Case Study: 5 Things A Musician Needs To Know Before Boarding A Plane
You’ve purchased an Encore A&S Case for your instrument, and you’re ready to take your show on the road. There are a few things every musician needs to know before you step on that plane, so you can be sure your instrument gets the treatment it deserves.
1) I’ll Take That To Go, Please
Before you get to the airport, make sure your instrument is carefully and correctly packed. Don’t leave any loose pieces or parts in the case that might damage the instrument during all the handling it will receive throughout your travels. Loosen the strings on all stringed instruments.
If your airline offers it, pay extra for priority boarding. This gives you a better chance of finding storage space for your instrument, before the overhead bins or first class coat closet are filled with other passengers’ stuff.
Another tip before you go: If you’re going to be lugging your instrument from gig to gig once you get there, consider packing a light weight cloth bag to make that a little easier on your back.
2) Know The Rules
Don’t get to the top of the jetway and start arguing with the flight attendant about wanting your instrument to fly in the same cabin as you. With a little advance planning, there won’t have to be an argument.
It’s going to cost you extra to have your instrument in the cabin. Check your airline’s rules for oversize baggage to determine the price. There are size restrictions, too. Most US airlines specify a linear size for all carry-ons, meaning the total of length plus width plus height. If your instrument’s case is larger than this, you’ll run into extra fees. For larger instruments, you may even have to purchase a second seat. Check your airline’s policies here:
Your friendly flight attendant may not be aware of the rules about traveling with instruments, so it’s a good idea to go to the American Federation of Musicians site and print them out. The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 mandated that:
1) Airlines must permit passengers “to carry a violin, guitar, or other musical instrument in the aircraft cabin, without charging the passenger a fee in addition to any standard fee that carrier may require for comparable carry-on baggage” if the instrument can be safely stowed in overhead bins and if there is room at the time the passenger boards.
2) For instruments that don’t fit in overhead bins (such as cellos), airlines must allow passengers to carry the instrument on board with the purchase of an extra ticket.
3) For larger instruments (still within applicable weight and size requirements), airlines must transport the instruments as checked baggage.
The TSA website adds, “TSA permits and encourages passengers to be present when their instruments are being screened. For this reason, please add at least 30 minutes to the airlines’ recommended arrival window when travelling with instruments.”
An extra tip: In addition to these FAA rules, carry a copy of the rules on size and weight from your airline’s website. They may come in handy when you’re dealing with a friendly, but uninformed, gate agent.
3) Avoid A Hunting Expedition
Your instrument probably requires certain things that break or wear out often (strings, sticks, picks, etc.). When you’re in a different city, or even a different country, you don’t want to be wasting your time searching everywhere for that special brand of strings you just “can’t live without.”
So make it easy on yourself and bring a supply of extras, so you won’t be spending your time off hitting every music store in a 50-mile radius.
One more tip: It’s not just strings and sticks and picks that can screw up your performance. If you’ve got room, bring your own cables, effects pedals and adaptors. They can also save a gig at the last minute.
4) Assume The Worst, Hope For The Best
You are the expert on your instrument. You certainly can’t count on the TSA people or airline employees to understand what a reed knife, capo or electronic tuner is. Things like these that could stir up suspicion should be packed in your checked baggage to avoid slowing down your boarding process.
Be calm and friendly with airport personnel. I know a musician who always travels with a nice box of chocolates for the attendants on his flights. He claims it frequently greases the wheels of progress, and he’s even gotten bumped up to first class on occasion!
Another helpful hint: carry a fabric measuring tape so you can prove to authorities at any moment that your instrument case is in compliance with regulations.
5) Houston, We Have A Problem
There may be situations when a musical instrument can’t travel in the cabin and must be checked. So what should you do if you arrive at your destination, open your instrument’s case and discover damage?
Airlines are responsible for damaged or lost instruments, if the owner can prove it was delivered to the airline in good condition. You don’t have to prove whether it was the airline or TSA (or someone else) who did the damage, only that the damage was done when the instrument was in the airline’s hands.
It’s a good idea to take photos of your instrument before turning it over to the airline or TSA. Then, if you open the case on arrival and discover damage, go directly to the baggage office and ask to file a claim. Carefully record the damage with your cell phone’s camera and don’t leave without completing a formal, written claim form.
Bonus tip: You may also want to file a claim with TSA if there’s a note inside your case that says they inspected it while it was traveling.
Since 1976, Encore A&S Cases has been protecting the valuable instruments of many of the top names in all branches of music. If you’re looking for world-class craftsmanship and the highest quality materials, turn to us. We’ve become one of the world’s preeminent case suppliers because our cases are built to take the rigors of the road and keep their contents good as new. Call us at 818-768-8803 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.