Airlines 'won't be forced to change instrument rules'

Alp horn players Some musical instruments are very unwieldy

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Airlines will not be forced to allow musicians to carry large instruments on to planes, the government has said.

In the House of Lords, Lib Dem Lord Clement-Jones said many items worth thousands of pounds were suffering "terrible" damage in luggage holds.

But minister Earl Attlee ruled out regulation to ensure instruments such as double basses and kettle drums could travel on seats next to their owners.

He added that airlines would annoy these customers "at their own risk".

The Lords debate follows the signing of a House of Commons motion by 28 MPs urging more support for musicians who need to safeguard their instruments during flights.

The Incorporated Society of Musicians says there are many cases, such as one member having been "physically pushed" off an aircraft while it was moving away from the terminal bridge because they were carrying a cello.

Banjo ban

Another claimed their £900 handmade classical guitar had been crushed en route from Gatwick to Faro in Portugal.

And another said they had been refused entry to a plane because their banjo did not have a soft carrying case, although the airline rules did not stipulate this was necessary.

The Lords heard that some budget airlines had been particularly unhelpful.

Lord Clement-Jones told peers: "There are terrible cases where valuable and cherished instruments are smashed in the holds of aircraft as result of musicians not being able to take them on board with them."

He added that regulation would "shame the airline involved".

Earl Attlee, a Conservative, said: "The musician and his instrument are as one and if they lose their instrument, if it's damaged, then their ability to perform at the highest level is severely reduced.

"My department is well aware of the issue but if airlines want to acquire a bad reputation with musicians then they can do so, but it is at their own risk."

He added: "A difficulty is, if we regulated, we would get the lowest common denominator and it might discourage the industry from coming up with an innovative solution."

However, for Labour, Lord Davies of Oldham said: "Leaving it to the industry seems a somewhat forlorn hope... If the government at least indicated that it was prepared to take some action in this area, it would be at least a stimulus to the industry."

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