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
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
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.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine