Dear airline companies and powers-that-be at the TSA,
Speaking as a musician, I want to acknowledge that your industry plays a very important role in the lives of many who are in the music field. Whether it's students, amateurs, or professionals, you enable us to travel to school, competitions, conferences, music camps, festivals, and to performance engagements wherever they may be around the world. For that, I am thankful.
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But we have a problem. A big problem. And it doesn't appear to be getting any better. Instruments are regularly being damaged, destroyed, and at least in one recent occasion, lost. (I've included a list of stories at the end of this letter about such incidents.) There also seems to be a lot of confusion and irregularity of policy when it comes to whether or not instruments can be taken into the cabin and where they can be stored when they are permitted. We are thankful for the bill that was recently passed in Congress that will hopefully standardize policy in regards to instruments in the cabin, but until the new policies take effect, I feel it would be beneficial for everyone involved if we could figure something out to alleviate confusion and to prevent further accidents. An instrument that is severely damaged can usually be repaired, often with a hefty price tag, but the instrument may never be the same again. This is not a frivolous problem. It is one that can be crippling to a musician, costly, and heartbreaking.
I understand that you have a lot with which to concern yourself. It must also be difficult to take the time to come up with consistent policies and to educate your employees about safe instrument handling. So far we musicians have understandably done a lot of ranting and raving about the topic but I have another idea - let us help! I'm sure there are plenty of musicians that would be perfectly willing to come speak to all of your employees for free about the value and importance of our musical instruments to our livelihood. We could do it as often as you need it, wherever you need it - there are lots of us to go around. Or we could have a video put together that could be shown at training sessions. I imagine a beautiful performance could be thrown in for good measure too, not only to give back to your employees, but to help put a face, a personality, a story, behind the instrument cases and customers that they handle on a regular basis. Another thought would be to come up with some standardized way to mark or flag instrument cases so that they are instantly recognizable. For the non-musician instrument cases can appear to be nothing more than a carrier for golf clubs, skis, or even the occasional dead body. (Just kidding on that last one.)
If you're interested in our help, please do let me know! I'm happy to do what I can to make this happen and I imagine there are many others that would too.
Thank you for the consideration and for making it possible for us to share our music wherever you fly.
Erica Ann Sipes
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Note to readers of this post - If you have a story to share about an instrument issue while flying, would be willing to help with such a project, or have any other ideas, please do leave a comment on this post. Thank you!