Hi all,

Welcome back and thanks for taking time to read my blog. Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter will know I have recently returned from playing in Switzerland with my musical buddies DiElle and John. Following this trip, I wanted to share with you my experiences of taking instruments on aircraft. There are many posts online about this subject, all with pages and pages of great advice and tips. Some suggesting legal precedents and Musician Union agreements but I just wanted to add my views and tell you how it worked out in reality for the 3 of us.

I’ll start with a few facts….

We flew return from Gatwick Airport near London, UK to Geneva in Switzerland.

We flew Economy class (Euro Traveller) with British Airways.

The 3 of us all took instruments, my bass guitar, plus 2 acoustic guitars belonging to DiElle and John.

We had great service from everyone we dealt with both at home and in Geneva.

When booking our flights, BA seemed to have the most generous baggage allowance and the times and price were pretty good so we booked those. The allowance was 1 bag at 23Kg each, plus a cabin bag, plus a handbag/laptop bag. Although we had an option to buy a seat for our instruments, that would be too costly and so our instruments would be the 1 bag at under 23Kg.  Bearing in mind any cabin bag or handbag would be taken on board, it would be impossible to pack restricted items such as deodorant, razors, toiletries or other sharp objects in them so these would need to be packed with our instruments. Both DiElle and John had shaped guitar cases that left very little room for any addition items, my SKB Bass Safe had enough room for my bass plus several items only allowed in hold baggage such as my hair clippers, nail files and multi-tool. It could also safely hold and protect microphones, leads, chargers and numerous toiletries! The acoustic guitar cases had the addition of a few pairs of socks, snuggly squeezed in around the guitar body and neck, to stabilise the guitar and stop it moving around inside the case.

 

We had ensured that all 3 cases were wrapped in Gaffa tape which ensures the case stays closed in the event of the catches opening or becoming damaged.

SKB Bass Safe

SKB Bass Safe

We each had a ‘handbag’-type bag as well as a cabin bag and easily managed to pack enough stuff for a 5 day jaunt and even my bass, in a heavy case and loaded with extra items, only weighed in at 16Kg whilst the 2 acoustic guitar cases came in at around 6Kg each.

At check-in, we were instructed to take our guitars to the oversized luggage station where the tags were checked and the cases duly despatched to the aircraft. At this point, I will acknowledge that many bloggers online suggest just taking your guitar to the departure gate and they’ll HAVE to let you take in onboard, right?

WRONG! If you arrive at the gate with a good solid case, it’s going to be too big to fit in the overhead lockers/ If you arrive with a fragile guitar in a bag, the staff there could very well take it from you and send it to the hold. Unless your guitar is in a solid, rigid case, it is unlikely to survive the experience. There are stories of musicians putting their beloved instruments in the pushchair rack and similar but this is a rare occurrence and can’t be guaranteed so it’s always best to be prepared for your instrument to go in the hold. It’s also worth noting that whilst UK airports MAY be sympathetic to your plight and place your instrument in the cabin, that does not mean that the returning airport staff will have the same view.

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On arrival at Geneva, we found the oversized luggage carousel which was unusually busy due to the number of skis and snowboards being unloaded and thankfully, all 3 instruments arrived unscathed.

The return journey was equally uneventful although the Swiss check-in staff adding “Fragile” stickers was a little nerve-wracking as baggage handlers can see this as a challenge!!

So, to summarise… When travelling by air with your instrument,

  • Pack your instrument in a strong, solid case. Ensure the instrument can’t rattle around inside the case. If it does, pack something soft, such as socks, around it to secure it.
  • NEVER assume you can take your instrument onboard, plan for it to go in the hold.
  • Remember, unless you have booked extra baggage, your instrument forms part (or all) of your allowance.
  • Secure your case with Gaffa tape in case the catches open during the journey. If you wish to lock the case, ensure the locks are TSA approved so customs can open them if necessary. If not, the authorities have the right to bust the case open if they suspect the contents may not be acceptable.
  • Always check your travel insurance for the lost or damaged luggage cover.
  • Where possible, don’t travel with your most precious or most valuable instrument. Accidents happen!

 

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See you soon!!