Musicians: Ryanair Charges Unnecessary Fees For Stowing Instruments

For years, cheapo airlines like Ryanair have acted like flying tour buses for up-and-coming musicians in Europe. But some musically inclined travelers say the fee-happy carrier recently made it harder on them by tacking on unfair charges for passengers traveling with instruments of any size.

Some of these musicians who had relied on Ryanair to ferry them from gig to gig have joined together in the hopes of fighting what they claim are fees that penalize travelers with few other choices.


Ryanair currently charges a fee for instruments placed in the hold, even though these instruments would otherwise be subject to the same baggage fee as any other suitcase. Even when instruments are small enough to be brought on the plane and placed safely in an overhead bin, musicians are still subject to additional charges. Although some musicians (cellists, for example) often pay for a separate seat for their instrument, Ryanair is mandating that they place their instruments in the hold, meaning the cellist has paid both an extra seat cost and an instrument fee.

Given Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary’s love of fees and history of antagonizing those who complain about his airline, we’re gazing into the Consumerist crystal ball (patent pending, so don’t even think about it), and predicting he’ll start charging a fee to keep Ryanair staffers from deliberately going all Pete Townshend on travelers’ guitars, mandolins and theremins.

How Ryanair is Single-Handedly Ruining the Livelihoods of Musicians []


Edit Your Comment

  1. Important Business Man (Formerly Will Print T-shirts For Food) says:

    How is this airline still in business? Does everyone not read Consumerist? They will never get my money!

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Consumerist is mostly gears toward U.S. residents. Ryanair is almost exclusively a European airline.

      However, I’m sure there is a European version, perhaps called La Consumeriste.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Because they’re really cheap, and that’s all, at the end of the day, what most air travelers care about. Note, nothing in the above post says “Ryanair charges too much for instruments, so we started flying British Airways.” Ryanair, even with the fees, is still the cheaper option.

  2. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    trying to imagine the damage that could happen to a cello in an unpressurized, non temperature regulated cargo hold…
    so they are trying to force musicians off their flights?

    • gman863 says:

      If you’re carrying a cello, it’s a safe bet you’re flying on a much classier airline.

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        No it’s not. You think you just pick up a cello, and *poof* you’re in a philharmonic orchestra that pays your travel costs?

    • humphrmi says:

      I used to think the same thing, until I worked at an airline. Cargo holds are pressurized. It would be quite an engineering feat to put a plane in the air that had half its frame pressurized and half not. Now temp. control on the other hand…

  3. donjumpsuit says:

    I have a strong urge to flame the OP here, but really? This airline is two weeks away from having a coin slot to get into the bathroom (if one still exists on those flights). I am sure every other airline is only $10 or $20 more a ticket, but being treated like a human rather than a fare code on an excel spreadsheet is priceless.

  4. mistersmith says:

    Anyone flying with musical instruments should read — and print out and carry with them — the TSA’s rules and recommendations regarding instruments. In many cases you’re allowed, even encouraged, to bring them as carry-on, and you’re allowed to carry one extra carry-on if it’s an instrument.

    When I moved across the country I drove…and over the next few years, brought home one-by-one the rest of my guitar collection, flying back from Thanksgiving, Christmas, weddings, etc. No domestic carrier (Virgin, United, Delta, Southwest, US Air, and probably others) EVER gave me any grief about carrying a guitar case on board the airplane.

    • kobresia says:

      I think you misinterpreted that, it only says you can carry an additional instrument item through the screening checkpoint, but still leaves allowing instruments as carry-on items to the discretion of the airlines. So, if the airline doesn’t allow it or wants to charge extra, that’s their prerogative, and if you don’t want your prized instrument to be ruined due to mishandling or temp changes, better to find an airline that has a little class.

    • kc2idf says:

      “Ryanair have acted like flying tour buses for up-and-coming musicians in Europe

      The TSA it out of its jurisdiction. I don’t know if the EU has anything resembling a unified equivalent, or if you would instead have to deal with 27 different sets of laws and regulations.

  5. Free Legal Advice! says:

    Way back when I was in college (pre-9/11) my Dad was going to fly my cello up to me. Delta would not allow him to purchase a ticket for the instrument, not even first class. My parents ended up having to have the cello dismantled professionally, shipped to me in Ohio, and I had to have it reassembled. It was merely a matter of having the neck reglued, but it was at least $200 total and several days of hassle. A one-way coach ticket would probably have been between $150-$200. I guess that’s what I get for going to school in the sticks.

    Gee, now that I think of that, I really should get back to playing. Way to lay a guilt trip Consumerist!

  6. Straspey says:

    The American Federation of Musicians has spearheaded a movement to address this issue, which was successful and signed into federal law:

    updated 3/08/12

    Heightened security measures at U.S. airports have impacted the ability of musicians to carry their instruments in-cabin. Below is important information to help you and your instrument safely reach your destination.


    The FAA Modernization and Reform Act (H.R. 658) established a uniform national policy regarding musical instruments on airplanes. Any musical instrument that can be stored safely in the overhead bin or under the seat may be brought on board as a carry-on item. Maximum size and weight requirements for checked instruments are now 150 linear inches and 165 pounds, including the case. Musicians may also purchase an additional seat to stow their instrument in the passenger cabin, as long as the instrument fits in the seat and has a maximum weight of 165 lbs.

    The law goes into effect upon issuance of FAA regulations to carry out the law, which must occur no later than February 2014. AFM is working with Congress, the FAA, and the airlines to make that happen as soon as possible, and to encourage airlines that have not already done so to voluntarily adopt H.R. 658 as their policy in the meantime.

    Please be aware that there will be a transition period as airlines change their stated policies and revise the training materials provided to their employees. During this time, musicians are asked to work cooperatively with ticket agents, airport security personnel, gate attendants, and flight crews to resolve any difficulties encountered with regard to the transportation of musical instruments. For your reference, the major airlines’ existing policies can be found here.

    Taking the following steps will minimize problems at the airport:

    1. Carry a copy of the law with you and present it to airline employees if necessary.

    2. Know the weight of your instrument in its case, and its size in linear inches. Linear inches refers to the sum of the three dimensions. (For example, if your case has dimensions of 20” x 10” x 10”, the linear measure would be 40”.)

    3. Try to be one of the first on board. That way, you will have more time to stow your instrument, and more space options. When making your reservation, request a seat assignment at the back of the plane. During the boarding process, passengers seated in the rear of the aircraft are boarded immediately after first class and special needs passengers. You can also request pre-boarding at the gate. Not all airlines will allow it, but you can ask to board with the special needs passengers.

    4. Limit the number of carry-on items. On most airlines, passengers are permitted one carry-on bag (stored in the overhead bin) and one personal item (stored under the seat). Your instrument will be counted as one of these items. The new law does not allow for exceptions to this rule.


    The FAA reauthorization was signed into law by the President on February 14,
    2012. However, the national instrument policy goes into effect upon issuance of
    FAA regulations to carry out the law, which must occur no later than February
    2014. AFM is working with Congress, the FAA, and the airlines to get these
    regulations in place as soon as possible, and to encourage airlines that have not
    already done so to voluntarily adopt H.R. 658 as their policy in the meantime.
    This means that you may continue to face difficulties at the airport until the new
    procedures are fully rolled out.

    • scoosdad says:

      That’s great, so long as you’re flying in the US on an airline that is under FAA jurisdiction. Ryanair? Nope.