Ryanair’s Head of Communications Stephen McNamara bullishly defended the airline’s policy on musicians having to buy a second seat for their musical instruments on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row tonight by saying:
… musicians are good at reading music, but not so good at reading the terms and conditions …
The discussion chaired by presenter Mark Lawson also featured the Chief Executive Incorporated Society of Musicians Deborah Annetts who called for an industry wide standard policy on the thorny issue.
This isn’t a new problem. Professional musicians have long mumbled about how some airlines fail to take care of large musical instruments such as double basses. They were doing it when I was an orchestral manager in the mid-90s. Tours were the cause of much stress as a result. And rightly so. Those very instruments are vital to a musician’s work.
But with the advent of social media and the rise of an airline whose marketing strategists remain unabashed at such ideas as charging for using the toilet, implementing a charge for overweight passengers or introducing a stand up seat, those riled by Ryanair’s policy on musical instruments in the hold and in the cabin are galvanised. The Facebook group Musicians against Ryanair has been gaining momentum for most of the year. Its membership now stands at 13,729. That’s quite a lot of professional musicians asking for change.
It’s claimed the airline now levies an additional charge for those musicians whose instruments go over the weight allocation for each passenger’s hold luggage allowance. Not only that, it seems that in some cases musicians who previously had been able to take their smaller sized instruments on board as hand-luggage are now being asked to purchase an additional ticket. Ryanair isn’t the professional musician’s airline of choice at the present time.
Even young aspiring musicians aren’t exempt either. Interestingly however, young violinist Francesca Rijks who was told by Ryanair to buy a £190 ticket for her violin who missed her flight when her parents attempted to book the seat, ended up having a better experience with rival budget airline EasyJet who let the 12 year old take her instrument on board their service as hand luggage.
Only today on my return EasyJet flight from Barcelona I spied a professional violinist storing her instrument in the overhead lockers in the cabin. Francesca Rijks wasn’t a one off. If EasyJet can allow suitably sized musical instruments on board as a piece of hand luggage, couldn’t Ryanair?
The picture used in this blog post is called “Stolen Violin”. It was published by Flickr User Luz A Villa and is used here in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons License.