Violinist fights Jetstar over broken instrument

CHANGES to airline policies may force musicians to either buy a separate seat for their instrument or take the risk of putting it in the cargo hold.

Zoe Bloomfield, a violin player and teacher, is battling Jetstar for compensation over claims her $7000 violin was damaged after she was forced to put it in the cargo hold - at a cost of $80 - on a flight from Hobart to Sydney last month.

The violin, which she normally carried as hand luggage without any problems, arrived in Sydney sporting a 10-centimetre crack that she believes was caused by ''downward pressure from something falling on it''.

The repair estimate is $2200 - the violin is not insured - and Jetstar has so far refused to pay.

Yesterday the airline said Ms Bloomfield, who plays with the Tasmanian Discovery Orchestra, could file a claim for compensation of up to $1600. But she may have to cancel a performance in Tasmania in three weeks' time.

''I'm afraid the crack will open up [if I play it],'' she said.

Each airline's cabin baggage policy differs slightly, but mid-sized instruments such as violins are often at the centre of disputes.

A spokesman for Jetstar, Simon Westaway, confirmed it was investigating Ms Bloomfield's case and acknowledged the ''high emotional and cost value'' of instruments. He said Jetstar was developing a new strap to enable violinists to carry their instruments on the seat beside them at their own expense.

Qantas, which owns Jetstar but has separate policies for the airlines, said it was increasing the cabin allowance for violins and violas from 115 centimetres to 130 centimetres. All larger instruments, such as cellos, require their own seat.

The chief executive of Live Performance Australia, Evelyn Richardson, said airlines should take a more equitable approach to cabin baggage ''when you see the number of businessmen who get on with large bags''.

A letter sent last month by Qantas to a member of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, and obtained by the Herald, said the issue had flared up recently because of new cabin baggage directives.

The letter said: ''A lot of our crew show some discretion with violins/violas and allow it on, which we should, [but] some stick very rigidly to policy and request passengers buy a seat for it or check it in … not the ideal outcome for the customer.''

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