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Airline ‘won’t fly a cello to the UK’

It’s Delta. They have new rules.

Here’s a tip-off to Slipped Disc from Piers Adams, of Red Priest:

I recently tried to book flights to America for Red Priest on Delta, only to be told that this airline no longer will allow cellos in the cabin for, specifically, flights to and from the UK. The booking agent helpfully told me that it would be OK if we flew via Paris. I have tried at length to elicit an explanation from Delta for this mind-bogglingly silly and random rule, without success. Here is the proof in black and white:

Scroll down to the bottom of the ‘Musical Instruments’ link and you will find in small print: “Not valid for travel to and from the United Kingdom”.

Sounds to us like Delta is not valid for musicians to fly (1)

We’ve had trouble with them before.


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  1. This is utter madness, but I wonder if any of the other airlines are doing the same. I also wonder if Delta’s policy has been influenced by some U.K. immigration administrative rule or other. A few months ago, I read of a number of cases of artists and musicians flying from the U.S., who were scheduled to teach or perform professional gigs in the U.K., being denied entry entirely, possibly to limit the competition from non-UK musicians, in response to the U.K.’s serious level of unemployment, and possibly to avoid serious discussion of political matters, artists and musicians being the subversives that they are. (After all, god forbid that the principles underlying the “Ode to Joy” should insinuate themselves into NATO foreign policy.)
    See, for example,

    If this were true, then allowing a musician to book a seat for his or her instrument to Paris and then to the U.K. would make sense, since this type of discriminatory flight policy might violate the EU rules.

    Regardless, it certainly warrants an explanation from Delta.

    • I read Delta’s rules as saying you can’t carry on these items for flights to UK – but they can be checked into the hold. Besides there is no problem with other airlines so you can still take them to UK. What immigration decides is nothing to do with checked baggage, so your fears about employment discrimination seem unfounded.

  2. Barry Johnstone says:

    Airlines don’t realise the intensity of the relationship between a musician and their instrument. If the airlines did, this STUPID policy may be shoved where the sun don’t shine!

    • And not just the intensity of the relationship, but also what might be regarded as a mother’s nurturing instinct that nothing be done to harm or damage the child (as well as an insurer’s appreciation and sigh of relief that Mr. Cello’s companion has been so diligent in avoiding something that would trigger a policy payout).

  3. Richard Hallam says:

    ‘O’Bomber’s philistine America’ ?? Are you are the right website, Reiner??

  4. As long as negative developments in American orchestras remain newsworthy, they are not doing too badly. But if some day the positive becomes news, then we can start to really worry. When a person residing in Russia laments the sad fate of American musicians, it appears quite funny to most informed readers, but it may actually be therapeutic for that particular person, so let’s not judge this too harshly.
    The problem that is being discussed here is of course not with “America” but with one very particular airline called Delta. That airline has been notorious as the most unfriendly to musicians for several decades. In this case, Delta may actually be violating at least the spirit, and possibly also the letter, of the American federal law the adoption of which by US Congress was reported here on this blog in a post dated June 13 last year.

  5. There must be a specific reason why it appears possible to fly Delta via Paris but not direct to London? Different configuration of aircraft perhaps?

  6. We’ve looked into this and, as with the BA “problem” last June, this has come about because of poorly thought-through revisions to a website being over-zealously interpreted. The comment about excluding instruments on flights to/from the UK is supposed to refer to code shares and not to Delta’s own flights. We have succesfully booked 2 celli with Delta out of the UK today, we have a UK orchestra returning shortly from the US with them and have been assured that there will not be a problem (they had no issues flying out from London with Delta last week). Our contact in the carrier has agreed to try both to rectify the erroneous sentence on the website and instruct their reservations staff accordingly. And the other good news is that Delta reconfirmed to us that they are aware that cello seats are exempt from tax!

  7. Barry Johnstone says:

    Never EVER fly this airline again – for ANYTHING!

    • Barry – I’m all for choice and competition. But unfortunately the 4 big carriers in the USA – probably about to become 3 in a week or so – have strangleholds on their hubs. So if you have an itinerary visiting places like Atlanta, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City or Detroit, you really don’t have a choice. We find it’s better to negotiate with airlines than to threaten them!

  8. Greg Hlatky says:

    They told me that if I voted for Romney, supercilious Europeans would be sneering at America and its president… and they were right!

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