Ryanair tells girl to buy £190 plane seat for violin

Francesca Rijks
Image caption Francesca Rijks is a student at Manchester's Chetham's School of Music

A Cheshire music student was ordered to buy an extra seat for her violin after an airline refused to let her take the instrument as hand luggage.

Francesca Rijks, 12, from Macclesfield, was flying home with her family from Dusseldorf after a holiday in Germany.

Staff told them to put the violin in the hold - which would potentially ruin the instrument.

Francesca and her family got off the plane to buy the ticket, and missed the flight.

They had been advised to buy the £190 ticket after calling the airline.

The family ended up flying back with Easyjet, who let them board the plane with the violin as hand luggage.

'Absolute disgrace'

Francesca's father Harmen Rijks, 49, said he was told by Ryanair customer service when he bought the tickets that the valuable violin could be taken on board the flight as hand luggage.

He said the air pressure and low temperature in the hold would have ruined the instrument, which belongs to the Manchester music school Chetham's, where Francesca is a pupil.

He said: "When we checked in, Francesca was carrying the violin on her back so they must have noticed it but they let us through.

"But when we got to the gates they refused to let us go.

"They said we could pay extra to put the violin in the hold, but because of the temperature and air pressure difference, the wood can crack and completely ruin a violin. The insurance also becomes void," he said.

"This was an absolute disgrace. Their policy appears to discriminate against violinists, the vast majority of whom simply can't afford to purchase an additional seat," he added.

'Unfair and irrational'

The Ryanair website says small musical instruments can be taken on board their flights but customers have to purchase an extra seat if they are larger than standard baggage.

A spokesman for Ryanair said: "Ryanair's website, booking confirmation page and the e-mailed itinerary which is sent to every passenger is very clear in relation to the carriage of musical instruments and states that smaller musical items, such as a guitar, violin or viola which exceed our cabin baggage dimensions may be carried in the cabin but only if an extra seat has been purchased to accommodate the instrument.

"This policy, which must be accepted by every passenger before a booking can be made, ensures that such instruments, which can be expensive, remain with the passenger.

"As all Ryanair employees are aware of our baggage policies, Ryanair is confident that at no time was this passenger advised that they could bring any piece of non-conforming carry-on luggage onto our aircraft."

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is now warning anyone intending to travel with a small instrument to check very carefully before travelling and to ensure their instruments will be accepted as hand luggage before booking any flights.

David Abrahams, head of legal services at the ISM, said: "The idea that musicians should be forced to purchase an additional seat on board an aircraft because they are carrying an instrument that can be stored safely in the overhead lockers is unfair, discriminatory and irrational.

"These airlines are punishing musicians for being musicians."

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