I wanted to pass on my positive experiences of air travel with a Hofner Shorty bass.
I bought the Shorty a while back with the intention of using it as a bass used for air travel. To make it play well, and be fun to play, some very small adjustments were needed, spurred on by MacmanLou. Read this thread for info:
I recently had my first air travel experience with it on United. All went very well. The planes included a B757, A319, and a (relatively small) Embraer 145. I was also carrying a garment bag, and a computer bag. The garment bag was checked, and the computer bag and Shorty were carried on.
Here are the key points to this experience - which got the Shorty round-trip without a scratch:
- I used the supplied gig bag, and the shoulder strap is a godsend. I think the padding is insufficient, and so I wrapped the bass in material that is used as non-slip rug backing (the semi-spongy stuff with the large holes). Originally, I tried 1" closed cell foam, but there is no way that can fit in the gig bag with the Shorty. Even the non-slip rug backing stuff, once you wrap it around the shorty about 4 times, is a tight fit in the bag at the widest point of the bass' body. You need to work it a bit. Let the edges of the material overhang the ends, then fold them over to protect the ends of the bass. You can wrap the neck many, many times - there's plenty of space in the bag near the neck.
- Shorty was carried onto each flight. On the larger planes, there were no interrogations pre-boarding. Running the bass through security was no problem - although it did raise an eyebrow once from a TSA agent. Luckily, even though it looks lilke a rifle in the gig bag, it is very easy to see it's a bass in a TSA X-ray (I peeked once).
- On the larger planes, I smiled and politely asked a crew member to place the Shorty in their coat closet. Each time they suggested the overhead might be safer, but took the Shorty to the closet both times - even let me position it myself once. Plenty of space there, so do make sure it secured by some other bags if you do this - so it's doesn't bounce around if you experience turbulence.
- I thought the Embraer jets would be a more major hassle. I called ahead and asked the airline, and they said no problem to carry-on. I did, and the Shorty fit in the Embraer overhead with no problem. (I do suggest that you call ahead and ask the airline - the planes are getting smaller and smaller overhead compartments these days).
On the first Embraer, the Shorty was alone in the overhead, with my jacket supplying extra support for the neck.
On the second Embraer, someone came in with a small computer bag. THIS IS CRUCIAL - if you put the bass in an overhead, you need to watch the bin like a hawk until the plane door is closed and people have settled. It's trivial for someone to enter with a carry on, put it in the overhead without looking, and continually smash the bag in until it fits!!! You know what i mean! I think that's the most dangerous part of the carry-on experience - so BE WARY!!! I jumped up and just caught the guy and said I had a fragile guitar in the bin. He let me place his bag, and the Shorty over it. Actually, this was great because it kept the Shorty more secure - kept it from being able to bounce around in rough air.
Also on the second Embraer flight, the person taking the tickets said that the Shorty would not fit in the overhead, and that it had to be checked. Luckily, I knew better, and said so. The problem here is that when you are carrying the Shorty by your side, people think its a regular size guitar. Do you homework to make sure it will fit.
- As people have said on other threads - smile, and be nice! This goes a long way. The crew will almost always resist on the first requst. Just say the truth - it's a guitar, it's fragile, and it will be destroyed if checked.
- People do look at you in the airport, especially when you are carrying it on your back. When I arrived at my second destination (in the midwest, at a very small airport), a person at a small store saw the Shorty on my back and asked, "Hey, you going huntin'?". Reply as you see fit.
So, I will take Shorty along again as my travel bass. Of course, I want it to survive each time. But at $199 retail, even if the worst occurs, the loss is not so high. Actually, I would be more upset losing it due to the time it took to get it set up as desired.
I hope this will help you. There's not much info out there on the Hofner Shorty. Also - thanks to all on TalkBass that have posted regarding air travel with a bass. All of their comments, integrated, led me to this choice - which has been successful on the first go-round.