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Violist calls for British Airways boycott after being 'humiliated' at check-in

Laura  Barnes
Violist calls for British Airways boycott after being 'humiliated' at check-in

Viola player Rachel Roberts has called for a boycott of British Airways following a recent travel experience where she says she was “humiliated” by BA staff members.

The internationally touring violist, and professor at London’s Guildhall School, took to Facebook to urge other musicians not to fly with British Airways.

Roberts was checking in to a BA flight at Dublin airport following a performance at the Kilkenny Festival when she was told she had to pay €270.70 for an extra seat on the flight for her instrument, or alternatively, put it in the hold. This was due to the instrument exceeding the height restriction for hand luggage by 29cm.

With the flight close to taking off, she reluctantly paid for the extra seat only to find plenty of space in the overhead lockers.
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“The viola fits fine into the locker and no-one complains or even mentions anything about it being there,” explained Roberts in her post. “I travel back with the viola in the locker. I also take a photo of someone else’s oversized bag that was in an overhead locker (looks like golf clubs) – I speak to the owner of that luggage and he doesn’t have to pay any extra money for it.

“I also speak with the stewardess who is also Customer Services Manager for the flight; she confirms that there were 6 seats free in economy and 4 seats free in club class. (That means there are 10 allocations of cabin luggage not being used altogether.) She says that BA asks you to buy a ticket in case the flight fills up, but she also says she can’t understand why, with the timing being so close to take-off and 6 seats being free, I am forced to pay for an extra seat.”

She continued: “There is such flexibility within BA musical instrument cabin baggage rules that it still seems down to the discretion of individual line managers or cabin stewards whether or not musical instruments are allowed into the cabin on a flight. There is no formal policy or procedure that can be relied upon.

“It’s humiliating to be asked by uniformed staff to put your musical instrument into a baggage gauge that anyone can see from 20 metres away it’s not going to fit into, just so that the staff member can say “oh look it doesn’t fit”.”

A British Airways spokesperson has replied to Roberts’ complaints about the airline's apparent lack of rules when it comes to musical instruments.

“We are sorry to hear about our customer’s experience when travelling with their musical instrument. We appreciate the importance and value of instruments to musicians and offer specific arrangements for transporting them, which are detailed on,” they said.

“We will always do our best to accommodate instruments larger than the standard hand luggage size when possible, however during busy periods when we have high volumes of customers flying with hand luggage, we cannot always guarantee this option.”

Photo Credit: Nick Morrish/British Airways

Tags: viola , Rachel Roberts , British Airways , flying with an instrument

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