An airline has apologised to a world-renowned violinist after denying him permission to take his £4million ($5million) Stradivarius violin onto one of its aircraft as hand luggage.
The apology was issued by Polish carrier LOT after it told violinist Janusz Wawrowski that he could not take his 338-year-old instrument into the cabin with him on his £400 (2,000 Polish Zloty) flight from Vilnius International Airport in Lithuania to Warsaw.
Despite the violin case conforming to the carrier’s cabin baggage dimension and weight rules – not exceeding 118cm and under eight kilograms – ground staff at Vilnius wouldn’t budge. And they stressed to Mr Wawrowski that he would need to buy another ticket if he wanted to attempt to board the next flight in five hours’ time with his violin as a carry-on item.
Concerned that his instrument could be damaged in the hold, Mr Wawrowski – who had just performed with the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra – paid around £46 (250 Polish Zloty) to travel by bus to the Polish city of Konin, where he lives, reported Simple Flying.
Mr Wawrowski told MailOnline Travel: ‘I was quite shocked at first. I even hoped for a moment that maybe it was a grim joke, because the airport was empty and not many people were travelling that day, so I completely did not expect such problems. When it turned out that indeed the airport staff would not allow me on board with my violin, I was devastated.
Polish carrier LOT apologised to violinist Janusz Wawrowski after denying him permission to take his £4million Stradivarius violin on board one of its planes as hand luggage. Mr Wawrowski is pictured above with the instrument
‘I tried to negotiate with the staff for the legal right that I was actually entitled to, but unfortunately it was not possible. I began to look for alternative ways to get home. Fortunately Lithuania is a neighbouring country to Poland and I could take a bus.’
Following the incident in early February, Mr Wawrowski posted a video on his Facebook page explaining that LOT had since apologised to him.
Mr Wawrowski said: ‘LOT acknowledged the employee’s mistake and stated that it is allowing violins on board all of its planes and also apologised to me in the media and by letter, on email, as well as by phone.
Rather than check his Stradivarius into the hold on his LOT flight, Wawrowski paid for a bus home
‘I received a refund for the additional costs incurred, as well as a refund for the ticket.
‘Importantly, LOT has also changed standardised information on its website as to what luggage we can bring and in musical instruments and in cabin baggage.
‘What else is very important, LOT has promised to issue information to all its employees and associates around the world [about] how we carry the instruments in question.
‘Including, of course, violins in the cabin. Thank you [LOT], for that. Also, perhaps something more will come out of this.
‘We will do a campaign together with LOT on how, where and what instruments we carry on the plane.’
Mr Wawrowski’s website states: ‘[Wawrowski’s] solo career brings him to perform in a number of the world’s most important concert halls, including: Musikverein in Vienna, Wigmore Hall in London, Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Beethoven-Saal in Stuttgart [and] Seoul Arts Center.
‘Wawrowski is recognised as one of the most outstanding and experienced violinists of his generation. He received widespread public attention in 2007 with his first solo album, Paganini’s Caprices, released on CD Accord.’
Mr Wawrowski’s violin, called ‘Polonia’ and made in 1685 by master Italian craftsman Antonio Stradivari, is one of the most valuable musical instruments in the world.
Major orchestras often charter aircraft when on tour to avoid the risk of instruments being denied as carry-on items.
Mr Wawrowski performs with major orchestras around the world
Mr Wawrowski added: ‘Needless to say, any trip with such a valuable and historic instrument is a great responsibility and every musician has additional stress in the back of the mind. It is extremely valuable baggage. I always have a sense of mission, as a musician and a person who appreciates the artistry of this instrument, the craftsmanship of the luthier [maker of stringed instruments] who made it.
‘This is not an item that I transport just for myself. I am aware that someday, when I stop playing – retire or die – some other violinist may have the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful instrument, to give concerts on it. This awareness puts a lot of responsibility on me.
‘Of course for safety reasons there are a lot of traps along the way on airplanes in the form of unfavourable people, or those who do not understand what such a violin is. Many people try to help me, from guards at the airport, to flight attendants or even pilots. But one person out of 100 will not understand the subject or wants to prove their point… and this starts to be very hard indeed, because even if we meet 50 people on our way with a positive attitude and then one who blocks something, it can really cause an additional problem.’