Passenger forced to take eight-hour bus after airline bars him from taking £4m violin as hand luggage
A Polish airline has apologised to a virtuoso violinist after refusing to accept his $5m (£4.1m) Stradivarius violin as hand luggage, resulting in him taking an eight-hour bus trip to get home.
Janusz Wawrowski, a musician and festival director from Poland, attempted to fly from Vilnius in Lithuania to Warsaw when staff from the budget carrier LOT informed him that the 338-year-old instrument would need to be checked in the aircraft’s hold.
Despite the rare stringed instrument complying with the airline’s regulations that permit one carry-on piece of baggage weighing up to 8kg, Mr Wawrowski was told by staff that it was not possible for him to take it into the cabin.
“The ground staff presented me with two options: put the instrument in the luggage compartment below deck or stay in Vilnius,” he said.
Mr Wawrowski described feeling “devastated” by the airline’s decision.
“I was quite shocked at first,” he told the Daily Mail. “I even hoped for a moment that maybe it was a grim joke, because the airport was empty and not many people were travelling that day, so I completely did not expect such problems. When it turned out that indeed the airport staff would not allow me on board with my violin, I was devastated.
“I tried to negotiate with the staff for the legal right that I was actually entitled to, but unfortunately it was not possible,” he continued. “I began to look for alternative ways to get home. Fortunately, Lithuania is a neighbouring country to Poland and I could take a bus.”
Rather than risk the rare instrument becoming damaged, Mr Wawrowski, who was returning from a performance with the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, paid 250 Polish Zloty (£45) to travel eight hours by bus to his home in the Polish city of Konin.
Following the incident in early February, Mr Wawrowski published a video to his Facebook page confirming that LOT had since apologised and refunded him for his flight.
“LOT acknowledged the employee’s mistake and stated that it is allowing violins on board all of its planes and also apologised to me in the media and by letter, on email, as well as by phone,” he said.
Mr Wawroswki plays the first and only Polish-owned Stradivarius as of World War II, when the precious instruments were looted.
Built by members of the Italian Stradivari family in the 17th adn 18th centuries, the stringed instruments are considered to be some of the finest – and most valuable – ever made.
The Independent has contacted LOT for comment.