UPDATE 5:30pm: Virgin Australia have been in touch with Horns of Leroy and according to the band’s Travis Woods “they’ve emailed me the requested letter and the music tour liason is making sure everything is getting sorted out.” They also stated that “Craig Spann | Music Industry Liaison Officer has been very helpful” – kudos Craig

Virgin Australia have been pretty good to musicians over the past couple of years. Along with QANTAS, the airline came on board with the Australian Music Industry Network’s (AMIN) musician baggage allowance proposal several years back, making it easier for indie musicians to tour the country.

Back in March, they went one step further, joining AMIN’s new preferred supplier deal, which provides Australian musicians with a dedicated travel portal where they can get discounted Virgin Australia fares (domestic and international), heavily discounted accommodation rates, and ground requirements.

However, they’ve also received some bad PR from musicians, as well. Late last year, Aussie hip-hop outfit Thundamentals took to Facebook to share footage of a particularly careless Virgin baggage handler, who was filmed roughly throwing the band’s equipment onto a conveyor.

The uproar on social media hit a critical mass and Virgin eventually addressed the footage. In a statement they wrote, “Virgin Australia is proud to support Australian musicians with a range of initiatives which includes the provision of an excess baggage allowance.”

The airline giant also issued an apology to the Blue Mountains hip-hop outfit. However, they’re being far less helpful in the case of Melbourne jazz and soul group Horns of Leroy, who’ve been warring with Virgin Australia after one of their instruments was severely damaged during a recent flight.

According to trumpet player Travis Woods, the band were coming home from a performance at Tasmania’s recent Dark Mofo festival. When they landed, they found that the bell on James Mustafa’s sousaphone had cracked, rendering the instrument unplayable.

Image via Travis Woods

“I followed it up with baggage services and the manager was totally not interested and said they weren’t taking responsibility, because it was an oversized item,” Travis tells Tone Deaf. “[She] kept saying, ‘It’s in the terms and conditions.’ She then abruptly hung up on me leaving me with no options.”

“We bought baggage insurance through Virgin and they said I need to lodge a claim and I need a letter from Virgin stating the instrument was on the flight. I called them again and got an email address which was supposed to help me within two days. I’ve emailed them twice since last Monday and still no response.”

If the band’s insurance claim is not approved, they will be left $1,500 out of pocket. “We’ve got a show next Saturday at Open Studio and it looks like the instrument won’t be replaced by then, as the insurance claim will take 10-15 days to process. Plus ordering a new bell… from overseas.” says Travis.

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Desperate and without any recourse, the band have taken to social media to share their experience, transcribing an email sent to Virgin Australia, along with an image of James’ damaged sousaphone.

“Recently an instrument of ours was severely damaged on a flight from Hobart to Melbourne,” the email begins. “The instrument is unplayable! I’ve lodged a complaint but baggage services aren’t taking responsibility and have been very unhelpful.”

“I’m currently chasing this up through insurance but am still waiting for a letter from Virgin Australia verifying that the instrument was on board the plane. It’s been well over a week and after two emails and phone calls still no response or letter.”

The band are hoping that with enough attention, Virgin Australia will do what’s right and replace the instrument.

FYI … Virgin Australia

Posted by Horns of Leroy on Wednesday, July 8, 2015

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