Is Ryanair taking musicians for a ride?

As a 12-year-old is told to pay £190 to take her violin on a flight, Jessica Duchen bemoans the lot of the travelling player

My friend has a sticker on her cello case which reads: "NO, I DON'T WISH I PLAYED THE FLUTE". The inconvenience of lugging around this outsized contraption is the price cellists pay for making possibly the most beautiful sound ever created by humankind. The size is trumped only by the double bass. My college next-door neighbour played one. I wondered why she chose it, since she was even shorter than I am, until I noticed that whenever she returned from a rehearsal, a different man would be carrying the bass for her.

But the difficulty of travelling with a musical instrument has recently got a whole lot worse. Latest target: violinists. Violins fit comfortably into aeroplanes' overhead compartments. Some airlines accept them in supplement to the hand-luggage allowance. Ryanair, though, now demands that an extra seat is purchased for a violin.

Last week the Incorporated Society of Musicians took up the cause of Francesca Rijks, a 12-year-old violin student from Chetham's School of Music in Manchester, travelling home from Germany with her father on Ryanair. They checked in unimpeded, but were stopped at the gate and ordered to pay £190 (more than their seats had cost) for carrying the violin, despite apparently having been assured in advance that they could take it on board. And in the time it took to buy the violin's ticket, the plane left without them.

The ISM's legal spokesman, David Abrahams, said: "The idea that musicians should be forced to purchase an additional seat on board an aircraft because they are carrying an instrument that can be stored safely in the overhead lockers is unfair, discriminatory and irrational."

In August, reports appeared about three violinists travelling from Frankfurt to perform in Norfolk. Just days before their flight, Ryanair allegedly demanded £1,340 for their violins. The concert promoter, Norfolk Concerts, is reportedly preparing legal action against the airline. Meanwhile, Ryanair says that its policy is consistent.

If you look at the website, it is. But its application in these cases sounds frankly chaotic. The Facebook group Musicians against Ryanair, encouraging a boycott of the airline, has attracted nearly 13,000 members. Some users on there describe being forced to put instruments in the hold, where they were wrecked. Some recount buying a seat for a violin, then being instructed to stow it in the overhead compartment. Others allege that the policy's application is akin to bullying, extortion or, er, being on the fiddle.

Some people assume musicians demand "special treatment" by wanting the right to carry instruments on board. Actually, it's the reverse: they are seeking the same treatment as anyone else obliged to take a plane to do a contracted job. Stringed instruments are critically damaged by extreme temperatures or incautious handling: mostly they're not only ruined by hold travel, but can't be insured for it. That's not "preciousness", it's a fact – and airlines need to take this on board.

If Ryanair's policy spreads, the knock-on effect on the music industry will be catastrophic: touring costs, already soaring, will become prohibitive and this very travel-dependent and financially volatile sphere will be dealt a death blow.

I heard last week that the leader of a major international orchestra, faced with fiddle-on-board problems while travelling long-distance to London to play in a Prom, proved such a "force to be reckoned with" (a mutual friend's description) that staff let him through. Musicians are sadly accustomed to being bullied, many having been through the mill at school. Standing up to bullies is a skill requiring cultivation. It's time musicians stopped having to apologise for their profession.

Airlines need to be clear about their musical instrument policies. As for musicians, they should check those policies before booking and be ready to stick up for their rights. Meanwhile, my six-year-old nephew is starting cello lessons. I wonder if he knows what he's letting himself in for.

Arts and Entertainment
Crime watch: Cara Delevingne and Daniel Brühl in ‘The Face of an Angel’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
‘The Late Late Show’ presenter James Corden is joined by Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks for his first night as host
Arts and Entertainment
Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and Blackberry Wine, wrote a blog post attacking the app and questioning its apparent 'strong Christian bias'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
Brooke Magnanti believes her reputation has been damaged by the claim
Arts and Entertainment
A large fire has broken out in London's historic Battersea Arts Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Orla Brady as Anne Meredith, MyAnna Buring as Elizabeth Quinn and Joanna Vanderham as Katherine McVitie in Banished
tvReview: Despite the gritty setting, this drama is as fluffy and soppy as a soap opera
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and co-director Richard Glatzer, standing, on the set during the filming of ‘Still Alice’ in New York
Arts and Entertainment
Great British Sewing Bee finalist Matt Chapple
tvReview: He wowed the judges with an avant garde dress
Arts and Entertainment
Driven to the edge: 'Top Gear' producer Oisin Tymon is said to have had a row with Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Nazi officer Matthias Schoenaerts embarks on an affair with married French woman Michelle Williams in 'Suite Francaise'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Prime movers: Caitriona Balfe (centre) and the cast of Outlander
Feasting with panthers: Keynes
Arts and Entertainment
Strung out: Mumford & Sons
Arts and Entertainment
Avant-garde: Bjork
Arts and Entertainment
Despite a decade of reform, prosecutions and convictions of rape has remained consistently low
arts + entsAcademic and author Joanna Bourke in warning to arts world
Arts and Entertainment
Electro Velvet, made up of Alex Larke and Bianca Nicholas, will represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss