Musicians’ Airline Blues

by Sedgwick Clark

The friendly skies appeared less so the past week, especially to musicians. The prelude was Diane Sawyer showing a YouTube video on ABC Nightly News of airport workers unloading cargo in, shall we say, a less than careful manner.

Then, on Sunday (6/23), a report appeared on Musical America’s web site about our 2013 Instrumentalist of the Year Wu Man’s favorite pipa being damaged two days before, while en route to a performance. The $50,000 instrument would not fit in the storage compartment of her commuter plane, so the flight attendant offered to store it in the coat closet up front. (Due to the pipa’s weight, I was informed by Wu’s publicist, it was in a soft carrying case.) Carelessly handled, it was damaged, and Wu was given the option of having it stored in cargo below or getting off the plane. She disembarked, of course, located another pipa, and her show went on. Now she has to hire a lawyer to deal with U.S. Airways.

And then there is Virgin Atlantic Airways. I received the following e-mail a couple of days ago from a friend, the conductor Sybille Werner, which she had received from a violinist, Audrey Morse:

“Attention all musicians: “Virgin Atlantic Airways has carry-on luggage size restrictions of 9″x14″x 22″. An average violin case is 31″ in length and exceeds their dimensions for carry-on luggage.  A Virgin Atlantic representative I spoke to today said that no exceptions will be made for musical instruments, which means that violins can’t travel as they cannot be placed in checked luggage.

“Please spread the word amongst the musical community about this airline’s ridiculous policy.”


Looking Forward
My week’s scheduled concerts (8:00 p.m. unless otherwise noted):

6/27 at 7:30. Avery Fisher Hall. New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert; Giants Are Small/Doug Fitch, director/designer, Edouard Gataz, producer. Sarah Mearns, dancer; Eric Owens, bass-baritone; Anthony Ross Costanzo, countertenor. Stravinsky: Le Baiser de la fée (The Fairy’s Kiss). Petrushka.

7/2 at 7:30. Metropolitan Opera House. American Ballet Theatre. Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty.

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