Here's What You Need To Know About Bringing Your Guitar On A Plane If You Wonder If You Can
There is a good chance that you will need to transport your guitar on an airplane at some point in your life, whether you are a casual hobbyist or a professional musician. You probably don't want your pricey stringed instrument banging around with thousands of pounds of other checked baggage in the cargo hold, so you'd rather just bring it on board with you.
If your guitar fits under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin, you are legally allowed to bring it on board a domestic flight. The guitar might not fit in the cabin, but there are usually ways to make it fit.
But while this is encouraging, it's still no guarantee that your guitar will be allowed on the flight. Before heading to the airport, it's smart to take stock of the situation and make any necessary backup plans in case you have to check in your instrument.
Where Can I Find Out If Guitars Are Allowed On Planes?
If your instrument can fit in an overhead compartment or be stowed in the space beneath the seat in front of you, you may bring it on board at no extra cost.
Although this is a viable option for compact instruments or those that can be disassembled for transport and storage, many full-size guitars will be too large to meet the general requirements of a standard carry-on.
In this case, you shouldn't give up on your guitar just yet. If your guitar satisfies the following specifications, you may bring it on board in accordance with federal law (specifically, Subchapter 1 of Chapter 417 for the transport of musical instruments, the Department of Transportation, and the TSA).
- In order to protect other passengers, the instrument is stored in a case.
- The total weight of the instrument and case should not exceed 165 pounds, or the limits set by the individual airline for hand luggage.
- The airline mandates that the instrument be stored in an overhead compartment.
- Neither the instrument nor its carrying case contains any prohibited items.
- Large musical instruments that cannot fit under seats in the cabin require their own seat and ticket.
Ideas For Smuggling Your Guitar Onto a Plane
A guitar's emotional connection to its owner can make it a no-brainer to spring for an extra ticket to bring it along on a trip. The decision to not check the guitar is further facilitated by the fact that the ticket price for some low-cost flights may be only slightly more than the price of a checked bag.
For guitarists who aren't particularly sentimental about their instrument and don't want to shell out extra cash for an extra bag, there is still a chance that you can bring your guitar with you into the cabin without paying the extra fee.
Travel By Air Between Major Cities
Your preparation for bringing your guitar through security and into the cabin should begin long before you reach the airport. Starting with the airports you select is a great place to begin.
- Many smaller regional airports only have access to "puddle jumper" planes, which have limited luggage space in the cabin and no windows. Most agents can tell by looking at your guitar that you need to check it or purchase a second ticket.
- However, large international planes usually have spacious overhead bins where your guitar should fit without any problems. If you want to avoid checking or purchasing a ticket for your guitar, this is a great strategy, though it may require some additional expenditure in terms of ground transportation to make it happen.
Buy a ticket in the Zone 1 price range
Selecting a preferred boarding area may be an available add-on to your ticket on some airlines. Consequently, if this is the case, upgrading is recommended. If you're in Group 1, the plane's overhead bins will likely still be empty when you get on. Get in there quick and tuck your guitar into the compartment behind you.
After placing your guitar in the storage area, it won't have to compete for space with other passengers' belongings. But if you're in a late boarding group and you try to cram your guitar into a bin that's already jam-packed with roller boards, you'll get the old tap on the shoulder and the obligatory "I'm sorry." Your product requires tags in order to be searched. ”
If your airline doesn't have an "upgrade" boarding zone, choose a seat in the very last row. The majority of aircraft board from the rear to the front, so if you're sitting in the back, you'll probably be able to board first. If a boarding group preference is not an option for you, you should at least be able to choose your seat in an effort to increase airline profits.
Grab a Gig Bag
Gig bags are preferable to hard-shell cases when you need to bring your guitar on board because of their lightweight and compact design. A storage bin's ability to lock shut hinges on the tiniest amount of slack, so a more malleable case improves your chances of successfully transporting your belongings in-flight.
A gig bag also has a lower likelihood of being discovered by thorough airport security. Even if it does not take up any more room than a gig bag, the appearance of a hard-shell case will make people look your way because of its imposing and unforgiving appearance.
Although a gig bag is not necessary when checking a guitar, it is permissible when transporting a guitar in a passenger's carry-on. A gig bag does a great job of shielding your instrument from everyday wear and tear and scratches. Since you'll have your guitar on hand, you can prevent it from being abused or jammed into an unsafe position.
Time Your Arrival At The Airport
To get your guitar through airport security as a carry-on, this is the single most important thing you can do. (There's no point in getting there too early, since it might take hours to sort through all the possible outcomes.) )
Bringing your guitar onto the plane without buying a separate ticket requires you to jump through a few hoops. Agents' leniency or strictness may vary from one location to the next, so it's best to leave some wiggle room in case you're denied entry at any point:
- The agents may try to stop you and check your guitar if you have other bags checked as well. They might let you through if you assure them that you have traveled with your guitar before and that it fits in the overhead compartments. If you're feeling like you have no choice but to give in, you can always see if you can buy a separate ticket. Unless that's the case, you'll have some lead time before your guitar gets checked.
- If your guitar is small enough to fit through the checkpoint scanner and doesn't have any protruding metal parts or other potentially dangerous features, you shouldn't have any trouble getting through security. If your guitar makes it down the conveyor belt without any hiccups, they might ask if you cleared it at ticketing.
- The main barrier is a gate. It's either risky to gate check your guitar or inconvenient to exit the plane, go back through security, and figure out a new plan if the gate agents won't let you board without a separate ticket.
Finally, some passengers may try to wait until boarding begins, then stroll on like nobody's business. The agent's refusal to let you through means you have no choice but to check your guitar at the last minute, so it's best to act nonchalantly and confidently that carrying it on is a common practice.
Therefore, even if you arrive at the gate hours in advance, it is best to speak with a counter agent, inform them that your guitar has been cleared as a carry-on by baggage check and security, and, based on your previous experience, explain why you think this will not be a problem. easy to store in the overhead compartments There's a slim chance that doing so would draw attention to a guitar that would have otherwise snuck by unnoticed, but the payoff of increased calm and candor is worth the risk.
Inquire about making use of the closet.
As long as a solution can be found that doesn't compromise passenger safety, flight attendants will typically help you find ways to make your luggage fit once it's on the plane. While some TSA agents may be quick to label items they believe have "snuck" past security, the vast majority will do their best to keep you with your belongings.
If you were a late boarder and there's no way to fit your guitar in the overhead bins, politely ask the flight attendants if you can use the storage/coat closet that they use for their own belongings. The crew has no obligation to make this adjustment, but there's always a chance you'll get an attendant who understands your predicament and makes the necessary adjustments.
Where Do Overseas Flights Stand
Instrument travel is not governed by any set of rules within the United States if you are going abroad. Therefore, it depends on the airline in question and, often, from one employee to the next.
To this end, it is recommended that, when booking flights across international borders, travelers first familiarize themselves thoroughly with the policies of the various airlines available. Think about things like the plane's capacity and how much space you'll actually need. Get in touch with as many people as you can within the airline to verify, and try to learn about any policies or procedures the airline has in place regarding guitar transport.
Concerns Apart from Size and Weight When Flying with a Guitar
You might not think it's possible because you've never tried it before, or because you're an extreme conservative who doesn't think you can talk your guitar into the cabin without buying a separate ticket. There are measures you can take to safeguard your violin while on the road.
Get Yourself a Guitar That Can Fit In Your Bag
Consider purchasing a second guitar specifically designed for travel if you are worried about the condition of your primary instrument after being checked. This isn't a foolproof solution, and there will be times when you need to bring your primary instrument with you on the road, but musicians who fly frequently may appreciate the peace of mind that comes from packing a backup instrument.
Consider Making a Custom Order
Consider ordering a custom guitar with a removable handle the next time you're in the market for a new instrument. In this way, you can always have your guitar with you because it can be disassembled to fit into a standard carry-on bag.
Inquire About A Green Label Instead Some Sort of Orange Label
There are two phrases you may hear in reference to checked bags that are too large to fit in the cabin's overhead compartment; they sound similar but can have a significant impact on whether or not your guitar makes it to its final destination in one piece:
- You'll need to assign a tag to that item. ”
- "You'll need to go through security with that," ”
It's in your best interest to avoid having your guitar gate checked. With this, your guitar will be tagged in orange and dumped into the muck of checked baggage, where you can retrieve it upon arrival.
A green tag, not an orange tag, is what you want if an agent says your guitar needs to be tagged. Items marked with a green label will be loaded into the cargo hold after the cabin has been cleared of carry-on luggage. The item will be waiting for you at the top of the jet bridge when you arrive. This lessens the likelihood that your instrument will be damaged.
If you are unable to obtain a green tag and must use the standard bag check system, make sure to have a "fragile" label placed on your suitcase and request that it be loaded last and unloaded first from the aircraft's cargo hold.
Make Sure You Have Access To Ground Transportation
You should probably take your own car if you want to bring your guitar on a plane. If you find out at the last minute that you have to check your instrument, you'll be able to quickly and easily switch it from your gig bag into a hard-shell case better suited for checked luggage at your car.
Planning on arriving at the airport via drop-off, taxi, or shuttle to avoid airport parking fees? If you are not comfortable checking your guitar "as is," you will need to allocate extra time for making this transition. ”
A Checklist for Getting Your Guitar Ready for Inspection
In the event that you are forced to check your guitar, here are some things to keep in mind:
- You should never use a gig bag because it won't protect your belongings from being crushed under a heavy load. For maximum protection, select a hard shell case.
- Relax your guitar's tuning pegs Tense strings can crack and warp the guitar neck if the instrument is exposed to sudden changes in pressure or temperature.
- Boost the padding. A layer of protection from the elements and potential damage can be provided by bubble wrap or cotton towels, even if the guitar is already in a hard case.
Is it possible to bring a guitar on a plane? Conclusion
If your guitar is within the size and weight limits for carry-on luggage and can fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you, domestic air carriers are required by law to allow you to bring it on board.
Nonetheless, some airlines may refuse to let you bring your guitar on board because it does not fit in the standard 10x16x24" carry-on case.
In such a case, you must be allowed to buy a separate ticket for your guitar so that you can bring it into the cabin with you. There are many other options you can try before giving up and checking your guitar with the other oversized luggage if this is not an option you're interested in.
This version is current as of the 31st of December, 2020.
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