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
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea

film

In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops

film

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game