British Airways ‘force musicians to pay £280 each to fly their instruments to Jersey for a gig’

Violinist Rita Manning was travelling to a gig with her group Lorcian Ensemble when staff told them to put their precious instruments in the hold

A MUSICIAN was forced to shell out £280 on a seat for her £100k violin after British Airways cabin crew said it was TOO BIG for the overhead locker.

Violinist Rita Manning was flying to Jersey with three other performers from Lorcian Ensemble for a concert when they were told to put their instruments in the hold.

Four of the Locrian Ensemble group were travelling to Jersey from London for a concert when they were told their violins were too big for the overhead lockers

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Four of the Locrian Ensemble group were travelling to Jersey from London for a concert when they were told their violins were too big for the overhead lockers, pictured far left is Rita Manning and artistic director Justin Pearson is on the far right

She explained that their violins, including one which dates back to the 18th-century and is worth £100,000, were precious and could get broken or stolen.

And despite 11 vacant seats on the flight from London Gatwick, a stewardess said that if the group wanted to keep their items in the cabin they’d have to fork out £1,120 between them or miss the flight altogether.

Rita’s husband Chris Laurence blasted: “It’s just a lack of common sense.

“When they arrived at the airport they realised the instruments were too big for the overhead lockers.

British Airways staff told the musicians to pay £280 each to keep their valuable instruments in the cabin

CORBIS – GETTY
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British Airways staff told the musicians to pay £280 each to keep their valuable instruments in the cabin

“Those instruments cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, they can’t go in the hold with the rest of the bags.

“They’d either be broken or never seen again.

“British Airways should have realised that, but they insisted on charging them £280 each.”

He added: “It’s disgraceful.”

The group’s booking agents are expected to cover the tab – but outraged Artistic Director Justin Pearson says the issue is symptomatic of the way airlines treat classical performers.

He told The Sun: “Literally every time we go to the airport we’re shaking with terror.

“It’s got to stop, they need to start appreciating the difficulty musicians have performing overseas.

“If you listen to the British Airways hold music, you’ll find that it’s classical.

Those instruments cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, they can’t go in the hold with the rest of the bags… They’d either be broken or never seen again

Rita Manning, The Locrian Ensemble

“They’re happy to profit off the work of musicians but don’t want to help them out”.

Rita decided not to put the violins in a van driving the rest of the instruments from London after reading that British Airways “make every effort to accommodate your violin or viola in its hard case”.

Justin added: “You never let instruments like that out of your sight, they’d be stolen in an instant.

“She didn’t put them in the van with the rest of the instruments because she thought BA had a sensible violin policy.

A spokesperson for BA said: “We appreciate how precious instruments are to musicians and we will be in touch with our customers to discuss their complaint and to check whether we have made a mistake.

“Our website, ba.com, is clear that will always do our best to accommodate smaller musical instruments in the cabin.

“However, to ensure there is enough space for all customers to store their belongings in the cabin, larger musical instruments, such as guitars and cellos, can be carried in the hold in a hard case.

“Alternatively, customers can choose to buy an extra seat in the cabin for a discounted rate.​​”

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