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Damage to cello during flight for auditions

swedemomswedemom Registered User Posts: 16 New Member
My son flew to the US for several auditions last week from Germany. He used a flight case from his teacher (professional cellist) for the flight. We double and triple checked all the requirements and even made 2 trips to the airport before his flight to get everything organized since he flew out early in the morning. His cello did not arrive with him in the US even with a 4 hour layover in England. He arrived on Sat. and the airline said the earliest he would get it would be Tuesday since Sunday and Monday were holidays. My husband ended up driving 2 hours yesterday to pick it up as we were concerned it would not be delivered on Tuesday due to bad weather and he is flying back to Germany today. When they opened the flight case, my son was surprised to see the entire fingerboard was pulled away from the cello (some pieces of wood from the cello were on the back of the fingerboard) and the board had pushed the bridge a bit. There is not other visible damage. My son's cello teacher has flown the world with this case and never had a problem and was shocked to hear this. Her cello is worth quite a bit more than my son's and she assured us this was the best case to use. We have the cello insured, but are not sure if we should also complain to the airline. The case is very sturdy and marked all over with Fragile. Any input from any of you with what we can or should do? He is leaving the cello in the US for repair and his teacher will loan him one of hers for his last months in Germany. We have not lived in the US for 20 some years and he has never flown with a cello. When we explored bringing it on board, one airline said they would not have the "right space available" on their flight for him to do so.

Replies to: Damage to cello during flight for auditions

  • KunjiBoyKunjiBoy Registered User Posts: 113 Junior Member
    edited February 2015
  • SpiritManagerSpiritManager Registered User Posts: 2,819 Senior Member
    Did the airline make him sign a waiver? They've done that to my son when he flies with his cello, which he's done often - both using an individual flight case, and a special flight case that fits over his regular hard case. On one recent flight the cello did get damaged (Southwest Air) and the airline would not take responsibility. However, the insurance we had for the cello covered every penny without any problem - although the insurance company did want to know that the airline had refused to pay anything.
    As for bringing a cello on board, usually, but obviously not always, airlines let you purchase a bulkhead seat for it.
  • musicamusicamusicamusica Registered User Posts: 6,468 Senior Member
    For the simple reason that the insurance company might require it (as mentioned by @spiritmanager) you should notify the airline immediately after the discovery of damage.
  • glassharmonicaglassharmonica Registered User Posts: 3,244 Senior Member
    Good to know about Southwest. I thought they were among the better airlines for flying with instruments. Swedesmon, that sounds terribly stressful. What did he use for his auditions?
  • SpiritManagerSpiritManager Registered User Posts: 2,819 Senior Member
    The airline my son flew was one newly merged with Southwest - so in many ways it wasn't a true Southwest flight.
  • musicalkidsmusicalkids Registered User Posts: 85 Junior Member
    In our experience (probably about a dozen different flights around the US), buying a seat is an expensive but much less stressful way to go -- as long as you can afford it. Some airlines insist that the cello sits by the window in the bulkhead, others are a little more flexible and allow the cello to be in any window seat as long as it's not an exit row. We've had good experiences with United, American, US Air, and Southwest. We've always made sure to tell the airline staff at the gate about the cello and us, and give them plenty of time to work out where they want us to sit if our preassigned seat is not right for them. I don't know about international rules, but the FAA recently solidified the rules about traveling with musical instruments within the US: http://www.dot.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-issues-final-rule-regarding-air-travel-musical ("Carriers are required to carry large musical instruments in the cabin if the passenger wishing to carry the instrument in the aircraft cabin has purchased an additional seat to accommodate the instrument and the instrument is contained in a case or cover to avoid injury to other passengers, the weight of the instrument does not exceed 165 pounds or applicable weight restrictions for the aircraft, and the instrument can be stowed in accordance with the requirements for carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the FAA. Carriers are not required to provide for this process in their carry-on baggage programs; however the Department encourages carriers that do not currently allow such stowage to amend their programs to allow it, provided that all safety requirements are met.").

    As far as the OP goes, it seems worth it to me to write to the airline and see what they might be prepared to do. Every airline has different rules about baggage buried deep on the website in small print, but it never hurts to write anyway.

  • Mezzo'sMamaMezzo'sMama Forum Champion Music Major Posts: 3,561 Forum Champion
    I wouldn't have flown without having the cello in the cabin, but that is water over the dam now. First rule of thumb with any kind of damage caused to any "baggage", DO NOT leave the airport until you have spoken to someone in the baggage claim department of the airline and filed the proper paperwork for your claim. Take your own pictures.
    At this point in time, I would begin calling and find out whom, on your end, is the highest ranking person who deals with baggage claim issues and try to work with him/her. From personal experience, I know that this is possible and with persistence you should be able to get satisfaction with this.
  • swedemomswedemom Registered User Posts: 16 New Member
    Thanks so much for this advice. He was not made to sign a waiver. I spent 10 hours the week before he flew working on this--calling both airlines multiple times and made 2 trips to the airport a half hour away--it was a combination ticket we bought through a German carrier, but could never get the airlines to agree on whether he could take in on with him or as excess/oversize baggage. I did not want him "stuck" at the gate unable to take on his cello either. The one airline said there were no more bulkhead seats left. The flight case is "elite quality." His cello teacher travels all over the globe with it and has never had damage to her cello (worth significantly more than my son's). Since it is a European carrier, I will start here and see what can be done. Appreciate your input.
  • musicamusicamusicamusica Registered User Posts: 6,468 Senior Member
    edited February 2015
    Detail that the quality of the case was high and you might get satisfaction. Six months ago D flew Air France LAX to CDG. They lost her luggage and since she had a performance three days after arriving, they immediately issued a check for 500 EU to cover the immediate purchase of a new gown and shoes. The luggage showed up two weeks later and it was pretty much crushed (though the contents where there and intact). They sent her another 300 EU and credited her another 500 EU towards another Air France flight. She was angry that her stuff was crushed but happy with their response. I know that a gown is not a precious instrument, but taking it as far as possible is worthwhile. Even if your insurance covers the damage, he should at least be recompensed for any deductible or expenses due to the inconvenience.
  • glassharmonicaglassharmonica Registered User Posts: 3,244 Senior Member
    What airline was it? There is a lot of social media shaming with regard to treatment of cellos (especially) and it could not hurt to mount a campaign.
  • Mezzo'sMamaMezzo'sMama Forum Champion Music Major Posts: 3,561 Forum Champion
    I love Air France, @musicamusica! They have great customer service and always go that extra mile- other carriers could take lessons from them.
  • momsingsmomsings Registered User Posts: 776 Member
    I am sorry to hear about the damage to your son's cello.
  • MomofbassistMomofbassist Registered User Posts: 698 Member
    Son just sold a cello through ebay and is shipping it to Germany via FEDEX for $700. Hopefully, it will arrive undamaged.
  • swedemomswedemom Registered User Posts: 16 New Member
    The flight was a Virgin Air/British Air flight. We have sent off the paperwork and will see what happens. I did include a link to the song "United Breaks Guitars" and hinted that I hoped we would get better treatment. We found someone to repair it in the US and hope that they do not find more damage. I will report here when I know more. Thanks for all your input.
  • musicprntmusicprnt Registered User Posts: 6,253 Senior Member
    Just a note, it could also have been a TSA (or equivalent overseas), there have been cases where they took instruments out of the case, wanting to look at it, and damaged it, there was a case not long ago in Germany where apparently when they scanned the checked cello, they got curious about it, took it out and it caused damage (apparently it was also caught on security cameras who had done it), it was a very expensive cello, but the German government and the security arm the last I checked were refusing to reimburse for the cost of repair (fortunately, instrument insurance will cover that usually). I have also heard horror stories about TSA people handling instruments, thinking it was cool or something, friend of my son's had that happen, some idiot opened the instrument when she took it through the carry on procedure, and went to open it, and she told them "That's fine, but that is a million dollar instrument, and if you break it, you bought it", and they immediately put it down unopened.
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