Ryanair vs The Violin : Blame The Passenger Not The Airline

Everyday I read stories regarding passengers who are upset about carry on bags, checked bags, legroom, missing flights because they were late. Today was no different … except today this story was published by the BBC and it is virally traveling throughout Twitter, Ryanair tells girl to buy £190 plane seat for violin.

According to the BBC Francesca Rijks, 12, a music student from Cheshire, was flying home from Dusseldorf, from Weeze Airport (NRN),  following a family vacation in Germany with Ryanair when she was informed she’d need to buy a seat for her violin case or pay a fee to place it in the baggage hold.

This news story leaves out a number of key pieces of the story, given that Ryanair is very well known for its “No Exceptions” carry on baggage policy.  The first question I would ask,  since Francesca father, Harmen Rijks, states the airline said the violin could be carried on, did he look at Ryanair’s very easy to find and public policy that requires passengers to purchase a seat for small instruments when flying with the airline?

While Ryanair allows for up to 10kg (22lbs) &  55cm x 40cm 20cm (21in x 15.5in x 7.5in) for its carry on baggage it is extremely strict in carrying out it’s “No Exceptions” carry-baggage policy.

Ryanair’s carry-on rules go rules go one step further that most in enforcing it’s ‘one carry’ policy … Should you purchase any duty free in the airport it must be carry inside the carry on bag. Have a camera? It cannot be on your shoulder, it must be in your carry on bag.  Woman with a purse? Nope, it must fit inside the bag

While Mr. Rijks contends that the airline allowed them to carry the violin at check in, only to be stopped at the gate, failure to comply with the rules is not a reason to be upset with the airline. An error by a check-in agent is also not ground for a passenger to not comply with a clearly published rule by an airline.

Mr. Rijks states “This was an absolute disgrace. Their policy appears to discriminate against violinists, the vast majority of whom simply can’t afford to purchase an additional seat,” however a section of Ryanair’s website clearly states the following “Smaller musical items, such as a guitar, violin or viola which exceed our cabin baggage dimensions may be carried in the cabin, if an extra seat has been purchased.”

While I may not agree with many of Ryanair’s pricing policies, their website and policies do not hide their fees, The airline is very transparent about is ancillary costs and it reserves the right to place any restrictions or additional fees on baggage it chooses, whether passengers agree or not.

The Incorporated Society of Musicians senior legal advisor David Abrahams added “The idea that musicians should be forced to purchase an additional seat on board an aircraft because they are carrying an instrument that can be stored safely in the overhead lockers is unfair, discriminatory and irrational.

Personally I do not agree with Mr. Abrahams, Ryanair charges passengers to buy a ticket, in addition to the ticket fee, as well as to get a boarding pass … and for nearly everything else possible. The fact is that Ryanair e-mails each and every passenger a clear set of rules and regulations they must agree to before the booking is final. While much of what Ryanair does may seem irrational, the fact is the airline turns a profit and does so by charging fees most other airlines would never dare to dream of … even in this new age of charging for everything.

Anyone flying with Ryanair must know that a £1 fare from the UK to Germany is to good to be true … and that when all the fees and related costs are added up its often not less expensive than flying a different airline that is not as restrictive and does not have a militant “no exceptions” policy.

Happy Flying!


  1. Richardo

    1) Use a real e-mail address and preferably a real name.

    2) I side with the consumers very often … but not when they failed to understand a policy that is very clear and very easy to find. I have little to no sympathy for anyone having problems with Ryanair. If you fly Ryanair you have to know what you’re getting into, their reputation is well known.

    Happy Flying!


  2. The main issue is one of discrimination. Ryanair has changed its policy on this in the last 18 months and has only recently started to enforce it. It’s not about whether one can read the rules or not it’s about penalising a minority who often have no other choice than to use Ryanair. I have set up the Facebook page Muaicians Against Ryanair to rally a boycott of the airline. We have over 13,000 members and increasing. Unfortunately not everyone has a choice, it depends where they live. Fragile instruments that are antiques and cost as much as a house cannot be put into an aircraft hold that’s the fact. It’s not the same as golfers or skiers whose equipment is too big and is for pleasure. We are talking about students and professionals who need to travel but who now have a 100% increase in their fares. That’s not fair!

  3. Keith,

    Compare airfares for most routes then seek out other airlines. This is not about musicians, this is for everyone who flies Ryanair.

    Have you not noticed that Ryanair charges a fee simply to pay them? They charge a fee for you to get a boarding pass … and you’re shocked they charge you for instrument? Throughout Europe you have many airline choices, simply choose a different airline. I assure you that Michael O’Leary will not change the company policy based on your protests.

    Also … take note that many airlines have instituted many new fees for things that were otherwise ‘free’ 18 months ago.

    Happy Flying!


  4. It goes without saying that I and more than 13,000 others are comparing airfares and seeking out other airlines where possible. This IS about musicians – why else would the press have written the articles about musicians and Ryanair if it were not about them? To take your point ‘this is for everyone’, erm, I think musicians are a small minority on any flight so no it’s not ‘for everyone’. Not every passenger has to pay an extra seat (100% more) to travel with Ryanair but musicians do, why is it so difficult to understand this fundamental point? Your point ‘that Michael O’Leary will not change the company policy based on your protests’ is missing just one additional word – YET!

  5. Keith,

    First off, the story of Ryanair vs the Violin made it into the media not because a musician was singled out, but because a 12 year old little girl was ‘forced’ to buy an extra seat for her violin by an large ‘evil’ airline.

    The story makes a great sound-bite.

    Secondly, musicians are not singled out by Ryanair … in fact others are as well, including brides….yes brides. Ryanair ‘graciously’ allows brides to ‘purchase an extra seat for the carriage of a wedding dress in the cabin.’

    Ryanair also singles out those who are injured … and given that my leg was in a cast for two months this year, this caught my attention. Break your leg? Well “Adult passengers travelling with full leg in cast must purchase *3 seats* in total, per journey, to travel.”

    Ryanair however does allow hikers to carry on their Avalanche Rescue Packs as stated here “An avalanche rescue pack with one nitrogen/air cylinder can be included in either cabin or checked baggage.”

    As for Ryanair changing its policy based on protests? The word “yet” does not apply … this is an airline that has been planning to change passengers for use of the lavatory. Their initial concept for pay-toilets was shot down by Boeing because Ryanair wanted to use coin operated toilets. Now that they are looking into credit card/debit card swipes … they are reinvestigating the idea of pay toilets on flights under a certain length of time.

    By the way…brides being required to purchase a seat for their dress is a much better sound bite in the media than “34 year old guitarist forces to buy a seat for his axe.”

    Happy Flying!


  6. OK, the story got to the press a result of Musicians Against Ryanair’s growing membership – the press has been following it for ages. There are many stories like the 12 year old’s lamentable experience but this was the story that was picked up. As far as brides are concerned, even Elizabeth Taylor only got married seven times in her whole life. Professional musicians travel many many times each year! I broke my foot recently too but would not have dreamed of travelling by plane unless it was a total emergency, why would you? As for an avalanche rescue pack, are you serious? LOL. Again you fail to understand the point, it’s not protest that will change the policy, it is boycott. Michael O’Leary will understand that one – it was an Irish invention.

  7. Yes Keith, it is called ‘use a different airline’ which is what Fish was saying.

    Not happy with Ryanair and its pricing policies….use a different airline. It is called ‘choice’.

    Personally I would never fly Ryanair; apart from anything else, as Fish pointed out, by the time you add up all the ‘extras’ you might as well have flown with someone else anyway because the difference in price is not that much. Just to be clear, that is not because I am flush with cash, far from it, a flight would be a seriously major expense for me.

  8. Keith,

    I can tell you as someone who spent the majority of their career as a journalist and as someone who interacts with those who cover the airline industry daily that the story was picked up because of the “12 year old girl” sound bite potential.

    Secondly, as I have been covering Ryanair for quite some time … just read my blog, which has been around for a few years … I can point to various examples of where Ryanair bowed down to no one and followed their own path. Your protest falls on deaf ears with Ryanair

    Thirdly … who flies with a broken ankle & their leg in a cast? I do. Since the time I broke my ankle and now , when I presently have two severed ligaments in my right ankle as a result of the injury I sustained in late March I have racked up close to 30,000 miles in the air. Why do I do this? Its my job!

    Happy Flying!


  9. Mr. Frischling, you and the other “instruments are frills” folks who take a hostile attitude toward musicians are missing several important points, notably that smaller instruments – violins, violas, and trumpets, for example – easily fit into an overhead compartment.

    Forcing someone to buy a seat for a violin – which is actually too small to be permitted in a seat; it would have to go into an overhead compartment – is a scam, pure and simple. Even the likes of bottomfeeder Ryanair can be embarrassed out of something like that. The Facebook group can help with that.

    As a journalist myself (and, might I note, one who knows the rules of grammar, including how to use apostrophes), I agree that the 12-year-old girl provides the hook for the story. That’s not the meat, though, which is the inconsistent and negatively whimsical treatment of instrumentalists throughout the entire airline industry.

    While I know that bloggers can gain more readers through taking a contrarian stand, I think you erred on this one. “Happy flying” is, alas, an oxymoron.

    Try again!

  10. Glen – we ARE using a different airline WHERE POSSIBLE (we don’t all live in central London) that’s the point, but we are boycotting NOT protesting – that’s the difference, and when we have enough people doing so it will be an attractive chunk of business that MO’L will be missing. This is our aim, pure and simple 🙂 Get it?

  11. Bryan,

    I applaud your grammatical skills … and when not writing my blog I tend to use a copy editor to correct my grammatical errors.

    Let me as you this, is it wrong for some airlines to single out certain photographers and require them to check their gear or buy a seat for larger gear when the camera could possibly fit in the overhead compartment? Should I feel singled out because my roll-aboard bag loaded with camera gear is almost always stopped by every regional airline around the world and forced to be stair-checked when on regional aircraft and turbo props?

    My bag does fit under the seat of nearly all regional jets and most commercial turbo props … but it is the regulations of the airline.

    As for musicians who are boycotting Ryanair, I wish you the best of luck…but 13,000 – 14,000 people boycotting on a Facebook page does not necessarily translate into real numbers for Ryanair. Ryanair is engaged in a race to the bottom, and does it by playing to the lowest common denominator of travel. Ryanair will look at thosee a boycotting the airline the factor how many musicians are actual potential frequent flyers with brand loyalty, how many actually live/work within Ryanair’s route network and how many purchase the £1 fare vs the last minute £59 fares.

    Additionally, while 13k-14k people may seem a lot, Ryanair’s available seats are 47,250 seats, based on 250 aircraft 189 seat configurations. Factor in the airline flies 264,600 seats per day against your 13k-14k people who are seeking concessions from an airline famous for not giving an inch but taking a mile from its passengers.

    As for writing a contrarian stance you might want to take a look at the content on Flying With Fish over the past few years. My stance is not contraian, it is simply that passengers need to take responsibility when they butt heads with an airline and its published policy.

    By the way, your IP shows you as being in St. Louis … are you from Europe and a Ryanair flyer or in the St. Louis and totally unfamiliar with Ryanair?

    Happy Flying!


  12. Keith,

    You say you’re using airlines other than Ryanair where possible. There are alternatives to Ryanair routes on each and every single route the airline flies. Ryanair operates from more than 40 ‘bases.’ While London-Stansted is Ryanair’s largest base, you can find alternate travel options on other carriers and most often for an equal or lesser total trip cost when all factors are considered.

    As I stated to Bryan Miller, a boycott of 13k-14k … many of whom seem to not be located anywhere near Ryanair’s route network … will not impress Michael O’Leary. Ryanair’s base number of seats in the fleet on a single flight per day is 47,250 seats. In June 2010 Ryanair flew 264,600 seats every day and 7,938,000 seats for the month. Given that Ryanair consistently flies at a high passenger capacity you’d need a much higher number to even get Michael O’Leary to look at you twice.

    Happy Flying!


  13. Mr. Frischling, one should use apostrophes properly even in everyday writing. They’re too basic to dismiss. One can’t count upon the copy desk, and, besides, it gives readers a negative impression.

    Some people might say that publicizing a commenter’s geographic location without asking permission is a form of outing, intended to injure the outee, and, as such, not quite kosher. As it happens, I get to Europe a couple of times each year, and have flown Ryanair. I won’t do fly it again; there is such a thing as a false economy.

    Stair-checking on regional jets is legitimate because there are so many different configurations, and it wastes time if you get aboard, discover that something doesn’t fit, and have to get it back to the stairs, and so on. No one wants to check delicate equipment, but I haven’t had a problem with it so far. But, again, a musical instrument is a different matter, because it is too delicate to go into a hold… period.

    I’m not a part of the boycott; I’m following it as a matter of professional interest – but if the story gets enough play, it could make a difference in the airline’s policies.

    Again, you’re missing the core element of this story.

  14. Bryan,

    Outing your location via an IP address you shared with my server is not wrong in anyway. It allows me to know who I am conversing with … much like identifying you as Sarah Bryan Miller, not Bryan Miller and that you’re a classical music critic working with the St. Louis Post Dispatch and KFOU.

    Happy Flying!


  15. Fish – Again you persist in missing the point. We ARE choosing alternative airlines WHERE POSSIBLE, get it? I agree thirteen thousand is not enough to upset Ryanair yet but do the maths, thats already a hefty potential loss of revenue for them. We will persist and grow, be sure of it – I know musicians!

  16. Fish isn’t missing the point, Ryanair will not care about this ‘boycott’ the story is essentially dead in the media already, and for every musician that ‘boycots’ the airline, another person will take their spot in their search for ever lower fares. This is Ryanair we’re talking about, the one that want’s STANDING tickets for flights on short hauls. I understand the plight of musicians in this case; however, there are dozens of other groups of people discriminated by airlines all over the world (obese buying extra tickets, etc.) In the end you get what you pay for and MUST understand the rules associated with the ticket. I personally won’t fly Ryanair if I ever go to Europe, but I know that others will gladly buy a ticket in my place….

  17. Oh well Fish, never mind, you can only try so hard to get people to understand what you are saying.

    As to the facebook thing, how many of them have been regular users of RyanAir and is the so called ‘loss’ of their business really going to drain RyanAir’s coffers, I don’t think so.

    For everyone who does not use their services there are plenty who will put what they think is a saving (but really isn’t) above any such boycott.

    At the end of the day you can get a better service and pay about the same with another airline.

    Fish’s points are still valid.

    As to fussing over apostrophes, oh please get a life, this is a blog for goodness sake which means that sometimes it is rushed out to fit around other activities (especially those that pay the bills)

  18. Glenn – I for one spend thousands of euro a year on travel as a musician, and I am certainly one of thousands of others who do the same. You need only read the posts on Musicians Against Ryanair to guage how much money RA will lose, especially when this grows. Boycotts can last years, we’ve only be going a few months…

  19. Keith

    You might try looking up how many others are protesting and boycotting Ryanair. Even a Mirror columnist has publicly called for a Boycott of Ryanair in one of her columns earlier this year. O’Leary see this as further promotion of his airline.

    Surprisingly when Ryanair introduces new fees that get the airline significant negative press in the media they tend to actually see an increase in sales immediately following the negative press.

    I have flown Ryanair once and have no plans to fly them again. My low cost carrir preference in Europe BMI Baby or if they are not on the route I want, EasyJet or Jet2.

    Happy Flying!


  20. Fish – I would like to see Michael O’Leary’s sales increase. We could help him do that if he lifted Ryanair’s new policy against musicians. Until then our boycott will grow. Happy writing!

  21. @flyingfish, relevant to post no.9: “Why do I do this? Its my job!”

    That applies to the whole question of musicians flying with instruments too. It’s certainly no fun to fly with an instrument, but I fly many times a month and ONLY because it’s my job. My job involves playing said instrument, and it has to be there.

    What we are protesting about is discrimination, and it is clearly that in cases where ONLY musicians have to pay extra for a bag that is the same size as everyone else’s cabin baggage, just because it is an instrument.
    Facing up to this discrimination and the extra charges every week also makes it more significant than a once off inconvenience – “Why are musicians whining so much? It’s only €40-€100 extra.” Right.

    14,000 people who go on holiday once a year is also not the same as 14,000 musicians who travel every week, in terms of leverage. That equates to 700,000 normal passengers. It’s still not much, but a pretty good start for a couple of months.

    Seeing the amount of vitriol and personal insult you heap on anyone who doesn’t agree with your pretty one-sided view of the world, I’m not hoping for a reasoned reply here. I just found my colleagues’ viewpoints worthy of some support.

  22. Flyingfish… Whilst you are right, Ryanair do quote in T&C that to take a vioin on board you MUST buy another seat, because it will not fit in the overhead locker… (That is the point) But the violin case DOES fit..perfectly and with loads of room to spare…its just that it is longer than the measurements stated… Anyway A friend of mine followed the rules to the letter and bought the extra seat… boarded the plane placed the violin on the seat and belted it in.. the Stewardess INSISTED that he removed it from the seat and put it in the overhead locker… when he argued his case.. they nearly threw him off the flight, so he had to put it in the locker.. So you see YOU are wrong (and a bit of an arse) obviously you are not a musician who has to travel with an instrument… If you did you wouldn’t have such a one sided view… Easyjet State in their T&C that musical instruments are permitted up to 130cm length.. so I fly with them every chance i get… Ryanair are only used when i am desperate – flying to Germany for example
    I then have a box made specially for the fiddle and my case goes in my bag sticks it right up them… you on the other hand dont know what you are on about…until it affects you..

  23. Greg,

    Contact RyanAir, as well as carriers such as WestJet. These airlines now clearly state that instruments cannot fly in an empty seat, even if a seat has been purchased, for safety reasons. the reason is that seat restraints are designed for humans, not instrument cases.

    Happy Flying!


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