Reprieve for Norwegian cellists after airline feud

Charlotte Smith10th Nov 2011
Edvard Grieg adorns the tailfin of a Norwegian Boeing (photo: Hans Olav Nyård/NoEdvard Grieg adorns the tailfin of a Norwegian Boeing (photo: Hans Olav Nyård/Norwegian)

Scandinavia’s second largest airline has postponed a decision to ban cellos from its cabins after an uproar from Norway’s musical community.

Norwegian Air Shuttle, known simply as ‘Norwegian’, had cited ‘security risks’ when it announced that from November 1 cellos would no longer be allowed into its cabins, even when booked into seats as passengers – a common practice across the aviation industry. Norway’s musical community has demonstrated its collective clout in forcing a welcome climb-down from the airline today.

Despite his unwillingness to become the ‘face’ of the resistance, cellist Truls Mørk had lambasted the decision, commenting in the Norwegian press that the new rule would force him to consider moving away from Norway. ‘It is the first time someone has threatened to move away from Norway if they cannot fly Norwegian, and that makes an impression,’ said the carrier in response as it reviewed the situation.

Norwegian announced today that it would reverse the decision with immediate effect, but the reprieve is only temporary. The company has asked Norway’s aviation authority, the CAA, to conduct a risk assessment on the carriage of cellos on plane seats, the results of which could mean the reinstatement of the ban.

Mørk wasn’t alone in his condemnation of the move, with other musicians expressing concern about its implications. Kathryn Hjelsvold, international sales manager for the Trondheim Soloists, has expressed concern that the still-looming ban could set a precedent for other airlines across Europe. ‘Touring orchestras like ours are really going to be in trouble if rules like this come into force’, she told Gramophone, while expressing concern about the CAA report to Norwegian Air Shuttle. ‘It leaves the door open for them to change the rules again.’

Norway boasts a number of high-profile cellists including Mørk, Andreas Brantelid, Øyvind Gimse and Aage Kvalbein. Meanwhile Norwegian Air Shuttle is seeing large increases in traffic, opening routes from Britain and mainland Europe to and from Denmark and Finland, as well as Norway.

Andrew Mellor

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