August 31, 2006

Tightened security making problems for some “overseas” bands

Non-UK bands that decided to travel by plane to Scotland for the World Pipe Band Championships on August 12 are encountering problems with cancelled flights, having to check instruments worth thousands of dollars, and, in some cases, bagpipes lost in transit in the wake of tightened security around the uncovering of an alleged terrorist plot to bomb planes.

Among bands impacted are perennial contenders and four-time World Pipe Band Champions, Simon Fraser University. The band was scheduled to arrive in Scotland from Vancouver on Thursday, the very day that the alleged terrorist plot was uncovered and arrests made in the UK. At least two pipers with the band arrived safely, but their pipes and uniforms have been lost after they had to be checked.

The Grade 4 Transcona & District Pipe Band of Winnipeg reportedly arrived in London on Thursday night, and then resorted to taking an eight-hour bus journey to Scotland.

In the meantime, non-UK bands departing Scotland after the World’s are looking at delays and problems as travelers on flights originating from Scotland and England will not be allowed to carry on any luggage, if the current ban remains in effect. That means that pipers – who are notoriously protective of their expensive instruments – will be forced to check their pipes, subjecting them to potential mishandling and loss.

One piper from a Canadian band said, “We’re returning Monday, and not happy about checking expensive, and especially older sets of pipes. However, given the restrictions and the fact that there is no choice, people are planning bubble wrap, cords to secure cases, etc.”

A piper who came through London on Thursday commented on the “amazing” service provided by airlines and airport staff. People went way out of the way to be helpful, and in general staff were hugely patient.

Some players are concerned about the low temperatures in a plane’s non-pressurized cargo hold, in which the temperature can be as low as –50°, but remembered that most of the pipes arrive from manufacturers that way from Scotland new, with no real issues.


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