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Last Updated: Friday, 11 August 2006, 18:45 GMT 19:45 UK
Cabin baggage ban hits musicians
Violinist (archive image)
Only items like medicines and passports are allowed into the cabin
Russian musicians returning from London after the Bolshoi Theatre's season face an overland journey because of the new UK cabin baggage ban on planes.

They are under contract to keep their instruments with them and cannot check them in as hold baggage, chief conductor Alexander Vedernikov said.

They will probably have to travel by rail via Paris, he added.

A German musician flying from London told the BBC about the stress of having to put her cello in the hold.

Mr Vedernikov made his remark after noticing violins checked in as hold baggage on his own flight to Moscow.

The Bolshoi's ballet and opera season at London's Royal Opera House tour is not due to end until 19 August.

These restrictions are a disaster for me
Julia Morneweg
London-based cellist

Mr Vedernikov arrived back in Moscow on Friday morning, a day after the terror plot alert which froze air traffic at London's Heathrow Airport and prompted a ban on cabin baggage.

"I saw two violins being checked in as luggage, which is unacceptable," he was quoted as saying by Russia's RIA-Novosti news agency.

Bolshoi musicians borrow their instruments from Russia's state collection and do not have the right to part with them under any circumstances, Russian media note.

'Wobbling on the trolley'

German freelance cellist Julia Morneweg, who lives in London, has until now booked an extra seat for her instrument each time she flies.

Julia Morneweg (photo supplied by same)
Ms Morneweg said alarm was spreading among fellow musicians

"These restrictions are a disaster for me," she wrote in a posting on the BBC's Have Your Say before flying to Zurich.

After her arrival in Switzerland, she recounted the ordeal of having to hand over the cello, valued at up to 10,000 ($19,000) and not covered by her insurance if carried in the hold.

"It is never safe enough in the hold and they don't treat instruments properly," she told the BBC News website.

She was not allowed to see the cello being put in and had to hand it over to the bulky items desk despite asking for it to be treated like a child's pram, which would have allowed her to keep tabs on it right up until boarding.

"I looked out the window and could see it wobbling on the luggage trolley," she said.

Confusion over the new restrictions extended into the cabin when a hostess asked passengers to switch off mobile phones and was met by loud laughter from the passengers, none of whom had been allowed to bring theirs aboard.

At Zurich airport, she found the prams lined up neatly in the baggage hall but she had to wait for her cello to come in on the bulky items conveyor belt on which it had been placed upside down.

Dreading the effect of the freezing cold in the hold on her instrument, she opened the case to find that one of the bows had been dislodged and there were scratches on the varnish.

"Air travel is an everyday part of the job for many musicians," Ms Morneweg said. "This is a crazy situation."

Your comments:

This has been a huge problem for (believe it or not) bagpipers around the world. Thousands of us are traveling to Glasgow this August for the World Pipe Band Championships. Pipers normally carry their pipes on for the instrument's safety. Some of these bagpipes are antique and very valuable. African Blackwood is prone to cracking with varying levels of moisture and temperature, not to mention mis-handling by airport workers. It has never been a problem before to x-ray the intruments and open the case for inspection. This is going to be a disaster for pipers, and all instrumentalists, until the airlines find better ways to secure international flights., Seattle, USA

I have travelled an airplane with a Cello twice (reserving an extra seat for the instrument seems to be the standard practice); allowing even a relatively inexpensive amateur instrument to be tossed and frozen in the baggage hold is completely unacceptable, and to even think of the priceless masterpieces played by professional musicians being treated in that way causes me pain.
George, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

I depend on my notebook computer for my day trading. Given my recent experience with Air Canada's luggage damage, delays and unauthorized/unreported rifling through of that luggage while 'delayed', there is not a hope that I'd trust such an important piece of gear to be in the 'secure' hands of Air Canada. I will ensure that this item is allowed on board, before travelling next month.
Trudy, Halifax, Canada

Thousands of people could of been killed, including some of these musicians had it not been for the actions of the security services. Let me remind them that we are still in a 'critical' state of alert in this country, and if these inconveniences save lives, then they should learn to put up with it.
Matthew Hopkins, Newcastle, UK

I am a consulting engineer and I travel frequently for my assignments. All my data and tools are stored on my computer, PDA, and accessories. These fragile equipment can NOT, under any cnditions be consigned to the hold. They are sure to sustain damage. And without thesse tools I might as well not go since I would be like a tourist. So what do I do on my next assignment? I can't take the train to Africa. So should I stop working? I appreciate the need for security, but a littlt bit of thought can be useful on devising these rules!
H. Hanno, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Like Ms Morneweg, I am a cellist. I am travelling to Germany tomorrow to rehearse for a premiere of a new cello concerto, written for me, at the Salzburg Festival on Tuesday. I cannot cancel, because no-one else has learnt this concerto; I cannot put my priceless 18-century Italian cello in the hold - it would not be insured in there (as far as I know) and besides, to risk the desecration of such an irreplaceable work of art would be irresponsible and wrong. So I am taking the train tomorrow - a 10-hour ride, as opposed to the one-hour flight.
Steven Isserlis CBE, London, UK

This is a disaster for musicians. Temperatures can go well below minus 10C in the hold, and a clarinet, violin, or oboe, will never be the same after that experience, especially if the wood is a 300 yrs old. It is not an exaggeration to say that luggage staff is not trained to do anything other than destroy instruments.
RB Thompson, Washington DC

I don't want to have to consign my laptop to the baggage hold. I don't trust the airlines enough for it not to be stolen. I can understand and sympathize with the musicians' plight, because if I had an instrument of such value, I wouldn't want it put in the hold either.
Alys, Calgary, Canada

This is absolutely obscene. Music instruments are put through the x-ray scanners at security and if anything suspicious shows up I'd expect it to be investigated there and then. What next? Are we going to ban people from boarding aircraft also because their bladders contain liquids?
D Majhan, Detroit, Michigan

I play the tuba, which is one of the largest instruments. My best tuba is worth over $10,000 (5,250). Traveling, I've always checked it into the luggage. Because of its shape, buying an extra seat for it would most likely be out of the question and entirely too expensive, and I wouldn't wish to buy the seat and then have it not fit. However, with added insurance on it offered by the airlines, I've not had any problems. Talking to other musicians, though, I've heard horror stories of the instruments receiving extensive damage. One tuba player that I talked to had the entire side of his instrument smashed in, rendering it completely irreparable scrap metal.
Cynthia, San Diego, USA

I came home to a broken guitar after I checked it in baggage. Thanks Continental!
Brian, Brooklyn NY

I am a composer and recording artist. I usually don't have to worry about carrying equipment since I play the piano. However, I will start to have problems having musicans tour with me that can't bring onboard their instruments. A cellist actually pays for an additional seat for his or her cello. To have it even considered it as a carry-on item is a misnomer. I can easily see my next tour to be more like a long cruise when we travel overseas (by boat!)
Lucien Desar, Cork, Ireland

Djs have a similar problem with carrying records/headphones/cds etc into the cabin. On two trips recently I lost my case twice in two weeks. Luckily I had my records & cds with me in the cabin so I was able to do my gigs. With the new restrictions it will mean checking them in, this will increase the chance of arriving without them or having them damaged on arrival, meaning a night's work will be lost. I'm sure I wouldn't see the airlines footing the bill for lost earnings.
Andy Farkey, Tamworth, United Kingdom

As a young broke student, I made the mistake of putting my 19th century cello in an airport hold - I'd been offered a well paid, wonderful gig overseas, and couldn't afford to pay for a seat for my cello. Quite simply, I damaged my cello forever; musical instruments cannot go in the hold. However this doesn't dent my sense of perspective - I was caught up in the 7/7 attacks, and would much rather take trains with my cello, than something like that ever happen again.
Catherine, London, UK

I play in a touring rock group and we have to transport our guitars in the hold every time we fly. They are cased in the most durable metal flight cases you can buy but even in these and even though they are plastered with fragile stickers, they are far from safe in the hands of the luggage staff. These people obviously have zero respect for any of the valuable items they fling around. On occasions we've seen brand new cases arrive on the other side with the steel bent and twisted, once the case was actually punctured. The force needed to do that would need to be extreme. We've watched cases being flung on many occasions from the window of the plane as they're loaded on, but what can you do? In this day and age, the passenger barely has the right to complain without being looked at as a nuisance or god forbid... a 'threat'.
Alexander Marks, Brooklyn, NY

Recently I made a return journey to the USA carrying a number of very rare books in my hand luggage. I would rather eat my own liver than consign such items to the 'care' of baggage handlers. No thanks!
Stephen, Paris, France

I bought a very nice guitar while on an expedition to Leh. I am now highly concerned as to whether I will be able to return it to the UK. I will not trust it to the hold, but can I take it in the cabin? I am also a keen violinist, and have never let my 136 year old instrument be checked: not because of insurance, but simply because of the sentimental value and priceless nature of the instrument.
James Richardson, Radwinter, England (currently Leh, Ladakh, India)

Being a fencer means that my equipment bag is always consigned to the hold. This is fair enough as our blades are weapons. We have to put on locks to the zips and a friend's bag got its top bag support straps wrecked thanks to the baggage handlers. When we get our bags back from the holds, its always a case of opening up the bags to check that blades haven't been damaged or fencing masks haven't been squashed. I can certainly sympathise with the musicians. I only hope that the restrictions will be lifted before I fly to any competition in Europe otherwise it will be the ferry for me.
Esther Payne, Aberdeen, Scotland

This is an absolute nightmare for musicians and DJs, I regularly fly to gigs with my laptop and control interfaces in my hand luggage. Often I have to travel straight to gigs, any delays with my baggage or lost baggage would mean I couldn't perform, unless I keep the essential items in my hand luggage. I think this current wave of restrictions is way over the top and is causing more fear with little to no tangible security benifits.
Luke Pepper, London, England

I am a security guard at Heathrow. If you don't like it, don't fly. This is happening for a reason and you're quick to forget it. If we were not doing this and a bomb did get on a plane, you would be quick to complain that nothing was being done about it. Get real, there is more to life than music.
Laura, Middlesex, England

Another profession that will be severely affected by a continuing blanket ban on hand baggage is professional photography. I've recently discussed a job with a client that would involve me flying from London to Edinburgh with a day's photography in each city. I am to be photographing unrepeatable events on two consecutive days and if my camera were to be delayed (or worse) at Edinburgh Airport then the event would be over by the time I could make alternative arrangements. Losing or damaging cameras would all be covered by insurance but what about the 100's or 1000's of irreplaceable photographs stored on laptops or memory cards.
Andy, Chester, England

I am now a second year cellist at a conservatory. Due to financial limits, I cannot afford to buy a seperate seat for my cello when I travel between school and home, and often pay the consequences: on one trip, a new, $1000 cello case I had recently purchased appears to have had someone in security try to pry the two halves apart, mangling the alignment of the case. This likely continued until someone realized that the case might more easily be opened by unhooking the snaps, which I left unlocked in case the case was searched. It would seem that there has been too little policy issued or consideration taken for what to do with instruments and instrument cases. Hopefully, incidents of such blatant abuse are rare. However, with increased security searches, it appears that musicians will continue to suffer a higher incidence of instrument mistreatment.
Edward Vigneau, Huntington, USA

I have just had to cancel a photographic assignment in Germany. I would not trust my equipment to the hold. I have been forced to consign items to the hold on previous trips and even when designated 'fragile', they have been returned to me completely wrecked. Baggage handlers do not care and have no respect for expensive fragile items. P.S To Laura from Middlesex, music is some peoples lives.
Debbie, Edinburgh, Scotland


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