European airlines will be obliged to lay out their terms and conditions for carrying musical instruments, both in the cabin and in the hold, under new revisions proposed by the European Commission (EC). The proposals, which could become law as early as 2014, will also ensure that instruments are not refused for any reason apart from ‘safety or technical specificities of the aircraft’.

‘Musicians often do not know in advance under which conditions fragile and often very expensive instruments will be taken on board,’ states the EC memo, published on 13 March. ‘Under the proposal, the air carriers must accept smaller instruments into the passenger cabin and must clearly indicate the terms and conditions for the transport of larger instruments in the cargo hold.’ The proposal, however, does not give definitions for ‘smaller’ and ‘larger’ instruments.

Regarding the liability of airlines over passengers and their luggage, the memo states: ‘National authorities will be responsible for the enforcement of compensation rules for mishandled baggage, and the new rules on the transport of musical instruments make sure that their carriage is not refused on other grounds than safety or technical specificities of the aircraft.’

John Smith, president of the International Federaion of Musicians, welcomed the proposals. ‘It is only by working at a European and international level that we can successfully tackle this issue, as the problem is much broader than just UK airlines,’ he said. ‘The problem has always been that existing law allows each airline to set their own policy regarding musical instrument, and this proposal would bring much needed uniformity and fairness to the whole sector.’

The proposals are part of an extensive revision of the EC’s air passenger rights legislation, aimed at clarifying the airlines’ various regulations and eliminating ‘legal grey areas’. As well as the provisions on musical instruments, the commission seeks to force airlines to clarify baggage allowances, provide clear procedures for handling complaints, and eliminate charges for correcting misspelt names on tickets.