Another Instruments On Planes Fiasco
Bizarre situation as British Army band unable to perform
Yet another instance of musicians being unable to travel by air with their instruments has emerged – this time involving professional musicians from a British Army military band. Members of the Mercian Regiment military band travelled to the Falkland Islands to take part in Queen's birthday celebrations in April - without their instruments - after they were classified as freight rather than passenger hold baggage, and in error were not loaded on to the flight.
The episode has taken place amidst continued Department for Transport inaction on publishing non-binding guidance for aircraft relating to musical instruments. The UK's professional body for musicians, the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), has been calling on the government to publish non-binding guidance since September last year.
"The experience of this British Army band is, unfortunately, all too common for musicians around the world," said Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) Deborah Annetts. "Absurd though it sounds, cancelled gigs are just one example of the stories we have been receiving."
The ISM has received thousands of stories of the mistreatment of musicians at the hands of airlines including one promising music student whose cello was smashed beyond repair on arrival at Heathrow; she never played again. In another example, a cellist who had already purchased an extra seat for a cello was physically forced off a flight and left looking over a 20ft drop on to the tarmac as the gate retracted.
The ISM will continue to speak with government on behalf of musicians about the ongoing issue of unclear, inconsistent and unfair hand baggage policies which some airlines continue to implement. In addition, the ISM continues to urge all musicians and campaign supporters to sign the online petition, which now has over 3,500 signatures.
The ISM's campaign has been taken up by parliamentarians through the Early Day Motion 741, and now with the support of Valerie Vaz, MP for Walsall South, who is writing to all airlines operating in the UK to clarify what their policy is.
"Many musicians are concerned that current airline regulations can be applied unfairly, misleadingly, and inconsistently – even within airlines," said MP Valerie Vaz. "Even musicians who have paid for an extra seat are sometimes separated from their instruments. Those travelling with smaller instruments such as violins may be charged extra costs or have their instruments taken away from them. Musicians should be able to travel in the knowledge that their fragile, valuable and often irreplaceable instruments will be safe, secure and intact."
Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM further expressed the frustration of music professionals over the inaction of Government adding "Wouldn't it be a triumph if Britain, as a musical nation, could lead the way in publishing non-binding guidance for airlines, to promote ease of travel for professional musicians with their instruments safely and securely in the cabin?
"We are seeking fair, consistent and clear guidelines to help musicians who need to travel by air with their instruments. We are not seeking impractical or politically controversial regulation, but we do want the Government to show its support to our internationally renowned music sector, and allow musicians to travel on our airlines."