Delta Airlines Wants You...Not your Instrument

May 6, 2006 at 03:45 AM · Last week, one of my students was flying to a competition on Delta Airlines and had to call a supervisor to mediate a dispute with the gate person over whether or not the violin would be allowed on the plane in the overhead bin. She finally was allowed after boarding the plane with the supervisor and placing the violin in an overhead without a problem. I thought it was perhaps a stiff-necked gate person,UNTIL...

last week, I flew Delta to play a concert in Florida. The gate agent and I had an argument when she insisted my violin be checked in baggage.

Is there some new policy at Delta Airlines we should know about? Anyone else have trouble with Delta and their instrument/carryon policy?

Replies (100)

May 6, 2006 at 04:15 AM · I'm shocked and horrified. Looking forward to hearing others' replies...

May 6, 2006 at 04:28 AM · Oh great, and I have to fly to Hawaii on Delta in a week.

May 6, 2006 at 04:52 AM · I've flown quite a bit and I've never had a problem. I always ask very nicely and I have yet to have an issue.

However, I do have a Musafia Enigma, so it should be able to hold up in the belly of the plane.

May 6, 2006 at 04:57 AM · As a former airline pilot with TWA I'll check with my Delta friends and get back to you. AT TWA violins were no problem. That is until I had the Flight Attendant tell a famous concert violinist he couldn't go to Chicago with us unless he put "that thing" (a DelGesu) in cargo. You should have heard the explosion from him as I doubled over in pain from laughing so hard. The violinist was a friend of mine and lived quite close to us.

May 6, 2006 at 05:12 AM · America West made me hand-check my violin once too. Do you have that letter from the American Federation of Musicians? It basically says that the Transportation Security Administrations made a policy that allows musicians to carry violins in addition to carry-on luggage. A lot of people have this, and though I haven't actually used it yet, I'm sure it would shut-up those stiff gate people. I usually have less trouble on international flights (Germans seem to understand that violins are valuable... hm...).

May 6, 2006 at 05:28 AM · Ray, once there was some sort of an issue with an overzealous and obviously quite bored flight attendant... they ended up putting it in the captain's locker or something.

May 6, 2006 at 06:16 AM · Guys,

American Federation of Musicians has cut a deal several years ago with the airline industry concerning this very issue.

Check out:

"To date, the AFM has been successful in persuading the TSA to issue a directive to its personnel requiring them to accommodate musicians traveling with their instruments. The resulting TSA letter has drastically reduced the problems that our members have with government screeners, but AFM members are still having difficulties with individual airlines, whose employees are not covered by the TSA policy.

The Office of Government Relations is now working with various individual airlines as well as the ATA in an effort to have airline personnel be more accommodating to musicians traveling with their instruments. This office has helped draft language for what the AFM believes would be an ideal, uniform policy that we are asking all ATA member airlines to adhere to. The Office of Government Relations is also working with key congressional offices who have some influence with either the TSA or the airlines."

May 6, 2006 at 06:54 AM · Hello,

I have flown Delta four times this year and have had problems concerning my violin on three of the four flights. I have flown on 13 other airlines this year as well and have had no problems with my violin. I showed them the letter from the union and it was as if it meant nothing to the gate attendant. After much arguing I was allowed on the three flights with my violin but it was a big hassle.

In talking to other violinist it seems that Delta is the main one that they also have problems with.

Maybe it would help if everyone that belongs to the AFM contact your local and have them contact Delta. I would stay on the ground before I would ever check my violin into cargo.


May 6, 2006 at 02:01 PM · Just print the letter from AFM and present it on flights if necessary.

I have done that in the past, and it worked every time.

May 6, 2006 at 02:10 PM · I have flown Southwest...which is basically a cattle bin...and been in the unfortunate C Group which boards last. There was no overhead luggage left and they would not allow me to take my violins on board because all the overhead bins were full. The two cases I carried were much smaller than most of the luggage others had been taking on, but because I was in Group C, they told me I had to sky check it.

I calmly said that was impossible and when asked why explained that the two violins were antique and extremely valuable (a JB Vuillaume and Paul Bailly). I asked if there was a closet in which they would fit (there was not) and the flight attendant even asked the pilot if they could go behind their seats in the cockpit (she refused).

So, I refused to fly on that plane but kindly requested preboarding on the next flight. This they immediately granted and I was only an hour later arriving then I had planned.

A woman in front of me, who was a Curtis graduate as I later found out, became very irate when they refused her guitar. She began spouting off to the flight attendant and then later to the gate manager. It took her 40 minutes to accomplish what I did in 10 minutes, just because of her manner. Having family in the airline business I know exactly how much power a flight attendant or ticketing agent has on allowing you to fly...that would be complete power.


May 6, 2006 at 02:19 PM · Mr. Russell-

I'm curious about the concert you played in Florida. What was it for, etc.? How did it go? A concerto? Recital? What pieces?

Just curious.....

May 6, 2006 at 02:30 PM · It was Vivaldi Four Seasons with the Pensacola Symphony. It was split with a violinist from Houston Symphony and two others. It was a wonderful and fun concert. I love Pensacola!

May 6, 2006 at 03:05 PM · Here is a note I just received from a Capt. friend at Delta. Even I did not know about the AFM letter. I'll see if he finds out about it and post that, too. In the meantime here is his reply for now.

"I will check it out. However shooting from the hip the "SizeWise"

dimensions rule. That is if it exceeds any of those dimensions it can be

denied as carry on. Also, how many carry ons did these people have? With the

instrument all they can have is a "personal item" such as a purse or

briefcase. Since 9/11 the goverment changed the rules and a lot of people

still think they can have two carry ons. The limits is one. Admittedly,

those purses and briefcases get stretched, but if you have a roll aboard, a

violin and a purse you are over the limit. We do have musicians who carry

highly valuable instruments such as harps, violas, cellos and violins on

board. They usually purchase a seat for the instrument and restrain said

instrument in the seat. I will get back to you with more when I get a chance

to do a search of ACS regs."

May 6, 2006 at 03:53 PM · Mr. Russell-

Weather in Pensacola is a little better than Cleveland, no? lol

Glad to hear your concert went well.

Which Seasons did you play?

May 6, 2006 at 04:43 PM · This is a most important issue, and we should keep one another informed and current about which airlines, both international and domestic, are musician-friendly, and which are not.

So far I've had good experiences with Jet Blue, except once when I was running late - but even that ended up OK.

It's occurred to me, though I haven't had to try it, that if an airline insists on my putting my violin in baggage, I might suggest putting it where they keep pets. I don't know if that would work.

May 6, 2006 at 06:08 PM · No it would not. I am a retired TWA Captain and while the pet area is heated and pressurized it still has to pass through the hands of the "baggage smashers," as we called them. Some of these guys make shot putters look bad. At all costs avoid putting an instrument in cargo.

May 6, 2006 at 06:47 PM · "Baggage Smashers":

Well, I was on a flight some time ago, like 10 years, and we were sitting on the "tarmac" waiting for the baggage loading. I was looking out the window and had a perfect view of the end of the conveyor belt. The handler there was doing a pretty typical job of lifting and heaving. Then, he came to a pet carrier..with a cat in it. He set it on the side of the conveyor, and turned to get something else on ahead of it. Well, the cat saw her chance, she moved inside the kennel, and it tipped, and fell off, door sprang open, off goes kitty-a big fancy fluffy one. This all happens exactly as the handler is turned the other way. He turns around and sees the problem, and in slow motion, I see on his lips, "Ohhh Sh*%!!!." There were some others watching at the same time and I hear, "oh no" and laughter.

The guy takes off running under the plane, around and around, it was like a carnival show, we're standing up looking out the other side of the plane (MD9-80) and it was something!

Eventually the captain came on the intercom in his classic southern jet pilot drawl, and said, "we had a bit of a hold up with a baggage problem but it has all been sorted out and the missing baggage is safely stowed."

The whole time this is happening, I was expecting to hear a woman in furs screaming out, "fifi, my fifi, oh no--catch my fifi!" but it didn't happen. I guess the owner was lucky enough to miss alll the fun!

May 6, 2006 at 08:11 PM · I have had problems flying on Delta as well.

There were about 8 or 9 of us leaving on a flight, and as we approached the gate, the gate attendant said, "Someone tipped us off that you were going to try to SNEAK those things on board," as if we were smuggling bombs. After a big scene and having to show the attendant that the violin indeed does fit in the overheard, they let us on. Those bastards.

May 6, 2006 at 10:20 PM · I flew to Hawai'i this past January with Delta, and didn't have a problem either on the way there or on the way back.

May 6, 2006 at 10:25 PM · Thanks for looking into it, Ray.

In both cases, the violin was the only carry-on. What is interesting is the immediate negative attitude of these agents. I imagine they get a lot of grief from passengers, but still...

My student reports that she told the gate agent she has flown for years and never been asked to check the violin. In fact, she had just gotten off an American Airlines flight without a problem. The Delta gate agent replied: "Maybe you should consider not flying on Delta in the future." Hmmm... seems like it might actually be good advice ;-)

May 6, 2006 at 10:35 PM · Oh, these stories are SO interesting!

May 7, 2006 at 12:29 AM · I think the summary is that if you want to fly and insist your instrument travels in the cabin with you then you have two alternatives:

1. Purchase a seat for it; or

2. Be perfectly prepared to catch another aircraft.

The trouble is that since 9/11 every little jumped-up Hitler you encounter in an airport thinks they have the right to make up the rules on what's acceptable and what's not. The really, really unfortunate thing is that they do have that right. Or at least there's very little recourse available to you in getting the issue solved.

Oh, and showing 'em a letter will only enrage them by showing up their limited reading skills.


May 7, 2006 at 12:45 AM · This is a serious problem for every hungry+traveling violinist. I mean, honestly, what violinist (unless they are like...Joshua Bell or something) is going to be able to afford two tickets regularly?

Wow, guys, you're making me scared for my summer (two trips via plane).

May 7, 2006 at 02:48 AM · Carley... don't worry. Again, in my experience, if you're nice, there's no problem.

May 7, 2006 at 03:10 AM · Carley, if you're nice and that doesn't work, then give em a couple of tears. I've never had to check mine.

May 7, 2006 at 05:11 AM · hehe. I bet that'd work.

May 7, 2006 at 05:56 AM · It's against stupid FAA Regulations to carry anything in the cockpit for a passenger. We could lose our licenses if an FAA Inspector catches us doing that. FWIW.

May 7, 2006 at 10:18 AM · Hehe...thanks for the encouragement, guys. Last summer Aoileann sent me an e-mail full of tips for flying, and at the end, she said, "If everything else fails, CRY LIKE A GIRL!" LOL! But yeah...I think I'll try the friendly route first...

May 7, 2006 at 11:16 AM · "The trouble is that since 9/11 every little jumped-up Hitler you encounter in an airport thinks they have the right to make up the rules on what's acceptable and what's not. The really, really unfortunate thing is that they do have that right. Or at least there's very little recourse available to you in getting the issue solved.

Oh, and showing 'em a letter will only enrage them by showing up their limited reading skills."

#1. As a first hand witness to the events of 9/11 I'm GLAD they are doing their job and it's NOT unfortunate that they have the right to "make up the rules". We are afterall the ones they are protecting along with themselves. There have been many many times after going through extensive security screening that I thank the people for doing their job so well. They look at me like I'm nuts, but they don't know what I saw, smelled, felt, and heard in Sept. 2001.

#2. With family in the airline business I take offense to the insinuation that the workers are uneducated shlubs. They are trained and have every right to refuse boarding to ornery people with that sort of attitude, Neil, and thank goodness for it. I don't want people boarding the plane that don't respect the rules.

Like I said before. Traveling by air can be so much less stressful for yourself and for the workers if you maintain a pleasant and non-confrontational attitude.

Play by their rules, be pleasant, and (you're right) be prepared to board another plane.


May 7, 2006 at 03:00 PM · What I keep worrying about is that they will let my violin on the plane, but not me.

But seriously, with all of the security problems that 9/11 exposed, it is indeed a good thing for all of us if there is extra security, even if it is not applied expertly. My wife is a long-time paramedic with the Chicago Fire Department, and so we're especially sensitized to this issue, since on 9/11, of the 343 New York Fire Department personnel who were killed, 30 were Paramedics.


May 7, 2006 at 03:03 PM · Is this really a security issue? They say it has to do with the size of the overhead bins.

May 7, 2006 at 03:18 PM · I flew out to Colorado for a competition with my orchestra. We flew delta, and informed them that we were a group of musicians that had instruments and wanted to know their policy. Cellos had to buy an extra seat of their instruments if they didn't want them to go in the cargo area, and the violin and viola cases had to be a certain dimension in order to be in the cabin.

There weren't any problems, but I remember my old teacher saying that when she went to Japan for a Gilbert and Sullivan tour (or something like that), the airport security took the tool she used to tighten her shoulder rest because it could be used as a weapon. So, my old teacher advised me not to taken anything metallic that I didn't need.

May 7, 2006 at 03:49 PM · I flew recently from Alaska to Washington and had no problems except the security inspector kept trying to get me to admit I was carrying a "Thompson". I just smiled politely.

I have had problems in the past with the same airline.

Really, the problem is the inconsistency. If the airlines had a consistent set of rules and enforced them consistently then we could make adequate plans.

It really bugs me to have to deal with petty people who have the right, "power", to not enforce a rule when they feel like it. It's like some banana republic where you wear a nice smile slip a quick tip (bribe) and suddenly the rules don't apply to you.

If it is reasonable (which it certainly is) to place a violin and case in the overhead bin then EVERYONE should ALWAYS be able to do it. And not have to rely on encountering someone "nice" enough to not enforce the rules.

May 7, 2006 at 04:22 PM · Except for the smallest puddle jumpers, my case fits in all overhead bins. Even many prop planes.

May 7, 2006 at 04:21 PM · Before I had to retire from flying for TWA at age 60, the FAA Regs mandated certain items to carry on board. The list included a knife for cutting into wires if you had to, etc. Security tried to take it away from me and I came prepaired with the regulation overlined in yellow marker. They still took it. I had the stupidvisor come out and saisd YOU are responsible for my flight being cancelled as I will not leave while violating FAA mandated regs.

He kept the knife and I temporarily cancelled the flight. TWA went ballistic on my behalf with security. They cancelled all the flights whose pilots were relieved of their knives and screw drivers. Think inflight fire, etc. They quickly relented and gave us our "deadly weapons" back and we all left very close to on time. I reminded the stupidvisor that I had my hands on the flight controlls and oxygen systems. If I wanted to kill us all I certainly did not need any weapons.

While security is of paramount importance, these inspectors tend to go overboard. Almost 100% of critical skyjackings have been done by Middle Eastern males between 20 and 45 years old, but profile screening is illegal. Wouldn't want to hurt their feelings now.

May 7, 2006 at 04:41 PM · i went on about a dozen flights last summer, and never had trouble carrying my double (violin and viola) case on board, even in the tiny tiny planes. if it didn't fit on top, it fit under the seats. and none of the airlines were delta, so the the solution seems rather simple..

"The Delta gate agent replied: "Maybe you should consider not flying on Delta in the future." Hmmm... seems like it might actually be good advice ;-)"

why not? there are plenty of other much more musician-friendly airlines out there!

May 7, 2006 at 04:45 PM · oh, but i gotta add- after watching a few episodes of 'airline' (i think that's what it's called..) on a&e, i really can't take any 'attitude' or whatnot coming from airline people personally- they have to deal with the craziest people..

May 7, 2006 at 06:15 PM · I heard a story a cellist who bought a seat for his cello. When mealtime came around, he asked for the meal that the cello obviously wasn't going to eat, but they didn't let him have it.

May 7, 2006 at 07:15 PM · Here is an extremely abridged Delta Baggage Policy. Go to for the entire trieste. Hope this helps.

I received the whole thing from a Delta Employee and had trouble copying and pasting this as it really did not want to be copied the way it was sent. I also could not get bold highlights to transfew to this site.If it's jumbled or screwed up I apologize.

Delta Air Lines, Delta Shuttle and Delta Express will accept one (1) carry-on item plus one (1) personal item per passenger. Personal items are:

Purse - Male / Female



Camera Case

Diaper Bag

Item of a similar size or smaller size to those listed above

The following items may be brought on board in addition to the items listed above:

Food item for immediate consumption

Acceptable assist devices/prostheses (not limited to one item) on the same flight with a passenger who is disabled and is dependent on the device (examples: crutches, cane, respirator, etc.)

One box / bag of duty free

Any frequently carried items such as an overcoat, jacket, umbrella, newspaper, magazine or novel.

NOTE: Any frequently carried item such as an overcoat, umbrella, newspaper, magazine or novel should be allowed and not considered carry-on baggage.his is a sample note.

Carry-on bags in excess of the permitted allowance and not listed above should be checked

Statistical, calculating, and other machines (for business or home use) such as personal computers, calculators, typewriters, and dictation equipment

***Musical instruments such as guitars, violins, trombones, and drums***

Television, radio, stereo, and other entertainment equipment

Ornamental items such as vases, figurines, ceramic articles, and trophies

Artistic items such as paintings, sculpture, and antique furniture

Photographic and cinematographic equipment such as cameras, lenses, flash bulbs, and projectors

Recreational or sporting goods such as tennis rackets; fishing rods; sculls; golf clubs; surfboards; scuba-diving masks and pressure gauges; scopes; skin-diving gear; skis; model airplanes; bicycles; backpacks; knapsacks; sleeping bags; sporting trophies such as animal horns and antlers; and tents made of plastic, vinyl, or other easily torn material with aluminum frames, outside pockets, or protruding straps and buckles

Precision instruments such as microscopes, oscilloscopes, meters, counters, and polygraphs

Glassware such as terrariums, mirrors, crystal, and china

Glass containers such as liquors, wines, beer, liqueurs, and perfumes

Toys such as dolls, stuffed animals, and dollhouses

Paper such as advertising displays, models, sketches, blueprints, and maps

Potted plants and foliage such as branches and blossoms of flowers, fruits, and vegetables

Strollers and child resistant seats.

Cabin Baggage - Delta will allow certain large and/ or fragile items, such as guitars, drums and cellos, to be carried in the passenger cabin provided a seat is purchased for the item. The following FAA restrictions must be met:

Does not exceed 165 lb (75 kg)

Is packaged or covered to avoid injury to passengers

Is properly secured by a seat belt or other tie-down strap

Will not restrict access to, or use of, an emergency exit, regular exit, or cabin aisle

Does not block any passenger’s view of the Seat Belt sign or Exit signs

Does not contain dangerous goods

Communicating Carry-On Baggage Policy to Passengers and Employees

Passengers: Information regarding the contents of this carry-on baggage program will be provided to passengers by any of the following methods:

Ticket counter / gate signage

Boarding announcements

Signs at scanning points

Ticket envelopes / timetables

Sky Magazine

Delta General Rules Tariff (DGR - 1)

Delta's official web site (

May 8, 2006 at 05:22 AM · I'm a frequent flier on many different airlines, including Delta. For the next six months, I have two trips to the UK, one to Germany, one to New Zealand, and four domestic flights to book for performances. I was looking forward to booking all (or as many of them as I could) on Delta, to ensure maximum frequent flier mile accumulation towards my honeymoon trip or trips next year.

As the result of the regulations so kindly posted here, the total tickets for myself, my fiancee, and the three other members of my trio (cellist, cello, and pianist) will ALL be booked on any airline at all other than Delta. This amounts to a total of well over $10,000 in lost airfares for Delta. I realize this isn't much in light of an airline's total revenue, but it does make me happy to lose so obtuse and boorish a company as much money as possible.

I would encourage any who, like me, see corporate idiocy and inflexibility as unacceptable to boycott Delta. Lend your voices in a word-of-mouth campaign to encourage all the tens of thousands of frequent-flying musicians to steer clear of this obtuse, obsolete bankrupcy-in-waiting disaster of an airline.

May 8, 2006 at 05:32 AM · Emil,

I'm flying to Italy at the end of this month. I almost was forced to take Delta for the first leg of the trip, but orbitz saved me at the last minute. It would be rather counter-productive to show up at a violin competition without one's violin, wouldn't it? I can't believe the ignorance of some companies.

May 8, 2006 at 06:58 AM · I'm boycotting Delta and Northwest. Have been for years.

May 8, 2006 at 10:50 AM · Emil--

I LOVED your CD! You have a very special way about your playing of those wonderful Romantic gems! Congratulations, too on your upcoming happies!


May 8, 2006 at 02:43 PM · I am the student of Mr. Russell who encountered the difficulty with Delta. To clarify, I was not attempting to carry-on an excessive amount of luggage. I merely had a purse and my fiddle. My case is of average size. Incidentally I have never encountered difficulty boarding with my violin in the past OR with fitting the instrument in the overhead bin. Not even on an extrememely compact prop plane was I unable to fit my case. The issue, according to the Delta rep and supervisor, is one of SIZE not security. In my opinion we can thank all those who insist on boarding with their roller luggage...that is likely the cause of the crackdown on size guidelines. Delta and most other airlines have a device that supposedly represents the size of the overhead bin in which one is supposed to check if their carry-on items will indeed fit. In the case of Delta it is called the "Size-Wise." HOWEVER, this contraption is NOT an accurate representation of the dimensions of an overhead bin. It is shorter in length by far and also seems to be wider than the actual dimensions of the typical overhead bin. I opine all violinists/ violists email Delta demanding the "Size-Wise" be updated to reflect the actual dimensions of the overhead bins. In the email suggest if Delta is concerned about limited overhead space, they ought to ban rollerbags from overhead compartments...LUGGAGE is for the LUGGAGE compartment in the belly of the plane. VIOLINS are NOT!!!! Finally, if you are stuck flying Delta at some point in the near future with your dearly beloved violin in tow, I offer the remarks I made which seemed to work for me in terms of convincing the representatives:

Ask for a supervisor

Stay calm and emphatic...try not to blow up at them....its just an excuse for them to go on a powertrip

Say your insurance policy forbids you to put your instrument in the luggage compartment

Say a violin is a one of a kind piece of art that belongs to posterity...there is no other violin in the world exactly like yours and as such it is irreplaceable

Say you have never in all your years of flying with your violin encountered any difficulty fitting the instrument in the overhead a sidenote I was travelling on a Canadair regional Jet- small but violin DOES FIT

Be ready to wait for a later flight...though in my case they would not allow me to change flights becuase I had purchased my ticket through Student Universe...

Implore the agent to allow you to at least try to fit the violin in an overhead compartment and that if it won't fit you will check it planeside (though I and most likely you will have no actual intention of doing this...the violin WILL don't worry)

Be paitient and arrive early...It took about 20-30 minutes for me to finally convince them to let me TRY to fit my violin

If all else fails, a little waterworks never hurt anyone!!

May 8, 2006 at 04:00 PM · Emily, what happened on Northwest? My violin and I have to travel from Minneapolis to Asheville, NC, in October, and the cheapest flight by far is Northwest. You have me panicking now... ;)

May 8, 2006 at 06:06 PM · Again, as an airline pilot for TWA, I have never-ever found an overhead luggage rack that would not take a violin case. When I travelled with mine I always stuck it under the window seat in front of me. It sticks out a few inches, but will NOT impede an emergency egress of the burning plane unless you intend to break open that window (impossible) and squeeze your body through a tiny opening. Remember, most airlines, including Delta as a member of IATA (International Air Transport Association) have signed an IFM letter allowing violins onboard. Get a copy of the letter and carry it with you.

Like I mentioned before, the only explosion I ever had with a violin problem while flying as the Captain is when I told, through the Flight Attendant since this violinist is a good friend of mine, a famous concert violinist he had to "put that THING in cargo or get off the plane." The resulting explosion and hissy fit was worth every minute of grief that I still get from him years later.

May 8, 2006 at 07:15 PM · Emil,

your post was a good may seem little now, but word may spread but someone, somewhere may read it and do something about it.

I don't know how security came into this post; we seem to be delaing with size (or perhaps the odd-shape?

For people recommending buying an extra seat, it may have a point about the cello, but for a violin?? Or maybe we could ask for 10% tickets (get them a baby-cot), the same as for under-two's: who are actually much larger and more mobile than a violin...

For the record, a couple of years ago, we were travelling as a family with a violin, a clarinet, a harmonium (indian instrument), plus a laptop and one standard hand luggage and my purse, absolutely no problems at all, although they did examine the clarinet very closely. Airline: LUFTHANSA, and they made it clear the instruments were not counted as std hand luggage.

May 8, 2006 at 08:03 PM · Emily, you will probably have no problems with the violin. Ours was with the dog. I bought the tickets fully intending on traveling with the dog. They wanted to charge twice as $200 for each time the dog flew (one way). We also would need a $40 vet check every time he flew, not just once. Then they told us the temps had to be above 40 degrees for him to fly. This was winter in Alaska! I found out later that not all airlines have the same regulations regarding pets, since some have heated holding bays. Alaska airlines has no issues with temps, and they also fly animals for way, way cheaper. Our dog ended up costing twice as much as our own tickets. But he wouldn't be able to fly anyway, due to the temp regulation.

That's where the creative letter writing started. I began with diplomatic letters, which got increasingly sarcastic with each mismatched reply that I received. It was clear to me that no one actually reads letters in the Customer Service department. If they do, they must have fun finding ways to plug in whatever generic, non-commital response comes to mind. So, I wrote about how the purpose of the trip was for dog training (our puppy needed retrieving experience, and we had no means in the arctic winter), and that our entire Christmas holiday was ruined. Generic response. Then I wrote about my pet's airfare, how dogs must be getting first class treatment since they pay so much, dining on salmon caviar and getting doggie pedicures... Generic response. Then I wrote my discgust in their inability to read my letters. Generic response. Then my dog wrote them a letter (a very creative one at that!) explaining that even he could read better than the Customer Service Department, and he wasn't even a year old yet.

I'm not sure how many letters we exchanged, but I have to say, at least it was entertaining.

When we finally flew (leaving our dog with a dogsitter) we were randomly selected to display our personal belongings on the counters so that they could molest my underwear and rearrange my husband's expensive fishing gear in order to make it much easier to destroy while we sat two hours on the runway and missed our connection.

We flew many times over the holidays and got "randomly" selected every single time to be part of their entertainment.

I guess by the time that holiday season was over, they had forever seared in my memory that I was to never, ever, EVER fly with them again. (At the time, we swore we would never fly again, period, but this was before we attempted to drive the Alaska-Canada highway in the winter. So now we fly, but not with Northwest. Although, sometimes, I would almost rather risk a slow, frigid death in the Yukon than fly.)

May 8, 2006 at 08:01 PM · Emil,

You go girl.

May 8, 2006 at 08:02 PM · LUFTHANSA, the flying Hansa, great airline. Liked them when I flew them out of Frankfurt. And I was returning from a Hanseatic town, too.

Harmonium--cool! I am fascinated by the sounds of the Indian continent. So many cool veena things!

May 8, 2006 at 08:51 PM · Would it be possible to fly with one of those small violin-only cases, and then check the bow in a bow-case inside your luggage? Assuming you don't bring an expensive bow. I read somewhere that violin dealers have special cases that fit within the constraints of the carry-on size.

May 8, 2006 at 11:55 PM · Clare...I don't mean to totally contradict what you said :) (but here I go anyway)...Delta's "SizeWize" thing measures about fourteen inches long, if I remember right (or, I think you can scroll up...didn't someone give the exact measurements above?), and no full-size violin is under fourteen inches long. So, that probably wouldn't work, either...according to their regulations, that is. Although, it might make the illusion of a smaller carry on, I dunno. :)

May 8, 2006 at 11:57 PM · Yay! I did it...double posted! Ice cream for me....

May 9, 2006 at 01:09 PM · If you take the neck off your violin, it will fit 14" exactly :0

May 9, 2006 at 01:29 PM · Bill,

have to say the harmonium was one of those collapsible ones, and came in a canvas case, but it was still bigger (and far heavier) than a violin would be...I was just so impressed with their ability to handle such an odd collection of hand luggage with no problems. Am flying with them twice at least this summer & am planning to buy a sitar or veena (will ask Lufthansa before though)!!

May 9, 2006 at 08:33 PM · Hi Carley, you probably know better than I, having not carried a violin on an airplane although I'm thinking about how to deal with my vacation this summer. There used to be a backpack violin case with detachable bow case. Maybe that will fool the airline person into thinking it was just a large backpack.

Probably won't work with Delta since they will ask you to put it in the size-wise.

See this thread.

or this one

May 9, 2006 at 08:22 PM · Looks like the trick is to get a small enough box. Length of violin is 23 inches, width is 8 inches and height is 4 inches. Possible.

from website:

Small musical instruments may be carried on-board the aircraft providing they meet existing carry-on size requirements and fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. Case dimensions may not exceed 45 linear inches (width+length+height). The instrument is considered the passenger's one allowed carry-on bag. A personal item is allowed in addition to the instrument. See Carry-On Allowance for more information.

May 9, 2006 at 09:48 PM · Thanks for your very kind words, Mr. Russell!

As for Delta, I've looked at the two threads mentioned, and felt my blood pressure jump several notches. The mutton-headed, reflex quoting of non-existent regulations, the refusal to consider overlooked situations that don't fit into ham-fisted policies' pigeonholes, make me actually anxious to spend time making Delta's world at least a little bit as uncomfortable as ours. The next Big Corporate rep who mouths platitudes at an irate customer without actually DOING anything to address an intolerable situation must be made to know that their attitude is financially suicidal, and that their personal indifference is hurting their company and, by extension, their own job prospects.

The problem is that companies know they can have utter contempt for their customers on an individual basis, and not suffer the slightest consequence other than increased profits from forced sales of seats for violin cases. And not even offering frequent flier miles WHILE CHARGING FULL FARES in this industry-wide robbery? So let's summarize: ignore customers problems, WHILE charging customers for services previously provided, WITHOUT offering the total services supposedly being bought? And have the customers resignedly agree to this large-scale rape? Incredible.

Like banks charging ATM fees - a thing once unheard-of - this is another example of corporate America using individual customers for doormats. They know they can recite the same tired, corporate formulae and - with a fair degree of realistic certainty - know that their sheep-like customers will placidly swallow that pap. The only outrage a corporation will ever acknowledge or address is the tarnish of their public image or the financial impact of a wide-spread boycott.

Musicians, as a group, travel more frequently and further than almost any economy-class passengers. Tourists and family reunion fliers don't have the same solidarity, and business travelers' interests are never so universally assaulted. But Delta's policies do constitute a dangerous precedent which the ENTIRE musical community should halt in its asinine tracks. So, the million-dollar-question (one with implications which may even - gasp! - be more vital than getting Bell on Oprah) is: how does one start an industry-wide boycott of a company? And how does one make that company acknowledge the outrage it generates by making their boorishness as publicly visible as possible?

May 9, 2006 at 10:37 PM · Beautifully said, Emil. Eloquent. We start by getting YOU on Oprah!

May 9, 2006 at 10:41 PM · you know, if there was one airline that absolutely loved and respected musicians and our instruments, i'm sure every musician would be absolutely loyal to that airline. and there are quite a large number of us.. and the majority of us travel quite often.. i wonder if any airline will ever pick up on that?

May 10, 2006 at 02:44 AM · Aww, thanks, Scott! But I don't think I'm nuts enough, or otherwise "human-interest" enough, to warrant the attention of America's talk-show circuit. Political talk shows may actually book a guest who has things to say, or who has accomplished something noteworthy. But not the Oprahs, Sallys, Joans and assorted Springers whom we desperately need to keep telling us those all-important "human interest" stories of three-timing lesbian crack addicts with Attention Deficit Disorder.

Donahue's successors just need dollar signs. And those are only available if you can make the majority of viewers feel better about themselves by being the walking epitome of the nadir of humanity. Physical, mental, or emotional disfigurement is a prerequisite and must be present in epochal proportions. Of course, using words like "epochal", or "epitome" or "nadir" is pretty certain to keep one off the circuit, too. Americans nowadays are afraid to learn they might not be up to intellectual snuff and therefore must be soothed and hypnotized by an endless flood of ego-stroking, ambition-killing and mind-numbing distractions. Or so the networks programming indicates.

But I always felt that level of cynicism to be destructive when forced into the minds of young people like Sydney, so I figure she can either prove us cynics wrong or learn, as we did, the nauseating and hope-killing level of mercenary spirit that directs US airwaves. Ain't I kindly?

As for the Musicians' Airline, that's a really brilliant idea! A reverse boycott, as it were! Instead of trying to get a bad policy changed by trying to hurt a company intent on showing that we CAN'T hurt them, why not induce phenomenal, headline-grabbing growth in a company that recognizes the benefits of actually LIKING your customers? I love it! But is there a company out there like that? Or maybe a local musicians' union might approach some global airline (which one? Lufthansa, maybe?) with an offer to make a public statement of their music-loving policies in return for world-wide, industry-wide loyalty to that airline? Any thoughts?

After all, why NOT launch some initiative like that from this, a musicians' website with tens of thousands of readers and members? A worthy application of if ever I heard one.

(By the way, Sharon, say "hi" to Shauna for me, would you? Remember her well from Yale days, naturally.)

May 10, 2006 at 03:32 AM · Emil, your sentiment is nice, but frankly I don't think musicians are a large enough part of their customer base for a boycott or something like that to really make a noticeable difference. Airlines don't really have too much trouble filling up planes. People have to go places no matter what. I just don't think it would do much.

In my opinion a better way to get to the bottom of this would be to try and do something about their regulations, or make someone in charge aware of the problems we are having. Most of the time I've never had any problems with my violin, and I've traveled a lot over the past several years. I agree with whoever said before that being calm and trying to diplomatically explain how valuable a violin is, and that it CANNOT go in the cargo is the best approach when someone tries to give you trouble.

But by any means, keep trying to do something. We don't want anything to happen like that school trip where they threw all the cellos in the cargo hold, and a bunch of them were wrecked. What a horror!

May 10, 2006 at 05:02 AM · If it was my job to make this happen, I think the first thing I'd do is get the AFM and whoever represents the airline employees to try to agree to something. I don't know what good it did talking to the TSB unless they govern carryon sizes. I doubt if there are enough of you to have a useful boycott. Plus it's desperate.

Donahue was the first show with that format, like you said. Originally it was a good show. My college buddies and I would watch it now and then and I remember we thought it was an exciting development. It was the first program which focused on the issues of the day. On TV prior to that there was only news and traditional entertainment. The format devolved into what you see now, and it's probably responsible for pc-consciousness. There have been unimaginable changes in Tv in the last twenty-five years or so.

May 10, 2006 at 04:18 AM · Isn't there an AFM agreement? I thought there was.

May 10, 2006 at 04:47 AM · There's some agreement with someone, the TSB I think, and compliance is voluntary I think. Now that you have TSB permission, or whatever it amounts to, you'd want complying with it to be a part of the airline employees' union rules. At that point the "ham-fisted policies" would be on your side.

May 10, 2006 at 05:27 AM · The agreement is not worth the paper it is written on if the airline chooses to ignore it. I have shown it to Delta with no success. The supervisor acted like he had never heard of this paper before and chose to ignore what it said.

The worst part was that there were duffle bags and roller bags that were alot bigger than my violin case in the overhead bins and nothing at all was said about them.

They finally allowed my violin to be placed in the overhead bin but it was after 20 minutes of harrassment.

May 10, 2006 at 03:13 PM · It is indeed an outrage to see travellers forcing bulky duffel bags and rollerbags into overhead compartments and suffer the harassment of airline reps regarding a violin case that is ultimately dwarfed in comparison to the size of these items. I reiterate...if size and lack of overhead space is the cause of Delta's crackdown (which, per my own experience, it IS) ...let it be travellers who insist on putting LUGGAGE in the CARRY-ON compartments that bear the brunt of this new policy.

May 10, 2006 at 03:08 PM · the boycott may be difficult to do, talks with the musicians union has already happened (with limited success, especially since 9/11),.. i still think it would work best if we get an airline to be much more respectful to artists and their equipment or something of the sort.

just imagine- headlines in the international musician, and other music industry magazines saying 'airline xyz to end this carry-on-limit-nonsense for musicians!' of course, they wouldn't word it like that, but that's why i'm not a journalist. in a tightly knit community like the music world, i don't think it's impossible to get the word around like rapidfire via email forwards or word of mouth. i dunno.. if there were something like that, i'd totally be loyal to that airline.

hmm... i wonder if there're any airline ceo's out there who had ambitions of being a violinist or something as a child...

May 10, 2006 at 05:34 PM · We have blogs, discussion, events, wikis,

we need Airlines!

May 10, 2006 at 06:12 PM · Hopefully they wouldn't be flown by musicians,, violists.

(sorry, couldn't resist!)

May 10, 2006 at 06:15 PM · I agree, Carley - they'd think that the Final Approach Fix was a point 3 inches to the right of and 2 inches above the bridge.

May 10, 2006 at 11:03 PM · I have used the letter from the federation of musicians and it has solved problems with gate agents and even with TSA staff. I have a copy of the letter I carry with me always. If anyone needs a copy, contact the American Federation of Musicians. My copy has a date stamped of 1/17/2003, and the letter refers to a December 20, 2002 TSA memo.

Should you have a problem aquiribg a copy of the letter let me know.

May 10, 2006 at 11:50 PM · Here's a borderline presentable copy of "The Letter." Right, TSA, not (N)TSB...which investigates crashes. Some say workie, some say no workie.

My baby, she wrote me a lettah

May 11, 2006 at 01:56 AM · There you go again Carley with those violists comments again! I resemble that remark! I only had trouble once on an international flight on business. I had a transit and they gave me problems at my transit location. What worked for me was going to the customer service section and telling them I was traveling for business, and if this did not get resolved to my satisfaction I would ask the corporate travel agent to re-book me on another airline and make a recommendation to our travel department to pull the airline off of the corporate preferred airliner list. That got some attention. :) I got back on the plane WITH my viola without a problem after that.

May 11, 2006 at 10:29 AM · Heh, yeah, I couldn't help myself. I just sat down at the computer, and after I awoke, I realized what I had written. ;)

So, hold all are saying you can get a letter which might be persuasive in letting them get your violin in the cabin? Hmm...

May 11, 2006 at 02:39 PM · Another Delta nightmare story- the May 9th entry here:

May 11, 2006 at 10:40 PM · I have a reservation with Dalta airlines this summer, traveling with my violin to Meadowmount School from Florida.

I travel next week to New York for lessons and am trying out a smaller BAM shaped courtorued violin case. Could this be a good apples to apples comparision? No, I have to use Air Tran for cost effective.

Should I cancel reservations using Delta airlines?



May 12, 2006 at 04:37 PM · Check out the general guidelines:

....and contact Delta for their specific policy. Even if they say there's no problem, show up early for your flight and talk to the people at the gate as they are ultimately the ones who decide.

May 12, 2006 at 05:45 PM · While I can't vouch for Delta, I flew to Aruba from Winnipeg with my violin. 3 flights! 2 sets of Customs. And my violin is electric (and I have a little tuner too).

I was really quite surprised how much of a non-issue it was. I was even able to stow it on one of those cramped flights (3 people wide). My violin seemed to fit more comfortably than I (I'm 6'8''!)

Anyway, this info does not help the Delta folks but at least Northwest and Confidential seemed to be no problem.

May 13, 2006 at 01:56 AM · Its so ironic! Now, anytime I come to the website, the left advertisement bar is full of Delta ads! haha hmmm.... either someone has a sense of humor ..or Big Brother is watching! ;-)

I just made reservations to Geneva, Rome and Tel Aviv. Guess which airline I intentionally did NOT choose to book with? Too bad, Delta! You just lost MORE money!

Maybe someone could forward this thread to Delta? ( I tried but am computer inept!)

May 13, 2006 at 06:45 AM · Hm, I also just booked flights to Tel Aviv and Rome. I did not choose delta!

May 13, 2006 at 09:57 AM · Camera moves down the hall in the airport...Gate 1...people in marching band uniforms arguing with the gate attendant. Camera continues on...Gate 2...nerdy guy with violin case banging his fists, stamping his feet and screaming, volume cuts to silent, on the bottom of the screen it says "Wait till it gets in the air" continues to Gate 3...sound comes back up. Soft, pathetic female crying...fade to black...quick cut to interior of airliner in flight. Chaos! Everyone's attention is fixed on a guy in the aisle playing a violin and dancing...airliner spins out of control into power dive. Cut to Delta terminal. Everybody in Armani suits. Young couple in starched athletic clothes. Gate attendant has British accent. Says "Thank you very much, pleased to be of service" to couple he's finishing with. He looks into the camera and says "Delta. Let's keep it this way."

May 13, 2006 at 12:07 PM · So Rachel,

maybe if you cry, and I yell... our instruments will get there with us!


May 14, 2006 at 06:44 PM · Hm...not that this really matters or anything...I probably shouldn't even be resurrecting this thread just to say this...but I was just checking out what airline I am going to be using for a trip this summer, and GAH!!! it's Delta. Yeah. And I was scared before. Ha ha ha....

*fingers crossed*

May 15, 2006 at 03:16 AM · Violin cases violate both the dimention and volume regulations for carry on baggage for most airlines. That being said I've never had a problem, and I've flown with a violin many many times.

May 15, 2006 at 06:59 AM · Curious, isn't it, that the ads on the Discussion Board welcome page are all travel adverts and Delta links. Mention their name to point out that they are a rip-off company dedicated to mocking and taking advantage of their clients, that they have all the conception of an extra-corporate world that rivals a jellyfish's concept of the Sahara, and all you've done is cue the ethernet's notion of "oh, so THIS is what you want and need!"

May 15, 2006 at 07:24 AM · Also interesting: when I became curious whether Delta was this obtuse and malicious only with musicians or with its public in general, I stumbled across this site:

FASCINATING reading. And even if they were to offer to put the fiddle and me in first class, at this point, I think it's fair to say that I'll next fly Delta when pigs sprout wings and Bush starts quoting Spinoza and Voltaire. Heck needn't freeze over first, though. I can take a hint from the Universe!

May 15, 2006 at 08:04 AM · Emil,

Totally agree. Thanks for sharing the link.

May 16, 2006 at 02:37 AM · more 2 bits....

One shoe does not fit all, so why should an air carrier?

I fly internationally more than I wish. True, US carriers are a problem for me, whereas all other carriers are not. So, I try to avoid the US ones, only because I know they do not meet my needs, and not because of other concerns.

US airports are another problem, with TSA, etc. The issue is not security, but rather the management thereof and the resources applied. I respect security, but not the attitudes and methods prevalent in the USA. In the USA, I am presumed to be a terrorist, until "cleared", which is totally backwards from the USA constitution. Airport and security are very lacking in resources, so passengers are very inconvenienced to say the least.

But, this is the reality, and I find it easier to accept and plan around it than confront it.

May 16, 2006 at 11:42 AM · Emil, is that site really being honest? About the CAPP thing, or however you spell it/whatever it is? I mean, that's really weird...and...kind of spooky? I don't know. How are they going to do background checks on minors? Like, little bitty kids going to visit their grandparents or something?

May 17, 2006 at 12:20 AM · Lol, well, I leave tomorrow. I'll be sure to bring my visine tears. :)

May 28, 2006 at 12:10 AM · Here's a case from BAM that claims to pass airlines regulations. It is shorter and only accomodates the violin, not the bow, which I supposed you can carry on in a bow case. Since airlines allow canes, I wonder if they can make one that is also a bow case?

May 28, 2006 at 02:45 AM · I flew Delta to Hawaii in April with my violin in a BAM case. I was challenged on two of my four flights. Both times I was firm, but not nasty, and both times I was quickly given permission to carry my instrument on board. My instrument easily fit in overhead bins on a large plane and on a smaller commuter plane.

May 28, 2006 at 03:28 AM · I flew Delta once with my violin to a fiddle camp two years ago. I had my violin, a laptop, and backpack as carryon baggage.

I didn't have a problem.

I should note though that I have a Musafia Aeternum case and those cases *look* smaller than oblong cases. I also had it slung over my shoulder vertically on a strap so it didn't look as big.

All of that might have helped.

- Ray

June 7, 2006 at 06:31 AM · In view of going to hear Sumi Jo, my all-time favorite coloratura last night, and the misadventure that followed, I offer the following new definition of This Great Land of Ours.

Backstory: I was rushing to the concert to meet a reviewer friend of mine (who had scored some primo seats) and therefore didn't have time to stop at home. I was already all nice n' suited up so the dress code wasn't going to be violated. However, as the Kennedy Center garage does not - to my knowledge - take any responsibility for one's car or its contents, I took my fiddle into the Center with me. Where I was not allowed into the concert with it. Thus:


America, (Uh-Mer-Ih-Kuh) n: the country in which a straight-faced, 300 lb. usher (whose hip-to-hip circumference can block a runway) can stop a violinist with a violin case entering a concert hall, on the grounds that the case will block exit paths and thus present a 'FIRE HAZARD'.

(By the way, I'm curious. Does Delta charge such passengers for two seats? Because usually at least half my seat is taken up by their Did they pay for it, or are they getting my armrest and getting to squish me into the window as a free perk? And if my case is a fire hazard when it can be lifted above my head to allow panicking customers to flee, what is a Falstaff to do with his girth when a stampeding mob approaches? Hoist his stomachs above his head?)

June 7, 2006 at 08:34 AM · testify brotha

June 7, 2006 at 11:16 AM · Emil,

You've got to be bloody joking?!?!??! Oh my...


June 7, 2006 at 02:54 PM · I brought a double case into Alice Tulley Hall a couple of years ago (post 9/11). They made me open it up to prove it had instruments in it. But that was it. I guess they don't care about fire hazards in NYC.

I once had a big problem with the Delta in Fort Lauderdale, who wanted me to check a Vuillaume that I didn't own. Finally they relented. I told them a fib and claimed that Delta had already let me take in on board when I flew there (I was going home).

America West made me check an instrument. Luckily, it was an inexpensive one that I bought for practicing on trips. The idea was that I didn't care if it got checked (worth doing as long as you don't have to play on it in public). Anyway, after that incident I complained to America West. Someone there sent me a letter apologizing and claiming that it was OK to bring instruments on board in the future. I carry the letter in case of trouble. But even that probably won't protect me from an officious gate agent.


June 7, 2006 at 05:44 PM · Delta gave me the same problem last month. It seems that they have the misconception that a violin case is larger than some of the carry-on's that they themselves approve at check in. The gate attendant tried to *take* my violin out of my hand. I kindly told her that if she wanted to lose her arm she should touch my case again. So her higher up came and she told me that the demensions of the case were "simply too large" for the carry-on policy. I have a SINGLE case!! So as an example I used the mans carry-on that was standing beind me, that was not only wider than my case (a given) but taller! She tried to say that he should not have that big of a suitcase to carry on, and then we looked down the line of customers and hmm guess what! His was small compared to others. So needless to say, the attendant didn't lose her arm and my violin had a smooth ride in the over head compartment. They've never given me a problem before and I never travel without my violin. I don't know if it is a new policy to harass musicians or what, but I was NOT happy to say the least.

June 7, 2006 at 05:55 PM · I assume that if you're traveling on Terrorist National Airlines, they check your violin case to make sure you don't have a violin in it.

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