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Air travel with bass - take off neck & put in suitcase?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by David Lansen, Aug 12, 2007.

  1. What the title says. I'm wondering if anyone has done it before.

    I might have to travel by air with my bass soon. I don't have a flight case (not even a hardshell case, either), and I don't want to buy one because I rarely fly around (not with basses anyway).

    I am considering taking the neck off (taking the strings off first, too), and putting both the neck and the body in the suitcase.
    Is it safe for the bass?
    What should I do to protect it, besides sandwiching the parts between lots of clothes?

    Should I put in any padding? If so, with what?
    Bubblewrap the headstock?
    Should I take off the tuning pegs, too? Strap buttons?

    I would appreciate some advices from everyone.

  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Do a search on "flying with bass." It's been covered many times. Your choices are to either chance carrying it on in a gig bag (many people do it but it's getting tougher these days), or spend $120 and buy an SKB Bass Safe. I would never take a bass apart to fly with it.
  3. bluestarbass


    Jul 31, 2007
    Ive done it and i'd do it again easily. I built a tube for the neck and put the body in my bag. I wrapped the body in swearshirts and put it in the middle of my bag. The tube i built for the neck was pretty intense. I huge pipe with screw on ends on both ends. It was super safe. Theres no reason this cant be done. I was taking a 22 hour flight so that the main reason I did it, Im not sure if itd be worth it to do it all the time.
  4. Top Gear

    Top Gear

    Mar 15, 2006
    I just went to Victor Wooten's camp last month and I carried on my bass in a gig bag with no problems. Even on the smallest plane I was on (a CRJ-700) it fit in the overhead. I flew Delta and no one tried to stop me from taking it on.

    What you might want to do, which I did, is 15 or 20 minutes before boarding starts, ask the person at the gate if you can board with the first zone. That way, when you get on, all the overhead bins are empty and you don't have to worry about finding a place for your bass.
  5. Fender32


    Jun 23, 2005
    Kent, England
    I did it with a Telecaster (g****r) recently and it should have been fine, except that the body was only wrapped up in some clothes and during handling it came unwrapped and got banged against the inside of the lock mechanism of the suitcase :( . When I took it out, it had some huge dents around the jack socket, going right through to the wood.

    The guitar was as new, but I had to sell it off at a considerable loss because of that act of carelessness. Be warned!

  6. Thunderitter

    Thunderitter Bass - The Final Frontier! Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2007
  7. I took a shortscale Harley Benton cheapo with me on holidays. All together I went on about 7 flights. I had taken the bass apart, wrapped the neck and body in bubble wrap and put the neck in my case and the body in my mum's. I can honestly say that there was zero damage to the bass. I would recommend it to anyone but not with an expensive high-end bass.
    Hope this helps.
  8. Thanks for the replies.

    I did do a search on "flying with bass", and realized that I may not be able to carry it on in a gig bag. My airline (Air Canada) was mentioned too so I wouldn't give it high hope. Also, like I said in my post, I didn't want to have to buy a flight case for just this one-time thing.

    That's when I started to think about taking it apart...

    I'm more interested to hear more tips on protecting the bass, in case I do end up taking it apart for the trip.

    bluestarbass - the tube you built sounds very cool!
  9. Dan,
    Yes, that helps a lot. Thanks! It's nice to hear other people share their experience, and that bubble wraps work. The bass I'm taking is not an expensive one, although it's not a shortscale either. So bubblewrapping might just be all the more important, especially for the neck...
  10. Thunderitter

    Thunderitter Bass - The Final Frontier! Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2007
    If you're going down the dismantle route and depending on how long your trip is, you should consider loosening the truss rod as it won't have the tension of the strings countering its force on the neck.

    Also, baggage on the tarmac can get very hot and then in the aircraft hold can get very cold (-50degF) both can have an influence on the truss rod, greater when the strings are off.

    Also, depending on where you're travelling to, be prepared for the bass to settle to the new climate/conditions, which may require some adjustment.

    FYI: I've travelled internationally with basses (assembled) on aircraft in full flight cases and I leave the strings at normal tension and the same with the truss road. Never had any issues, although I've often required some minor adjustments.

    (Also: not sure that the cost of the bass has to do with taking it apart! Generally a $100 bass comes apart exactly the same as a $10,000 bass!)
  11. Mr_Dave


    Mar 11, 2005
    Melbourne, Australia
    Employee - Basscentre Melbourne
    A local bass shop here hires flight cases out - depends how long you are going and where to but is that an option?
  12. doctorjazz


    Oct 22, 2006
    Wilmington, NC
    I'd say make a tube for the neck, straighten the truss rod, and bubblewrap the hell out of everything.
  13. XavidmanX


    Jun 29, 2006
    Bakersfield, CA
    A buddy of mine just shipped his from one UPS Store to another. Overnighted the bass...at that cost, though, you might as well buy a flight case. I would be too afraid to take my bass apart.
  14. Muckaluck


    Oct 11, 2005
    Whitby, Ontario
    I just checked Club Bass in Toronto and they have flight cases for $160. I guess it seems like a lot to pay for a case but in my opinion it will save all the hassle of taking stuff apart, worrying about things getting broken and it will be a case you can keep forever that will always keep your bass safe.

    Again, just my opinion.

    I guess if you have a really cheap bass then it's not worth it....
  15. rsrhcp


    Feb 23, 2007
    I spent three weeks on tour with my band in Kenya (yes, Africa!) and my bass endured the 20+ hours of flight to and from Africa. I had a decent gig bag (B.C. Rich, please no questions!) and I took some super, super huge bubble wrap around the neck and headstock, then I did about two layers of regular sized bubble wrap around the body. After all was said and done, I duct taped it all together and it made it! Though, I think on the way home, I put some dirty shirts in the case for a little extra padding.

    ***But, the best thing I think to do, is to call the airline, and ask if there would be any way that you could leave your guitar in the stuartist's closet that is usually in the front of every airplane. There are usually clothes hanging up in there, but it is very ideal for a guitar. If anybody on that paticular flight has a problem with you doing this, just tell them that you contacted [ie Delta] and they said you could do it, there should be no problem.

    Although, on the way home from my tour in Kenya, the Kenyans could hardly understand English so they wouldn't allow me or the guitarist to store the guitars in the closet or on us personally. So, they had to put the guitars in the hull, which ended up fine, considering the basses were the last to get in the hull, and the first to get out.

    Good luck with your travels!
  16. buy a heavily padded gig bag and take it on the plane with you, otherwise get an ata certified case, the skb bass safe is one of many, good luck with your decision!
  17. Muckaluck


    Oct 11, 2005
    Whitby, Ontario
    I just thought as well, are you concerned about it being confiscated at the security check? It is afterall a big thing with wires and knobs!

    As an aside, the last flight I was on, a lady had a super soaker she bought for her kid. They took it away from her at security and she was pissed!
  18. syciprider

    syciprider Inactive

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    If all he does is take the neck off then should not be any wires sticking out right?
  19. syciprider

    syciprider Inactive

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    I don't see why you can't take the neck off of a bolt on bass for travel. Just loosen the truss rod, remove the strings, unbolt the sucker, protect with packing stuff and bag it up. When you arrive at your destination, set it up, wait one day, then set it up again.
  20. Thanks for the replies. I will definitely call ahead to find out if I can carry it onboard. In the meantime I'll find out where I could get bubble wrap just in case.

    I hadn't exactly thought about it being confiscated, but it did hit me that it's a big, it's got electronics in it, and I'm travelling to the States. I certainly wouldn't want security to mistake it for a bomb or something.

    And then again, passing through security without a problem only to be stopped at the gate for "oversize carry-on baggage" would really suck, too... lol

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