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DGCA seeks report from Air India on damage to sitar

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Classical musician Shubhendra Rao had started an online petition demanding action

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has sought a report from Air India on an incident earlier this month involving damage to musician Shubhendra Rao’s sitar during a flight from New Delhi to New York. The incident brought to the fore difficulties faced by artistes during air travel when their musical instruments are often mishandled.

“We have asked Air India to submit a report on the incident, following which we may issue a directive to airlines to ensure safe carriage of musical instruments,” a top DGCA official told The Hindu.

The official added that it has enquired of all airlines their policy on carriage of fragile items, including musical instruments, and found them compliant with the International Air Transport Association’s “General Conditions for Carriage of Passengers and Baggage”. The guidelines recommend a provision for booking an extra seat for special belongings for those items that are not suitable to being stored in the cargo hold.

Air India’s policy is to “allow booking an extra seat for safe carriage of special belongings and non-bulky musical instruments and packages,” the official said.

Since the incident, Mr. Rao has started an online signature campaign on Change.org demanding accountability from airlines for mishandling musical instruments as reported by The Hindu on November 18. The petition has received over 11,500 signatures so far, including those from maestros Ustad Shujaat Khan, Ustad Mohiuddin Dagar and Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. The petition starter has welcomed the safety regulator’s decision to enquire into the matter, but says there is a need to go beyond merely issuing a directive.

Mr. Rao said, “While there may be an existing policy among airlines, it is also necessary to examine whether it is being put into practice. My wife, Saskia Rao-de Haas who is a cellist, was once nearly offloaded from a Jet Airways flight when she insisted that the airline comply with what is a policy in the industry. What is lacking is awareness about this policy among the airline staffers, impeding its implementation.

“I urge the regulator to go beyond what is prescribed by the global airlines’ body as well as regulators of other countries and take a lead in proposing a real solution which will help in promoting Indian culture and classical music across the world. We need to ask whether buying an extra seat is actually a solution or an inconvenience. Classical musicians are not rockstars or Bollywood celebrities who can pay to book an extra seat or an entire business class cabin.”

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 10:05:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/dgca-seeks-report-from-air-india-on-damage-to-sitar/article30055654.ece

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