Who knew that an inanimate object needed to have a travel visa on airplanes?
Jane Bevan, a musician from Switzerland, was about to board her British Airways flight to Baltimore when she was halted at check-in, because a staff member informed her that she needed a USA ESTA travel visa for her cello, the Independent reported.
The 35-year-old brought her instrument with her because she was planning on attending a course with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
“I booked a seat for both myself and the cello using a flight comparison website GoToGate, which shows you the best value options,” Bevan said.
She notified the website about the cello and it was booked in its own seat under “Chuck Cello,” and GoToGate told her to contact British Airlines directly about her additional booking.
“I rang BA [British Airways] about a month before the flight and spoke to a customer service agent in one of their call centers. They told me the second seat booked for the cello followed airline policy, that there was nothing further for me to do and I should check-in as normal,” she said.
Bevan waited for over two hours to wait for the British Airways employee to speak to her supervisor only to find out that she was not able to check-in the seat for her instrument because the object needs an ESTA visa.
After the long wait, her flight was canceled, she didn’t receive a refund and Bevan was told she can purchase another flight for $4,592.80.
Bevan ended up rebooking another flight to Baltimore, but this time with United Airlines.
“I had no problems with United Airlines. The staff were very friendly and even offered to put my cello in first class,” she said.
She previously traveled with her cello with other airlines in the past and this was the first time it seemed to be an issue for her while traveling.
British Airways told The Strad, “This was a highly unusual incident which arose after the customer booked a seat for her cello as a named passenger. This is what triggered the requirement for an ESTA from the US government. The ticket the customer booked through a third party website was non-refundable.”
British Airways further stated that they should be contacted to discuss arrangements regarding booking a musical instrument.
It’s baffling that British Airways failed to take responsibility for their unorganized mistake and instead, blamed their customer.
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