It appears that Delta is not a great way for musicians fly; they are not allowing musicians to bring their very expensive instruments (including, from what I’ve read, Stradivarius violins!) on board. Cellists expect to pay for an extra seat if they don’t have one of those heavy duty cases that can actually take the abuse of those who throw our luggage under the plane. Players of other, even larger instruments often have incredibly indestructible cases. Their instruments, after all, can’t fit under a seat or in the overhead. But oboes? Clarinets? Violins? Hmm. Seems hard to believe, but I guess Delta is fearful of our deadly instruments.

Now I agree that an oboe can be deadly … but only when played by a bad player, and it has to come out of the case to be used as that sort of weapon!

Pretty stupid move from Delta, don’t you think? The AF of M has recommended we boycott the airline. Hmmm. It’s really not a boycott—it’s simply not a possible airline for anyone who is toting an instrument.


  1. I don’t know that it’s something that I will get all worked up over.  First of all, unless their carry-on policies have changed, they will let you bring small instruments as your one carry-on bag if it can be safely stowed under the seat (as most woodwinds could be) or in the overhead compartment.  I’ve flown quite a few times and done this, in addition to carrying a small purse and nobody gave me any trouble about it (as long as I left my reed knives at home!).  Also, when I had to fly with my bass clarinet a couple of years ago, the policy at the time was that I had to purchase a ticket for the instrument since I didn’t want it stowed, but with some nice words and a couple of questions, they let me purchase a child’s fare and all was fine (even though it was their policy to charge another full fare.  I think it’s all up to the ticketing agent).  In my opinion, it makes sense.  It’s not fair for them if the flight is going to be full, to lose the potential fare.  It’s not like these companies operate at a profit… they’re a lot like orchestras in that regard.

    If they aren’t letting you travel with the instruments due to a safety hazard, this is another story and potentially unacceptable.  Is this just in an AFofM newsletter or is there a citation for this that I can check?  I’d be all for banning piccolos from interstate travel, but not so much in favor of banning oboes from planes…they’re not snakes, afterall.

  2. Yeah, the more I read the more I think this is just a case where musicians are wanting exceptions to the size rule for the carry-on item – which I can understand – but to make it seem as if it is anything other than desiring accommodation is ridiculous.  They desire a special rule that says that their carry-ons can be bigger than the rest of the public.  I’d like to sympathize, but I really do think the union is being exceptionally dishonest in an effort to court public support with framing this as a “Delta won’t let musicians fly with their instruments”. That’s not happening (as far as I can see) and to say that it is makes it ever so much clearer as to why I’m not a union member.  I’m not a bully fan. 

    Maybe the carry-on size rules were more relaxed in the past, but it’s not a 9-11 security thing that made the airlines adhere to their own carry-on size policies – it was their own bottom line.

    The more important news:  Target contacted you?!  I’m insanely jealous!  Sad they didn’t follow-through with making their place more Patty-pleasing, though.  Should I boycott them?  I’d get behind that movement…

  3. Patricia Mitchell

    Well, I never fly anywhere with my oboe (Sigh. I would so love to have a gig away from here sometime, but I guess that’s not going to happen.) so it doesn’t hit me one way or another, but this article implied that it was a bigger problem than one might think. If they really won’t let a Strad on board, I’d suggest that’s just bizarre. But hey, we each will do what we choose to do, right?

    I can only tell you what I read online at this point. And I’m not going any further with it unless Delta wants to email me and tell me their side of the story. (I know companies sometimes browse the web and contact those that complain about them; Target (the store) actually contacted me once when I complained about them … not that they were about to change what they were doing! Not at all.)

  4. I have always been very cautious with my insturments on airplanes. When
    I was in high school in suburban Atlanta my private clarinet teacher
    had his clarinets stolen out of Delta luggage, and that made a huge
    impression on me.

    My brother is a jazz bassist who travels all over the world. I don’t
    know how he puts up with the inconvenience of air travel with a double
    bass in a case the size of Pittsburgh.

  5. Patricia Mitchell

    Hmm. Interesting that your teacher had a bad experience with Delta. So maybe they’ve been a problem for a while, eh?

    The last time I flew with an instrument was over 30 years ago. I just play here where I live. Makes life pretty easy!

  6. Jennifer Grucza

    Well, violins and violas are longer than most airline carry-on regulations “allow”, but the only planes I haven’t be able to fit my viola into the overhead compartment on were little commuter planes without overhead compartments!  I’ve never actually flown Delta – my preferred airline is American (more legroom!) – and they don’t usually give me any trouble about taking my viola on board.  I would join in a boycott of Delta, but I’ve never flown with them anyway, and if I had, I would probably already be boycotting them if they gave me trouble about taking my viola as carry-on.

  7. Patricia Mitchell

    I rarely fly. I still can’t quite believe that airplanes can get off the ground, and I get quite weary of “praying them up & down” which is what I feel like I’m doing!

    I did get the union paper yesterday. I’m not sure they did enough homework to warrant a boycott (and I must confess I’m not quite a boycott sort anyway); it sounds as if they got some complaints, but didn’t actually go to Delta with the information nor did they verify the problems. I dunno. Sounds questionable.

    I can tell you, though, that I have heard from some oboists (via the IDRS email list) who have had problems getting permission to take their oboes on board. I think the trouble there was that they asked ahead of time! Me? I’d just put it in my carryon and that would be that. Someone thought, too, that the airline had confused the size of an oboe with the size of a bassoon. That’s certainly possible. I can’t tell you how many “pit gazers” ask me if I’m playing the bassoon!

    Ah well. As I’ve said before, none of this applies to me. The furthest I travel is a 45 minute drive away, and usually it’s only a 7 minute drive. I love my short commute!

    I do wish I could afford a good vacation though. Sigh.