unsuitable for carriage by airlines operating fast turnarounds such as Ryanair. However these items may be carried in the hold of the aircraft in addition to your personal checked baggage allowance upon payment of an additional discounted fee per item, per one way flight if booked at the time of reservation on www.ryanair.com. If the item is not booked until arrival at the airport or through a Ryanair call centre the full fee will apply. Smaller musical items such as a guitar, cello, violin or viola which exceed our cabin baggage dimensions may be carried in the cabin if a seat for it has been reserved and the appropriate fare paid. There is no checked baggage allowance associated with the purchase of an extra seat.

Due to space restrictions, we recommend that all musical equipment is pre-booked and pre-paid at the time of booking on www.ryanair.com or through your local reservation centre, as not to do so may result in the item being refused carriage at the airport. If the fee is not paid at the time of booking or on your outbound it will still be imposed on your return journey.

For your convenience all information pertaining to the above can be found on our Terms and Conditions of travel under ‘FREQUENTLY’ asked questions.

I do hope that this above clarifies this matter for you.

Yours sincerely

For and on Behalf of


Sinead Clarke

Customer Services


In other words, she just reprinted the rules.

I urge everyone to write to Ryanair and ask them to lift the ban on violins and violas as handluggage:


Customer Standards Dept.

Corporate Head Office

Dublin Airport

Co. Dublin


Only by a massive letterwriting campaign can we get this changed.

February 14, 2008 at 12:50 PM · I think this is something for the Musicians Union.

Do you mind if I forward your posts to the MU?


February 14, 2008 at 01:35 PM · I have already contacted them but please go ahead it can only help. On the other hand the CEO of Ryanair does not allow unions in his company so I doubt it will do much.

I am now writing a letter directly to the CEO as I think that may be more helpful. Please get everyone you know to write to him. Only a high number of letters will make them pay attention:

CEO Michael O'Leary


Corporate Head Office

Dublin Airport

Co. Dublin


February 14, 2008 at 07:52 PM · Kristian, thanks for all your efforts in clarifying this with Ryanair. I suspected as much reading their blurb some time ago, then next time I flew with them asked the cabin crew and they said there would be no problem, it goes into the lockers. I will repost on the pprune forum. Assuming you can get it through security - which was restricted for a time last year but now permitted - and the onboard staff are OK, I don't see why there should be a problem. You can always hide it at the check-in desk or leave it with a friend. But then having to fork out another £100+ at the last minute is not a pleasant option either.

I'm glad you started this as I was planning to take my viola over next time I go to see my 7-yr-old daughter in Berlin - she asked me to so we could play some duets - Ryanair is the only option that works for me at the moment. But Mike O'Leary's tinkering with fares, as pointed out above, might make me think twice now.

April 28, 2008 at 11:21 AM · Hi!

I'm flying with ryanair on friday (2 May) and will bring my violin. I was planning to bring it on the plane, and have not payed for an extra chair. Hopefully they will not stop me... Any good ideas how I get on the plane without paying for the violin? Will they even see that I have one if I carry the violin on my back?


April 28, 2008 at 12:37 PM · tape the violin on your body and wear loose clothes:)

April 28, 2008 at 12:41 PM · This is bull. If it fits in the overhead, it shouldn't have to have a seat. What will they think of next.

April 28, 2008 at 01:10 PM · Therese - if you can - get a friend to go with you to the airport who can stand back from check in with your violin and then when you go to board at the gate, wear it on your back like a rucksack, maybe draping your coat OVER your back and case (big baggy raincoats are brilliant for this) and try to "merge" with the crowd so you don't stand out. This has worked for me on Ryanair with no problem. Once you get in the plane whizz it up in the overhead as quickly as you can and if anyone says anything - profess total innocence and say that it has always been fine before...

On my last trip I had a shoulder bag so couldn't put case on back, but I took a really big - but light - raincoat and my smallest dart-shaped case and just covered case with raincoat, put it under my arm and tried to look innocent, worked fine.

Hope you get on OK - let us know how it went.

April 28, 2008 at 08:34 PM · LOL! Rosalind! That's the kind of behavior that alerts airport security and gets people pulled aside for a "detailed" personal security exam

...by triggering suspicions of attempted smuggling, terrorism, that sort of thing...

Could add quite the note of adventure to an otherwise ordinary day.

April 28, 2008 at 09:16 PM · Carol - rest assured I wouldn't DREAM of trying this in the US of A! ;-)

April 28, 2008 at 10:35 PM · I'm flying over to see my daughter on Weds - do I take my viola to play "Carousel" which she wants to hear or just play it on the cheapo violin I've got over there? I can't believe the cabin crew would do anything but turn a blind eye, but you never know. But in the interests of getting the flight off in time (must be the most important issue for them) I can't believe they would allow it to escalate - are they going to refuse you boarding or just wait while you go off to buy an additional seat? I don't check any luggage in and it will get through Security OK, they don't know which airline you're flying with.

April 29, 2008 at 08:07 AM · I will not show the violin when I check in my luggage, and hopefully they will not stop me when I get on the plane. I'm already nervous... I hope I can get home also (flying home from Dublin)

April 29, 2008 at 01:27 PM · I'm playing with an orchestra soon, and the organizer booked my to fly with Ryanair, without paying for an extra seat for my violin. I warned her about Ryanair's policy, and I'm not sure whether she's gone ahead and booked the extra seat or not. I suppose in this situation I just don't want to be liable to any extra cost - the fact I've warned her about it I'm hoping makes the orchestra liable now. Is that right?

April 29, 2008 at 03:36 PM · I flew RyanAir from Venice-Treviso to Stanstead and back at Easter...no trouble at all. I have done this route many times and, SO FAR, no problems. I do not try to hide my violin, but have it on my back and don't ask them about it. We actually called Treviso airport once by phone to ask, and they said it was ok to take the violin on board. Maybe it depends who you find on the day ....

May 13, 2008 at 10:42 AM · No problem at all with ryanair between Stockholm and Dublin. :)

July 23, 2008 at 04:10 PM · I flew this morning from Frankfurt to Granada, and I had problems carrying my violin into the plane.

At first, the girl in the check-in desk said me that I would have to go to ask the man in the security control (not the police but the ryanair employee that checks that your baggage fits in their restrictions). I supposed that I would not have problems, like always.

But then there were two ryanair-employees just before the security control, a nice woman and a serious man. The girl said me that I could go inside, and I started walking towards the control. But then, when I was about five meters away from the "first control", the man came to me and said that I need a tag for my violin. I tried to explain some facts, but finally I had to go to the check-in desk.

There, I explained what the man said me about the tag, and she said that my only two options were to buy a ticket (around 300€) or the pay for it as checked baggage (40€). I tried to explain that I never had problems carrying the violin, that it fits in the upper compartment and that I understand that the violin is not a hand baggage bult (I will talk about this at the end).

Nothing worked. I should say that I was before joking with my two best friends that were with me (not musicians) about that if they say that the violin can not go inside, I would rent a car and go home driving. But at the moment she said me which were my only two options, I could not control myself: I was shaking and almost could not speak because of my need to cry.

She went then to ask her superiors, and 3 minutes later she came and said they confirm what she said to me. After a few minutes, I tried to ask (it was so difficult for me to speak in that moment) if she could not do any exception, and the answer was No. At this moment, her college asked her again what did her superiors say.

After that, I was still there, not speaking but just trying to think and not to cry. I was alone because my friends were already in the gates area, and it was my last flight from Germany after an year studying there. She said me that I could left the violin in the airport and pick it up next time. I could not realize that it was really happening.

At last, I don't know how much time I was standing in front of the woman in the check-in desk, but then she moved a little, took a green sticker and put it in my violin.

All this rough time only for a small green sticker.


What I said about hand baggage is that violins are not hand baggage. I asked about the new rules in Europe about hand baggage in an Iberia information office, and the employee explained me very detailed (he was the first person I saw that really knew the new rules and how to apply them) that "hand baggage" are only the bags with clothes and things you could check-in.

Violins, cameras, laptops, GPS, handys, and all these objects are not "hand baggage" but "Personal objects", and they don't suffer from European hand baggage limitations about only one bult and size. But anyway, each airline applies these rules how they want.

I hope no-one of you has to live the same situation, because it was really one of my worst moments I remember. Personally, I will try (I cannot be sure, that's why I use "try") not to fly with them never more.



July 23, 2008 at 07:22 PM · I'm flying Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Prague in three days. Anything I need to worry about there???

July 23, 2008 at 11:45 PM · Don't worry, with Lufthansa you will not have problems ;)

Nice flight

July 24, 2008 at 01:16 PM · Kristian, that was a really polite, well-written letter that they would be crazy not to give serious thought to. If I ever go through the same thing I will use it as a model.

July 4, 2009 at 08:21 PM ·

I flew with ryanair for the first time today on route London-Oslo with violin. Schocking! I've read all those stories on the internet when cabin crew refused to take violin on board etc beforehand. Stressed about it and angry that I had to pay 40 pounds for check-in I went to the plain with my back pack AND violin (I have to underline that my heart rate was really fast) and when I got in I was welcomed by Vivaldi's Spring and sweetly nice crew. I went through without problem and I was consused so I went back to stewardess and ask if it's ok to take violin on board (haha I had to find out why!) and she replied that "Ooof COURSE you are allowed to take your violin" (and she made this hand gesture of obviousness). AMAZING! Clearly their psychological practices worked and I was no longer angry about 40 pounds I had to pay. Generally they were really nice and funny. Maybe it is a recent change only or is it just this route? Good luck for all others who try to transport instruments with ryanair.

July 9, 2009 at 02:34 PM ·

 I thought this was funny:


July 14, 2009 at 08:30 AM ·

I love the video... now they need a wheelchair version! (If you think flying with a violin is stressful, try flying with a violin AND a wheelchair!!!  Mine is damaged on about 75% of my flights.)

'Erie (-:

July 14, 2009 at 09:20 AM ·

This is an airline that sometimes has tickets for 1 pound.  Their whole thing is budget  tickets with slashed services.  

Incidentally I check every airline for their rules before I fly since they can vary quite a bit.

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