SIA apologises to Swiss music group

SIA apologises to Swiss music group

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has apologised after hitting a bum note with a group of classical musicians.

The national carrier has launched a review after the Swiss-based teenagers missed their flight in Hong Kong because ground staff there did not let them board the plane with their multi-million-dollar instruments.

A spokesman told The Straits Times yesterday that it is looking into how the incident could have been better handled.

Members of the ensemble, the LGT Young Soloists, who had performed in Singapore and Hong Kong, were scheduled to travel on Flight SQ871 from Hong Kong to Zurich via Singapore on Saturday.

They had checked in a double bass, booked seats for two cellos and were carrying eight violins and violas as hand baggage - just as they had done for their SIA flight when they left Zurich.

The group did not encounter any issues at the time, artistic director Alexander Gilman told The Strad - a monthly magazine for the music industry.

But at Hong Kong airport on Saturday, SIA insisted that the violins and violas had to be checked in, he said.

Mr Gilman said he explained to the staff that some of the instruments - including a Stradivarius, a Testore and two Gaglianos - were very costly but was told that the airline was merely enforcing its policy.

Some of these instruments reportedly cost millions.

"When we questioned staff as to why we had encountered no such problems on our flights to Singapore and Hong Kong, they gave us no reply. We did everything we could, but it was like talking to a wall," he told The Strad.

Eventually, the group decided to book an alternative flight on German carrier Lufthansa, which allowed the instruments to be carried on board.

Mr Gilman added: "It's worth mentioning that our tickets to Hong Kong and Singapore were booked by the same travel agency that books flights for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. They have lots of experience and know all about the policies of different airlines on musical instruments.

"What happened in Hong Kong is out of this world. And treating young children like this is a disgrace."

The group's musicians are reportedly aged between 13 and 19.

On its website, SIA says an oversized musical instrument - such as a cello, for example - can be carried on board in economy class if an extra seat is purchased. The instrument must be placed on the floor and properly secured with seat belts to the seat frame. There is no mention of what must be done with smaller instruments like violins.

SIA said it "regrets" the Hong Kong incident and "sincerely apologises for the inconvenience and anxiety caused to the group". The spokesman added that the airline would contact the group directly to follow up with them.

This article was first published on Dec 10, 2014.
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