The UK’s Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) has denounced the decision by British Airways (BA) to reduce the size of hand luggage permissible on its flights. The new restrictions mean that violinists and viola players must either check in their instruments to be stored in the hold, or else buy a seat for their instruments.

BA’s policy formerly allowed baggage up to 126cm to be stored in overhead compartments. The new rules reduce the length of acceptable items to just 56cm. The standard length of a violin case is 80cm, and even a guitar case, according to the ISM, is only 117cm.

‘It is unreasonable to expect precious and valuable instruments to be placed in the hold of an aeroplane,’ said ISM chief executive Deborah Annetts, ‘and it can be prohibitively expensive for musicians to purchase an extra seat for a small instrument such as violin.’ She also noted that budget airline easyJet had increased its baggage allowance in early 2011 to accommodate musical instruments: ‘Given that easyJet changed its policy to support the creative economy and our professional musicians it is baffling that British Airways has taken such a retrograde and damaging course of action.’

A spokesperson for the ISM said the organisation had been contacted by tour operators that had fallen foul of the changes ‘over the past two months’, and that as far as it knew, no official statement regarding the new policy had ever been made. The BA press office confirmed that the matter was now being examined in response to the ISM statement.