British Airways has been branded a “greedy disgrace” by one of the world’s leading classical musicians after the airline apparently announced it was charging for smaller instruments brought on board.
Alison Balsom, the renowned trumpeter, led a revolt against the airline that prompted a loud and stirring chorus of disapproval.
“That’s it, I’m done @British_Airways,” wrote Ms Balsom on Twitter, “We’ve all been so patient with the lowering standards but not to let professional musicians bring on their (small) instruments as hand baggage?
“We take hundreds of thousands of flights - it’s our living. A greedy disgrace.”
The complaint trumpeted by Miss Balsom is hard to ignore. She is one of the classical music industry's most bankable stars, having twice been named female artist of the year at the Classic Brits. Last week, she was unveiled as the new artistic director of the Cheltenham Music Festival and has been dubbed the ‘crumpet with the trumpet’. Her husband is the Oscar-winning film director Sam Mendes.
Ms Balsom's anger was accompanied by stirrings of discontent from the strings section. Rita Manning, a professional violinist, had complained of being charged £240 for a separate seat for her instrument on a recent flight to Jersey. Her fellow travelling musicians were also been charged.
Meanwhile Escala, a prominent electric string quartet, said they refused to be bullied by BA into paying for their violins and violas on a trip back to London from Amsterdam two weeks ago.
The quartet said in a statement: “There seem to be different rules in different countries. It is so unclear. It makes us nervous every time we approach the BA desk.”
The outcry forced BA to issue a statement apologising for any misunderstanding and an insistence that the policy on carrying small instruments had not changed.
Musicians are reluctant to allow precious instruments, often worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, out of their sight and into the hold where atmospheric conditions can also cause damage.
On Tuesday, BA’s customer services posted a message to the classical music website, Slipped Disc which stated that from now on instruments carried on flights would be charged.
“It’s true that we’ve changed our policy and we’re unable to allow musical instruments to be carried in cabin as hand baggage without charge. We ask all passengers travelling with musical instruments to contact us for assistance prior to their journey,” said BA.
Hours later the airline said that advice had been wrong. Larger instruments such as cellos, guitars and double basses would continue to require an extra seat that must be paid for while violins and trumpets and the like, carried in hard cases, could be taken in the hold free provided there is space.
A spokesman said: “We are sorry for the misunderstanding. We appreciate how precious instruments are to musicians and offer special arrangements for transporting them, which are detailed on ba.com .
“We will always do our best to accommodate smaller musical instruments in the cabin.
“In order to ensure there is enough space for all customers to store their belongings, larger musical instruments can be carried in the hold in a hard case. Alternatively customers can choose to buy an extra seat to carry them in the cabin at a discounted rate.”