European airline Ryanair forces violinists to buy seat for their instruments

August 3, 2010 at 07:32 PM ·

Three violinists flying from Frankfurt to the UK discovered three days before their flight that they would have to pay for an extra seat for each violin case, at a cost of £1,340. From this story:

Apparently the airline has had the policy for several years, but the musicians said they'd made an agreement when purchasing the tickets that would have exempted them.

This is troubling trend! A violin case fits very easily into an overhead compartment and certainly it weighs a lot less then other baggage that is allowed on airplanes.

Replies (22)

August 3, 2010 at 09:02 PM ·

i'm not surprised - they're the most rapacious, exploitative airline around ... and unfortunately, a business model that others appear to be copying.  air scrooge ...



August 3, 2010 at 10:25 PM ·

This is an ongoing issue with Ryan Air. There is even a group on Facebook:

August 4, 2010 at 12:10 AM ·

Well: maybe they think violins are human beings and that they deserve a seat. Or they assume violinists can pay because they believe they all travel with an 18 million Guarneri...

August 4, 2010 at 12:55 AM ·

I read a story of a violinist who was forced to buy an extra seat for the violin. The violinist complied and strapped the seat belt around the instrument in the adjacent seat.  Back in the days when they used to serve lunch/dinner at no charge instead of peanuts, the violinist made the flight attendants serve the violin drinks, lunch and dinner (after pressing the "call" button several times).

August 4, 2010 at 01:35 AM ·

About a year ago, I emailed my then MP about this. He said he didn't think there was anything to be done as it was a private contract between the company and the traveller, but passed it on to the Office of Fair Trading, all the same.

OFT agreed - the company can make any conditions or charges it wants about the  things you bring with you onto their aeroplanes.

If you don't like it, use another carrier.

That's that.

I have a copy of a letter from OFT's Chief Executive, John Fingleton,  to that effect.



August 4, 2010 at 05:13 AM ·

Ryanair are well known for this problem.Infact when I travelled to Ireland with the youth orchestra earlier this year we travelled with another company to avoid this problem so only had to buy seats for the cellos.The violas passed as hand luggage as well.The inconvenience for us was having to book a bus to take us to and collect us from Bologna rather than leaving more conveniently from Pisa but it was still much cheaper.Incidently I'm flying with Ryanair today but I'm leaving my violin at home for a weekl

August 4, 2010 at 09:27 AM ·

I can see why one might have to buy a seat for a cello or other large instrument but if another traveler turned up with a carry-on case that was the size of a violin case but not an instrument would they also have to buy a seat?  If not then one has a case (excuse the pun)...

August 4, 2010 at 12:58 PM ·

The arguement/justification that they require you buy a seat for an instrument because it takes space or is to big (in the case of a violin) goes right out the window when you take into consideration that they selectively (and at the last minute) decide they have to charge you for a seat. Makes one think that the whole maneuver is based on whether or not the plane is full. I suppose one could invest in a smaller soft back pack case. I know of one that might do the trick. It's by Ritter Outdoor Limited, although you'd have to contact them to see if they are still making violin bags or where to find them. We were considering buying a few for a recent tour of China. Fortunately, we were able to negotiate with the airline we picked in order to have all violins and violas in the overhead compartments (although the flights inside of China were a big question mark but it all worked out). Also, there is a great bag by Gig Bags in England that may be smaller than Ryanair's requirements. The problem with buying a soft case, even if it is small enough, is that they may still decide to pigheadedly (is that a word?) stick to their policy like brainless automatons. You can get a pretty good protective case cover called Small Dog, if you must check it and have no choice. That will provide extra protection.

I say, boycott....hit them where it hurts. It worked with the Nestle Corp. I know because I was a part of it!

August 4, 2010 at 02:47 PM ·

Yep.  Ryanair  has the right to set their policies the way they want.  If you don't like them, don't fly them.  Buy tickets from someone else.  The ticket may be more expensive but the total cost of travel will be much lower.

For a number of years, Delta didn't allow musicians to take violins onboard as carryon baggage.  I didn't fly them until they changed that policy.  Me and my fiddle flew on other airlines.

Thanks for the heads-up though.  Not all low-cost carriers are violin-unfriendly.  From personal experience, Southwest in the US is fine although you need to board early enough to get overhead space.

August 4, 2010 at 04:17 PM ·

delta allowing a carry-on violin is good news - i'll be flying with them at the end of the month.  british airways - anyone know what their policy is?

August 4, 2010 at 05:18 PM ·

I usually fly Air France and I've never had a problem. That said, it's easier to carry on a violin when you are travelling alone. Imagine the problem when you are travelling with an entire orchestra. It's a negotiation with any airline. For example, they may agree to violins, but not violas. We've had this experience when travelling as an orchestra. All I can say is, check ahead of time and get it in writing!

August 4, 2010 at 08:03 PM ·

"Makes one think that the whole maneuver is based on whether or not the plane is full."

Bingo.  Methinks you're onto something.

August 4, 2010 at 10:53 PM ·

There was a wonderful story about Leonard Rose once boarding an airplane with his cello.  The stewardess looked it up and down and asked, snottily, "And just what is that?"  Capitalizing on her perceived lack of intelligence, Rose replied that it was an oboe.  Unable to find "oboe" on her list of prohibited items, she let him and his cello board.  Are Ryanair's people this clueless?

August 4, 2010 at 11:37 PM ·

n.b.: ryan air stocks are trading at just under 400 at the moment - a rise of 100 points in little over a month.

August 5, 2010 at 04:19 AM ·

The British Air policies are on their website.  Look for what they say about "hand baggage" or "cabin baggage".  They have special language about musical instruments (at least they did earlier in the year when I flew BA).  I didn't have a problem but then I booked World Traveller Plus (aka premium economy) and the carryon policy was likely more generous than standard economy.

August 31, 2010 at 02:26 AM ·

Now if they would at least tell their employees so that this doesn't happen.

August 31, 2010 at 02:00 PM ·

 I had an awful experience on Frontier Airlines.  I boarded the plane last because of my seat assignment and found every single overhead full.  The gate agent was insisting I check my violin, even going as far to tell me, "there are a lot of valuable things in the cargo hold."  I turned my back on her and went and found another, much friendlier, flight attendant who agreed to try and help me.  She came back 2 minutes later, said that she had found a place for my violin, and asked me to come up to the front of the plane with her.  The pilot of the plane came out of the cockpit, took my violin, and showed me that they could simply strap the violin in behind the pilot's seat in the cockpit.  No problem at all, and me and my violin arrived safe and sound.  The lesson that I learned is that there is ALWAYS a way to get your violin on board, you simply have to find the right person who is willing to help.  There are loads of places on a plane for a regular size violin case; closets, galleys, etc.  Sometimes you just have to point out to the frazzled and stressed flight attendants that they exist!

September 5, 2010 at 08:30 AM ·

And here is another reason I wouldn't fly with Ryanair.

Honestly it has got to the stage where some people suggest that the boss of Ryanair is simply desperate for publicity/notoriety.

September 5, 2010 at 11:35 AM ·

I have successfully avoided flying with them and I will continue to do so!

September 5, 2010 at 04:25 PM ·

Buy a share of Ryanair, go to the annual stockholders' meeting and raise hell.

Encourage others to do the same.

September 6, 2010 at 08:05 PM ·

I think I found the problem with RyanAir, and it might not be fixable at the stockholders meeting.

September 8, 2010 at 12:42 AM ·

IN Australia, Jetstar has made the news for similar reasons.



This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music: Check out our selection of Celtic music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings
Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings

National Symphony Orchestra
National Symphony Orchestra

Violins of Hope
Violins of Hope Summer Music Programs Directory
Find a Summer Music Program Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

ARIA International Summer Academy

Borromeo Music Festival

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine