Despite purchasing and occupying two valid seats on countless journeys around the world, classical musician Lynn Harrell and his stringed touring partner will no longer be enjoying the benefits of frequent flyer bonuses.

Harrell has been stripped of his Delta Airlines SkyMiles account and frequent flyer points after the United States airline proclaimed a violation of their membership agreement after the touring musician found a cheeky loophole in the system. The penalty also extends to his traveling buddy, ‘Cello Harrell’.

Let’s clarify, shall we? According to NBC News, 15 years ago Lynn Harrell’s travel agent set up a separate frequent flyer account for the classical musician’s instrument under the name ‘Cello Harrell’.

To ensure the safety of his extremely valuable and delicate cello, Mr Harrell prefers to keep it with him on flights and had no reservations paying for an extra seat. That is, until he was stripped of his SkyMiles account.

“One of the realities of a career as a cello soloist is lots of flying and since trusting airlines with a multi-million dollar instrument as checked baggage is enough to trigger a fight-or-flight response, cellists have to suck it up and simply buy a second ticket for the instrument,” Harrell explained on his personal blog in a post entitled ‘No Miles For You!’ 

Mr Harrell details that he was sent a letter of rejection from Delta after more than a decade of “innocently buying two full fare tickets for each trip,” saying that the delayed administering of “corporate justice 11 years after the fact is just plain mean; not only did Delta cancel my account but it summarily gobbled up all of the associated miles and placed a permanent ban on my ever rejoining their miles program.”

Perhaps Delta Airlines should take a few lessons from Australian airlines, who have proved a little more sensitive to touring musicians over the past year. In March, QANTAS introduced a baggage deal for bands and crew that followed on from a similar deal struck by Virgin Australia in late 2012.[do action=”pullquote”]”Not only did Delta cancel my account but it summarily gobbled up all of the associated miles and placed a permanent ban on my ever rejoining their miles program.”[/do]

In fact, the latter has an explicit policy in place regarding the commute of cellos and guitars as carry-on baggage. Their website states that ‘the only item that can occupy a seat (apart from a guest) is a cello or a guitar’ and specifically advises customers to book an extra seat for their musical counterparts.

Mr Harrell publicly expressed his outrage over the decision to cancel his two accounts and implied that it may inadvertently affect the price of tickets for concertgoers.

“I am sorry and perplexed that airlines like Delta are willing to turn down the opportunity to maintain long-time customers and income (my career has been in full swing for more than 40 years!)” Harrell wrote.

He referred to the scenario as ‘outrageous’ and questioned why the airline simply didn’t take the miles away from his cello and allow him to maintain his own personal mileage account.

Harrell has since vowed to avoid flying with Delta Airlines in the future, which is probably about as much a rock ‘n’ roll act of rebellion that one can expect from a classical cellist. Stick it to the man, Lynn!

In related aeronautical/musical news, Australian musicians are currently rocking Melbourne Airport in the launch of the AirPlay pilot project (no pun intended).

Performing last night, tonight, and tomorrow across two stages outside the Virgin domestic arrivals terminal, and outside PJ O’Brien’s bar in the International Terminal, Aussie bands and artists are welcoming passengers and visitors with their talents during the peak times of 5-8pm.

Music Victoria CEO Patrick Donovan commended Melbourne Airport and the City of Melbourne for getting behind the project. “Live music is one of our greatest assets, so it’s appropriate that we are showing it off. We will also have the new ‘Melbourne Music City’ guide available to help visitors find their favourite styles of music.”

No word yet if the bands delivered an exclusively flight-based set of Angus and Julia Stones’ ‘Big Jet Plane’, covers of Melbourne band Essendon Airport, and selections from Brian Eno’s ‘Music for Airports’.

Airplay Launch

Venue: Melbourne Airport – outside Virgin Domestic Arrivals Terminal
Date: Wednesday 14th November – Friday 16th November
Bands start at 5pm.

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