View Full Version : Airlines, touring musicians, lost and broken instruments

Clare Prop
6th Sep 2016, 12:57
Posting on behalf of a friend who is a tour manager for a band.

When I was a tour manager I always used Qantas/Emirates and never had any trouble, I won't name the airline yet, but it wasn't them.

This Australian band were touring Europe, the airline not only lost all their instruments TWICE but when they eventually got them back they were ruined. In hard travel cases.

The airline has basically said the band are not entitled to any compensation. The costs of having to hire said instruments on tour and then replace them, quite apart from the inconvenience, is high and quite easily measurable. These are the tools of their trade.

Other than going to the media, are there any avenues the band can follow?

6th Sep 2016, 13:20
Did the band have insurance for their instruments?

If not, then I suspect they will just be treated as luggage, and the international agreement on the maximum compensation for damaged or lost luggage would apply, and, from memory, I don't think it's very much money.

IIRC, the maximum limit, together with the details of the duty of care of the airline, is set out in the Montreal Convention. I don't have time to do a web search for it right now, but I'm sure the details must be on the web somewhere.

6th Sep 2016, 13:46
There have been reports in the past that some baggage handlers regard Fragile notices as a challenge and have taken a deliberate and violent dislike of music cases in particular.

SMT Member
6th Sep 2016, 14:05
Appreciate it's a bit late now, but for future reference:

Your luggage, regardless of how fancy the case is or the number of fragile stickers adorning it, is still just a piece of deadweight for the people working in an airport. They will not bend over backwards to ensure your precious instrument is given a soft ride, but they will bend the case over backwards if it can save them a bit of hassle. Your task, then, is to try to minimise the chances of it getting damaged. Merely checking it in is, as the case will show, just about the daftest thing you can do. That it goes right more times than it goes wrong is, frankly, a goddamn miracle.

A: Chose an airline who's fleet is fully containerised. In Europe, that pretty much leaves you with BA and having to suffer flying via LHR every time.
B: Send instruments as freight, not baggage. This will provide a far better chance of careful handling. If you've done A, this will ensure the instruments are loaded in a container, thus both limiting the manual handling involved and - most importantly - your instruments will not be loaded lose on top of a flatbed or baggage cart, from where they may fall off. It will also ensure there's no manual handling of your instruments on the ramp, where most of the damages occur.
C: Buy a whole container (or more) for your instruments and ensure it is ramp transferred to final destination. So if you need to go fra Stockholm to Madrid, your container will be loaded in Stockholm and put on the service to Heathrow. There it will be transferred directly to the Madrid bound aircraft to be unloaded there upon arrival.

Minimum manual handling, that's what you want. And above all else, you want to make sure there's no manual loading/un-loading on the ramp; fly widebody or containerised A320 series only.

Yes, it costs a bleeding fortune and is a fair deal more hassle than just rocking up to the check-in counter with all your stuff. But, I suspect, still much less than having to rent and subsequently replace all those instruments when it goes tits up.

For absolute safety, be the lead singer and stick the microphone in your pocket.

6th Sep 2016, 14:20
Under the Montreal (1999) Convention the airlines bear strict liability for the (permanent) loss or damage to checked baggage. (In other words the claimants do not have to prove the airline damaged the baggage) In exchange for such strict liability the damages are capped at a fixed amount (at the moment SDR 1,210). See https://www.iata.org/policy/Documents/MC99_en.pdf In particular Articles 17 and 22 (Which mentions SDR1000 per passenger, but that has been adjusted for inflation in 2009).

The Montreal Convention applies to all international flights, with only a few obscure exceptions. By Council Decision 2001/539/EC of 5 April 2001 MC99 applies to all (ie including domestic) flights departing from an EU airport. (I can't recall if it also applies to Swiss, Norwegian and Icelandic domestic flights)

I would respond to them mentioning MC99 and/or the Council decision and claim for actual damages, even if above SDR1210. Note that amount is the maximum, not a set amount.

Also have a look at the airlines conditions of carriage which sets out their contrat with the passenger - while that cannot override mc99, repeating their own words back to them never hurts.

Clare Prop
6th Sep 2016, 14:44
Thanks guys...I did warn them not to go for the cheapest fare and to always use Emirates (bigger allowance too) but will pass on the info about the Montreal Convention.

It was just two guitars, cymbals and drum pedals but they can't make much noise without those.

Difficult to send them as freight when you are flying domestic to a new city every day...hard enough getting the buggers out of bed and to the airport!

Clare Prop
6th Sep 2016, 15:13
It wasn't Tiger either, but a good name and shame ditty anyway https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XejeCOTHf8A&feature=youtu.be

6th Sep 2016, 15:56
Fly loco and buy an extra seat for the guitar?

6th Sep 2016, 16:47
I carried Julian Lloyd-Webber once in First. He paid full fare for a seat for his cello next to him!

India Four Two
6th Sep 2016, 17:32
Clare Prop,

Your friend should avoid United as well:


Maybe his band should write a song as well!

Clare Prop
6th Sep 2016, 18:32
Love it, I42! :D

Loco not an option if you actually want to get to sound check on time and don't want the merch to end up on the other side of the country. :mad::ugh:

I have smuggled a Marshall JCM800 bass head on as cabin baggage...no way was that going in the hold. :E .... not as classy as Lloyd Webber or Brian May spending 10 grand for a first class seat to LA for his guitar.

7th Sep 2016, 01:39
Orchestras have been having difficulties with many airlines when on tour. Musicians were used to traveling with their instruments in the cabin with seats booked for large instruments.

Post 911 some airlines insisted on instruments going in the hold, even when a seat has been paid for:mad:

It gets even better. Instruments with ivory made perhaps centuries before the current ban are subjected to a near impossible set of bureaucratic hoops.

Several orchestras have chosen not to tour in the US. US orchestras similarly put instruments at risk of seizure on return, unless all the hoops have been properly jumped through :}

7th Sep 2016, 02:32
India 42 you beat me to it.
Great answer to bad service.
Dave actually did three songs about it.