Cello Needs Visa To United States?


Seems that British Airways may have an issue on its hands after the airline required ESTA for a cello that a musician was trying to transport with her to the United States.

BA Cello

The person had purchased a second seat for the instrument under the name ”Chuck Cello” but British Airways couldn’t allow it to fly without getting an ESTA first.

The Independent has the story of this incident on its website (access here) of which below is an excerpt:

Jane Bevan, 35, based in Switzerland, was attempting to board a flight from Zurich to Baltimore, where she was attending a course with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, when she was stopped at check-in and told she needed a USA ESTA travel visa for her cello.

“I booked a seat for both myself and the cello using a flight comparison website GoToGate, which shows you the best value options,” Ms Bevan told The Independent.

“I rang BA about a month before the flight and spoke to a customer service agent in one of their call centres. They told me the second seat booked for the cello followed airline policy, that there was nothing further for me to do and I should check-in as normal,” said Ms Bevan.

“I waited for half an hour while she spoke with her supervisor and was then told the check-in for the extra seat could not be completed because the system needed an ESTA visa. She spoke to GoToGate, but they repeated that it was something for BA to solve directly.”


It is standard practice to book a second seat for a large musical instrument that cannot be transported as checked luggage or cargo. Seems that British Airways must have made a mistake here.

You don’t normally hear people praising United Airlines, but they didn’t have an issue transporting the cello the following day.