Alitalia Airlines responds to images of damaged viola da gamba

8 January 2018, 11:44

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The Italian airline has said it ‘deeply regrets’ the damage done to the 17th-century viola da gamba.

Musician Myrna Herzog posted images of her viola da gamba and the damage it sustained after an Alitalia flight from Rio de Janiero to Tel Aviv.

The instrument, which Ms Herzog says is worth $200,000 (£148,000), was shown smashed in the photograph inside its case, which was also damaged.

Ms Herzog posted the photos to Facebook, along with the message: “Alitalia hates musicians … this is how Alitalia delivered to me my original 17th century Lewis viola da gamba … it was savagely vandalized.”

The airline has now issued a statement:

“We regret what happened with Mrs. Myrna Herzog and we are carrying out all necessary investigations.

“However, generally speaking, we would like to remind that for all bags exceeding the size limits allowed for cabin bags (8kg and 55 cm high, 35 cm wide and 25 cm deep), such as the musical instrument mentioned, it is necessary to purchase an ‘extra seat’ during the booking procedure in case the passenger intends to avoid checking-in such delicate and/or valuable items. The extra seat, which is normally dedicated to passengers, allows to secure the item with the appropriate procedure.

“According to a preliminary investigation, no such request has been presented by the passenger neither during booking nor at the time of departure from Rio de Janeiro. During check-in operations, according to the information available at the moment, the passenger was presented with the possibility to buy an ‘extra seat’ but she refused and signed the limited release form (a disclaimer of liability) after being informed that the best solution for such a delicate item was to bring it with her in the cabin.

“That said, Alitalia deeply regrets what happened to Mrs. Herzog and will proceed, having established the facts, with the reimbursement in compliance with the international regulations in force.”

Airline completely destroys precious 17th-century string instrument

Responding to Alitalia’s statement, Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), the UK’s professional body for musicians, said: “Once again a priceless instrument has been destroyed by an airline. International travel is an essential part of a professional musician’s career and they should not have to risk terrible damage to their highly valuable and unique instruments every time they tour.

“We urge Alitalia to adopt a clear, musician friendly policy as soon as possible, allowing small instruments like a violin in the cabin as hand luggage and enabling musicians to book seats for larger instruments as other airlines do.

“Until all airlines adopt a musician-friendly policy or the European Commission regulates the sector – as has been done in the US – musicians are likely to face continuing uncertainty and unnecessary costs.”