Blog: Air guitar - it's no joke

For professional musicians, touring can be a crucial source of income and a valuable way of building a reputation on the music circuit. However, musicians planning to take flight with their instruments often face more difficulties than they should.

Musicians report that airlines are increasingly requiring that musicians travelling with guitars, or other similarly sized instruments, purchase seats for their instruments or place them in the aircraft hold. Social media is abuzz with horror stories about damaged precious instruments and extra charges. Extra cost is a barrier, temperatures are often very low in the hold, and instruments can be damaged during transit.

This makes life for musicians much more difficult than it needs to be. For professional musicians, musical instruments are both essential for working and often very costly to purchase. I’ve heard first-hand about the anxiety musicians feel, worrying that their instruments might be damaged or facing additional charges for an extra seat on the aircraft. The difficulty and uncertainty of taking an instrument abroad can make touring a real challenge.

The Musicians Union has raised this issue repeatedly with airlines over recent years, but it has still not been fully resolved. That’s why I started EDM 775, which already has cross-Party support, and raised airline charges for musicians in the House of Commons. I am calling on the airlines to agree to a code of practice to give travelling musicians consideration, fair and consistent treatment, as well as peace of mind.

In the Government’s recent reshuffle, Matt Hancock was promoted to Secretary of State for Culture. While there are many areas where Labour and Tory culture policy will clash, I am hopeful that this is an area where we can work together for the benefit of working musicians. Taking a proactive step to resolve this issue would be a positive, productive way for Matt Hancock to begin his tenure as Culture Secretary.

I’ve written to him asking if he will take up this issue with his colleagues in the Department for Transport, and call in the airlines, together with the MU and other interested parties, for a roundtable discussion to try to agree an industry code of practice for musicians travelling with musical instruments. I've raised the issue with the Transport Secretary too.

This USA’s Department of Transport have already issued regulations which could provide a useful springboard for discussions.

Airlines’ treatment of travelling musicians can cause stress, anxiety, and damage to costly instruments. But it could be largely resolved with a common sense, consensual solution that wouldn’t impose serious cost on business. In fact, by working together to establish trust and goodwill between the parties, everyone could benefit.

Air guitar – it’s no joke.