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Carry-on kerfuffle on BSO return trip

“Holy cow — @BritishAirways is about to kick the whole @BostonSymphony off their flight home!!”

That was the tweet sent out on Sunday by Toby Oft, principal trombonist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Led by music director Andris Nelsons, the BSO was returning from an ambitious two-week European tour, during which it had performed in eight cities in England, France, Austria, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. After a final concert in Berlin, the musicians were on their way home, but they ran into a problem with a connecting flight.

According to Chris Ruigomez, the BSO’s director of concert operations, it was a full flight, and there were unexpected carry-on restrictions at the gate. “Three people with instruments were told they had to check them, or at least their other bags,” he told the Globe via text on Sunday. But orchestral instruments are often fragile, and musicians are understandably reluctant to check such valuable property in with regular cargo.

“My trombone that was fine for all the 3 BA flights prior on this trip is now too big for a 747,” Oft tweeted.


Ruigomez clarified that the airline “did not threaten to throw us all off, but we told them we would take us all off if our colleagues couldn’t get their instruments on.” In a separate tweet, he said there was “some heated discussion about instruments and carry on bags. Orchestras beware.”

When contacted by the Globe, a spokesperson for British Airways responded, “We are sorry to hear that some members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra experienced some difficulties with carrying on their musical instruments.” The airline recently changed the size allowed for carry-on handbags, he explained, but musical instruments can be brought on board if they fit the size allowed for a second cabin bag, which hasn’t changed. “We’ll also try and accommodate instruments that are slightly larger,” he said via e-mail, “however our flights are very busy at this time of the year and sometimes it’s not always possible to accommodate every customer’s cabin bag in the overhead containers.”


Fortunately, the story has a happy ending. The issue was ultimately resolved, and the orchestra boarded. Ruigomez texted a final note before lifting off:

“Flight crew seems nice in coach.”

Names can be reached at names@globe.com.