The shows are booked, the tickets are purchased - but wait, you've forgotten something - just how do you fly with musical instruments? There are a few factors to be considered here, from keeping your instruments safe to the cost of your excess baggage. Although traveling with your instruments is possible, if you don't plan in advance, this issues is one that could derail your entire tour. Before you call your cab for the airport, here is how to make sure your instruments are cleared for take-off.
Get The Right Cases
Now is not the time to reach for your soft cover guitar case. When your instruments are taking to the sky, they should always be packed in hard cover, protective case. A hard case will prevent your instruments from being crushed by other luggage, plus, it will keep all the pieces nice and snug so that bumps of takeoff, landing and mid-flight turbulence don't damage your delicate strings and whatnot.
If you don't already have a hard case for your instrument, visit your local music store or order one online from your instrument's manufacturer. If you're buying a case not made by the manufacturer specifically for your instrument, try it on for size first - it should hold your instrument firmly without your having to force it to fit.
Call the Airline
This is the biggie - call the airline well in advance of your travel date to find out their policy on carrying musical instruments. They may treat different instruments differently, so be sure to question each piece you plan on carrying. Before you call, measure and weigh each instrument. When talking to the airline, find out:
- If they carry instruments (some smaller airlines will flat out refuse to carry some instruments)
- Extra fees charged for the instruments (have the weights and measurements handy for this)
- If you can have any of your instruments designated as carry-ons, and if so, can they considered in addition to your other carry-ons (such as your laptop, purse, etc)
Obviously, you should take great care when packing up your instruments. Put your name and contact information both inside and outside of the case, and make sure all of the latches on your case are closed up securely.
Get to the Airport EARLY
You want to be one of the first ones to check in for your flight. Why? A few reasons. First, it's always possible that the ticketing agent will have a different take on the rules than the person you spoke to about your instruments, so getting there early will give you ample time iron out any wrinkles. Second, and perhaps most important, you want a jump on claiming cabin space. The ticketing agent will help you decide if you can carry-on your instrument.
Aim for the Best Spot
Once on board the plane, put the instrument under the seat in front of you if it fits or in the overhead bin if it doesn't. Keep an eye on your fellow passengers as they stuff their baggage into the bins to be sure your instruments don't get jostled. Sometimes, airlines offer up space in the closets where they hang coats or in the crew area for oversized instruments that have been carried on, such as cellos, so don't be afraid to ask your flight attendant for additional storage options.
If the airline won't let you carry-on your instrument and you absolutely don't want to check it, consider purchasing a second seat you can use to store your instrument.
The airline may require you to sign an insurance waiver absolving them of responsibility for any damage that your instrument incurs if you check it as excess baggage.