AFM communication on Delta Airlines
I just came across this on another music list and thought it might be of interest to some here. It’s a message from Thomas F. Lee, the President of the American Federation of Musicians, about Delta Airlines and how they deal with musicians. I understand the article is in the newest International Musician (June, 2006), the official organ of the Union.
For many AFM members, air travel is an integral part of their work —
they simply have to fly in order to pursue their careers. And they
have to carry their instruments with them.
After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, however, Congress was asked to
place heavy restrictions on carry-on luggage. That effort, if
successful, would have created serious problems for traveling
The Federation worked feverishly to educate legislators and their
staffs on musicians’ need to place fragile and expensive instruments in
overhead compartments, not in the cargo area. Congress eventually
rejected significant carry-on restriction.
But we did not stop there. Although Congress did not enact any
restrictive legislation, a problem arose when security personnel began
insisting that all instruments be checked as baggage.
The Federation’s legislative office aggressively took action and
addressed the issue through the Transportation Security Administration
(TSA). After many meetings, which I attended, Thomas Blank of the TSA
agreed to write a letter that AFM members could present to security
personnel to facilitate carrying on instruments. This letter was
effective with security personnel and convinced many airline personnel
to allow the instruments in the overhead.
Airlines, however, have their own regulations regarding instruments.
Thus, despite the success of our efforts with government officials,
musicians continued to have difficulties getting their instruments on
Hal Ponder, director of the AFM Office of Government Relations; Eric
Beers, Symphonic Services Division contract administrator; and I met
with airline representatives on several occasions to explain the damage
that can happen to instruments that are stored in cargo. All were
sympathetic and vowed to help musicians.
The AFM, over the past two years, has worked diligently and crafted
proposals that create standards applicable to all airlines. This would
ensure that musicians would only need to be familiar with one policy
that applied to all airlines. And this policy could be reviewed by the
airline industry and the AFM if modifications were needed.
Although the airlines have never expressly agreed to the terms of this
policy, most have cooperated with musicians when there has been a need
to stow expensive, fragile instruments. Regrettably that is not the
case with all of the airlines.
I have received many complaints that Delta Airlines officials and
representatives have consistently prevented musicians from carrying
instruments on board. While I have no way of knowing whether every
allegation is true, I have received enough complains to convince me
that Delta is either not properly instructing its personnel regarding
this matter, or that it simply has no interest in the problems facing
musicians. Not surprisingly, there have been many reports of
instrument damage from Delta’s placement of instruments in the cargo
The Federation has spoken with Delta’s representatives, but without
success. It appears that Delta has no concern about instrument damage.
As a result the AFM, its members, and all musicians must take a
different approach to this problem. We must publicize this unfair
I am asking all musicians and performing artists to boycott Delta. The
AFM will continue to attempt to convince Delta to change their
policies. In the meantime, we must use our economic power to
demonstrate to Delta officials that their policies will not be
tolerated and that we will count on the power of 100,000 members to
spread the word that Delta is unfair to musicians.
I urge all local officers and members to speak with newspaper editors,
radio personalities, and civic groups to create awareness of the
problems that musicians encounter with delta. The AFM will notify
other unions and their members about these problems and will encourage
local labor councils to assist in passing the word.
It is not our desire to damage relations with our brothers and sisters
who work for Delta. However, when Delta officials ignore the problems
that musicians encounter, we are left with no choice but to bring this
to the public’s attention. Please do everything possible to assist
your fellow musicians in this effort.