Posted by jeff miller on September 29, 2001 at 08:31:44:
In Reply to: Re: Airline Surcharge posted by jdin on September 25, 2001 at 11:22:33:
I have a lot of experience flying internationally with a tuba, and have flown both with tubas in the cargo hold as well as in seats. Both have advantages and disadvantages. If you are considering flying with your tuba in a seat, I suggest you read this post. (I know it's long and vitreolic, but believe me, it's worth it to know what can happen)
Basically, the big problem with buying a seat for an instrument is that the airline beauracracy isn't set up to handle that sort of transaction, and a lot of problems can result, with the worst case scenario being told that you have to put it in the hold anyway.
Here's my worst case story. Last month, I flew from the UK to the US with British Airways, and, to save hassle/expense/danger of damage, bought a seat for my 4/4 Hirsbrunner. I bought the tuba through a well known, reputable travel agent that I have used many times.
The travel agent told me that that the seat reservation for the tuba would need to be approved by the airline, but that the ticket needed to be purchased first. I called British Airways Customer Advice, gave them the dimensions and details, and was told that I would have no problem whatsoever putting the tuba on the plane. I bought the non-refundable tickets and gave the agent the dimensions of my tuba in a gig bag.
A few days later, I was contacted by the agent and informed that the airline was requiring me to buy 2 (yes, TWO, II, deux, you get the idea) seats for the tuba, as it was too big to go in one seat (What?!!). During the next week, I spent an hour or two a day on the phone with British Airways trying to get it sorted out. Unfortunately, every time I called I got a different representative with no record of my previous phone calls. In addition, I was not allowed to speak directly to the department which was requiring that I buy yet another seat for my tuba.
After speaking to about 12 different people, I was eventually told that the problem was that the tuba was 36" LONG, and thus was too wide for a seat. I had told them repeatedly that the tuba was 36" TALL, not long, but that had been lost in the shuffle somewhere. I was eventually assured that the tuba would go in a single seat on the airplane.
I arrived at the airport to check in for the flight; we were told that the people had seats, but that my tuba's ticket did not actually guarantee a seat on the plane. I explained all the phone conversations I'd had, and was told that that was "not their problem". I demanded a supervisor, and was then told that although the tuba's ticket was paid for, someone had cancelled the seat reservation that I had worked a week to get. They found the tuba a seat.
I arrived at the gate to board the airplane, and was then told by yet another airline employee that the tuba would have to be carried onto the plane and tied in by the airline cargo crew. I insisted that I be allowed to carry it onto the plane, and was eventually allowed to do so by the cargo crew.
That was the flight out.
On the way back, they had found my seat reservation, but lost the record of my payment for the seat. Another 60 minute phone call got that sorted out. I was allowed to carry the thing on board (despite the increased security requirements) but had to have it scanned on the cargo x-ray machine. The guy putting the stuff through the machine was very rough with it, despite being told how fragile it was, and now I have a 4" crease in my bell.
So, weigh carefully your decision about whether to put the thing in the hold or buy a seat. Both can be a big hassle, very expensive, and both can result in a damaged instrument. If anyone has any questions about flying with a tuba in either way, you can email me privately at elvis(AT)gtemail.net
Sorry about the rant; couldn't figure out how to get all the sordid details in a shorter post. Boycott BA!!