Strict baggage rules cause disharmony with musicians

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The Independent Online

Tough security measures at airports are causing havoc for musicians who are being refused permission to take their instruments on planes as hand luggage.

Members of the Musicians' Union are reporting "significant loss of earnings" because of the rules, with some facing potential legal action for breaking contracts to perform abroad.

Musicians are loath to entrust their fragile instruments to aircraft holds because of extreme temperature variations and because of concerns about how they will be handled.

Under the present rules passengers are allowed one item on board, which must be no bigger than a laptop bag. The Department for Transport said instruments must be carried in the hold until the situation improved.

The union has been involved in talks with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport about the restrictions, but says progress is slow because Parliament is in recess for the summer.

Until recently, smaller instruments were taken as hand luggage, while larger instruments were carried in lorries.

American violinists Marc Ramirez and Olivia Hajioff, who play together as Marcolivia, thought there should be a dispensation for musicians.

Ms Hajioff said: "Our violins are extremely valuable and delicate. There is no way we, or any other serious musician, could consider putting them in the hold. There are so few of us and it is so easy to screen the instruments carefully that I cannot see how this would be a problem."

Ian Maclay, the managing director of the Royal Philharmonic, said the measures had caused a "logistical nightmare".

The orchestra is due to play in Santander, northern Spain, next Tuesday and is due back for the Proms almost immediately.

"If we drive the instruments down there and back it is two or three days each way and we will not have them in time for the Proms. But we will manage somehow. Our players are borrowing instruments where necessary," he said.

Clio Gould, the leader of the orchestra, plays a Stradivarius worth up to £1m, and so consigning it to an aircraft hold would be unthinkable. Many players in top orchestras pay between £50,000 and £200,000 for their violins.

Kristina Aljinovic, the managing director of Specialised Travel, which deals with logistics for classical orchestras, said that she had been booking some musicians on to Eurostar trains so that they could board flights at Paris airports, where the restrictions do not apply.

"You cannot expect clients with instruments worth up to £3m to part with them. People are prepared to submit themselves to extra screening."

The BBC Symphony Orchestra was recently forced to truck its instruments to Lucerne in Switzerland. Ironically the only items lost were the formal wear they needed to play in - which was carried in the aircraft hold.

Horace Tunbridge, the assistant general secretary at the Musicians' Union, said that should the present regime remain in place, it would have a "devastating impact" on the working lives of professional musicians.