Could the UK get clearer rules on taking instruments on planes?

After a new legislation was passed in the US this month for a national policy on carrying instruments on planes, is it time for a similar rule to be brought out in the UK?

The Musicians’ Union is fighting for this to happen in the hope of removing the right of individual airlines to introduce their own, often unfair and inconsistent, rules.

It has, in fact, been fighting this corner for some years, but the recent ruling in the US has added more fuel to their fire.

Congress in the US has approved provisions under the Federal Aviation Authority Bill for a uniform national policy regarding instruments on planes. It means that any instrument that can be safely stored in an overhead compartment or under a seat in a plane cabin can be considered as carry-on luggage.

The Bill also sets standard weight and size requirements – meaning that individual airlines cannot set their own limits – and musicians can buy a seat for an oversized and delicate instrument such as cellos.

After the ruling was approved, president of the American Federation of Musicians Ray Hair said that musicians “can now fly in friendlier skies”.

For years musicians have faced problems when checking in their instrument. Some airlines consider them as carry-on, others demand costly payments. Size and weight restrictions have also been known to vary widely from airline to airline.

John Smith, general secretary of the MU, said that in the UK, musicians often have to “face a lottery” when they fly with an instrument.

He blamed inconsistency between airports and airline staff, saying: “You might be allowed to take your instrument into the cabin with you at no extra cost, but then be charged an extortionate fee to put it into the hold on your return flight.

“This is particularly unfair given that most airlines allow sports equipment, such as skis, to travel for free.

“For a working musician, the fee can mean the difference between a concert or gig making or losing money – and that’s without even counting the potential cost of a damaged instrument.”

In 2006 the MU managed to reach an agreement with the Department for Transport, but some airlines have continued to set their own rules.

Have you ever had a problem taking an instrument on a flight?

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