International air travel with musical instruments still fraught with difficulties

Posted on: March 13, 2014

“Last month, the European Parliament passed a bill requiring airlines to accept smaller instruments such as violins in the cabin” of airplanes, reads an article in Wednesday’s (3/12) Economist (U.K.). “The bill now goes to the European Council, which represents the EU governments.… The Musicians’ Union in Britain … says the current patchwork of rules leads to confusion. Musicians can leave a country on a flight where one regulation applies to instruments, only to find the rules on the return leg are different. Two years ago, the US Congress instructed the Department of Transportation to write a directive requiring airlines to store instruments in overhead bins. Larger instruments … should be allowed in the plane if the owner buys an extra seat, Congress ordered. But even though the department’s deadline passed last month, the DoT hasn’t even begun writing the rules. IATA, the trade association for the world’s airlines … says that carriers should remain free to set their own prices and policies for onboard musical instruments. So airbound instruments still face an unknown fate.… Airlines, desperate to cut costs wherever possible, are unlikely to go out of their way to accommodate musicians, especially those flying economy class. But musicians rely on air travel for their livelihoods.” Congress’s 2012 legislation on traveling with musical instruments was covered at the Hub here, and the League’s Vice President for Advocacy, Heather Noonan, discussed a related travel topic in a recent issue of Symphony. A bipartisan letter from Congress urging action by the FAA is available here.

Posted March 13, 2014