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A stand-off between staff of Etihad Airways and an Australian string quartet has resulted in a victory for musicians who want to bring instruments on board flights.
Earlier this week in Frankfurt, violinist and lecturer at ANU School of Music Tor Frømyhr was told while boarding that he could not bring his violin on board an Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi.
“As my boarding pass went through the scanner, a message appeared on the screen that said: ‘Carrying violin, not approved to travel’ and I was asked to wait to one side after being told that my violin did not fit requirements,” says Frømyhr.
Frømyhr says he had assumed he was safe with Etihad after receiving assurance from the airline that small violin cases were indeed allowed. “I can only contemplate that I was on the system because I had sought prior approval, which was probably a foolish thing to do.”
After an hour of wrangling with Etihad staff, Frømyhr convinced them to allow the violin on board, but only after all four members of the Childers Street Quartet – students of Frømyhr travelling with him – threatened to jump ship in support of the violinist.
Interestingly, the case Frømhyr was carrying was a top-of-the-range Bam, which, he says, is the slimmest available. “The policy is completely inconsistent,” he said. “Why tell someone they can bring a small case on a flight then turn them away? It doesn’t make sense.”
Frømyhr has had a bad run with airlines. Last year, Qantas famously made him take his 1890 Degani violin out of its case, walk across the tarmac and place it on the floor under his seat for the duration of the flight, an experience he describes as “seriously bad”.
The incident caused uproar in the musical community, and a Facebook group was created urging musicians to boycott Qantas. Since then, Frømyhr acknowledges, Qantas has become more accepting of musical instruments. “Airlines are generally getting better... but there are still some that are absolutely appalling.”
“In many cases, it is all up to the whim of the person at the final gate... at which point it’s just too late.”