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Airlines and Musicians

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Joined: 19 Apr 2008
Posts: 4
Location: Bronx, NY

PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 4:50 pm    Post subject: Airlines and Musicians Reply with quote

I am forwarding a rant by my dear friend and employer, David Krakauer:

Hi everyone
I wrote this letter based on a recent incident that happened to us on tour in Europe. I'm trying to figure out what to do with this letter......Send it to all the airlines, funnel it through the union, try to get it published in musicians mags such as Jazzman, Downbeat, Jazziz, Strad, Bass player(?), Guitar, etc. ???????????
Any feed back or suggestions would really help. I'm at my wits end with this crap from the airlines !!!!!

The constant plight of the traveling musician

My name is David Krakauer. I am an internationally touring soloist/bandleader and am a frequent flyer on Air France/Delta and numerous other carriers. This open letter was prompted by a recent incident that occured on Air France.
I played a concert with my band "Klezmer Madness! " on Oct 2008 in Brest at a major French arts center- the Quartz Theater. There were over 1000 people in the audience, and by the end they were screaming and yelling for more; bringing us back for encore after encore. The next day we faced an arduous trip from Brest (Brittany) to Tallin (Estonia) involving three flights plus a bus transfer between Orly and Charles De Gaulle airports. As we were trying to check in on our Air France flight from Brest to Paris, we were informed that there was a new rule. As of one month ago guitars were no longer allowed on board as carry on luggage. My bassist Nicki Parrott and my guitarist Sheryl Bailey were told in no uncertain terms that therefore they were required to check in their instruments, or they would have to purchase a seat for the instruments. We were all taken aback and explained that : 1) We had no idea about this rule and were taken completely by surprise. 2) In the past many years we never had a problem bringing instruments on board that easily fit in an overhead bin, and no other passenger was ever deprived of overhead space due to our instruments. 3) We needed to travel with soft cases due to the mix of modes of transportation we were dealing with on tour (mostly trains making hard cases an impossible burden as we were required to hurry from train connection to connection- often tight with up to 3 connections in a given day). 4) Putting an instrument in the baggage compartment in a soft case is not an option. There is close to a 100% chance of severe damage let alone the chance of the instruments becoming delayed luggage. 5) We are professional musicians simply trying to do our job professionally and responsibly (ie to arrive at the concert on time with our instruments in perfect condition). We are not traveling with instruments for our personal amusement. 6) We are internationally recognized artists making an important cultural contribution to France and should therefore be helped rather than hindered by the airline. 7) Being asked to buy a seat for something that fits easily in an overhead bin is unfair and budgetarily impossible.
All of this was of to no avail to the extremely inflexible functionaries at the check-in desk. After 20 minutes of arguing back and forth (in French), I was finally able to speak with a superviser with some semblance of reasonableness. This gentleman contacted the pilot who (of course) gave us "special" permission to bring the instruments on board (plus "granted" us "special" clearance through security !!!!!). When we got on the plane (of course) the instruments fit in the overhead bin with absolutely no problem and no other passenger was inconvenienced in the slightest. Luckily we did not experience any other problems with the other carriers for the rest of the journey.
All was well that ended well in the end, but this incident pointed to a larger problem. Occurences like the one we experienced was just one of countless hassles that make the job of the traveling musician harder, more restricted and increasingly impossible to deal with. Of course we all support security and safety aboard aircrafts, but rules that restrict reasonable sized carry on items are unfair and illogical. If every business traveler is allowed to have their roll up suitcase in the cabin, then the same respect and courtesy should be afforded to musicians and other traveling professionals who need to have the tools of their trade in the cabin with them. Simply put : If it fits in the overhead bin it should be alloed on board. End of story. In the 23 years that I've been traveling as a professional musician, I have never seen a situation where it is impossible to get musical instruments on board, even on a very packed flight. It just takes a little flexibility, good will and imagination sometimes. With larger instruments that don't fit, I'm sure that there could be more dialogue between musicians and the airlines to come up with creative solutions such as the possibility to rent airline owned trunk space for gate checked instruments. If strollers can be routinely checked at the gate, then surely musical instruments can be routinely gate checked and adequately protected as well.
Despite efforts and agreements reached by the International Musicians Union, it seems like musicians still constantly face these kinds of problems.......seemingly at the whim of the ground staff or crew of any given flight. Internationally traveling musicians are an important segment of airline travel, and surely bring in millions of dollars to the airline industry every year. (Has the exact figure been documented by the union or any other musicians organization ?)It makes sense that musicians will gravitate toward those carriers that make travel as smooth and hassle free as possible and avoid other carriers. I would think it would make sense for the airlines to court business brought to them by musicians.
In these troubled times, bringing the arts around the world is a fantastic tool for promoting mutual understanding among cultures. The airline companies could play a more active role in supporting the arts by making travel for musicians easier instead of difficult and filled with impediments and constant stress.

David Krakauer

International recording and performing artist
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
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Joined: 31 Oct 2006
Posts: 968
Location: SanAntonio , Tx

PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 7:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's maddening! You'd think the airlines would try to take care of the
customers that use their services often. Especially since they're always
crying about lack of business. Seems like the airlines are one of those
"customer is never right" businesses.
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dewey decibel

Joined: 15 Feb 2006
Posts: 1677

PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 2:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We're completely at their mercy. I flew to a lot of gigs last year and never had a problem, but that was before the recent changes ($25 just to check a single bag, $50 each additional!?). I'm not looking forward to the next tour...
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Joined: 24 Jul 2006
Posts: 143

PostPosted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 10:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yep, that is not cool. I will say this though. There have been a few times that I've had to sit with my backpack at my legs for 6 hours because the overhead bins were full of large items.

I think the big problem is that the airline staff turn their heards when they see someone coming on with more luggage than they are allowed.

If they would strictly follow their own rules, they'd have plenty of room for anything.

If they allow travelers to bend the rules, everyone will and I'll be stuck with a backpack at my feet and you'll have a broken neck on your guitar.
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