Flying with a bass

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by lildrgn, Aug 1, 2005.

  1. lildrgn


    Jul 11, 2000
    Seattle, WA
    Anyone done this?

    I have a HSC that I haven't fitted yet with my Sterling. I'll be traveling to Los Angeles for a festival in which I'll be performing on Thursday. What I'd like to do is take the bass in my gig bag and carry it on. What I'm finding out is that:
    • I may be able to carry it on.
    • I might have to "gate check" it.
    • I may be f&cked.
    So here we are. I'm going to call the airline tomorrow (incidentally, it's Alaska) and see what their policies are.

    I read some online stuff written by a guy who traveled a lot with his guitar, plus something more recent by Vic Wooten. Basically they both said to lay low and, if confronted, smile confidently. Hopefully they just let me on. I'm a freakin' bass player. I'm harmless!
  2. Bennito


    Sep 12, 2004
    Toronto, ON
    What I've done is very basic, and may not be the first choice of some TBers, but I haven't had a problem.

    I just take it in a hard case (I have a Freedom SKB case). I use scotch tape in a "t" formation on each clip so it doesn't catch on anything and open, and voila! When I take it to the airport, I check it in to fragile luggage, and hope for the best. So far, so good (knock on wood).

    That's the easiest and cheapest way. Other people will have other ideas.
  3. utopia_imminent


    Jun 19, 2004
    just do not check-in the luggage. check-in luggages are usually handled roughly even if they are fragile.
  4. realdeal

    realdeal Banned

    Dec 10, 2004
    Here's the way it is with the airlines-
    You MAY be allowed to take the instrument on board, as one of your carry-ons IF there's room for it on the flight you're on-The crew determines that upon boarding.
    They can hang the gigbag or stow it if there's room- the only passengers guaranteed this space are 1st-Class. If you're told there's no room on the flight-then you would be f*****
    if you had to check your bass. To do so you must have it in a HSC, so-
    Without an ATA case, here's what to do-
    When you check the instrument in its HSC, ask for Special
    Handling- They'll note that, and mark it accordingly.
    Taping the HSC as described is smart.
    If you have a nice new HSC or don't want any scratches, here's a good suggestion:
    Have a heavy-duty cardboard box cut to fit the HSC at the UPS store, it will cost about $25. Have them leave an opening for the handle, and you're all set. The additional protection of the case within a heavy box will be adequate.
    It's worked for me on a LOT of trips without any problems.
    The baggage people get a bad rap-the GREAT majority of luggage arrives safely and undamaged, that's a fact.
    When you explain that it's your valued instrument at check-in, they note it, mark it, and respect it.
  5. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    as i have said before....flying with an instrument is not the time or place to be hoping for the best. It is the time and place to prepare for the worst.

    I personally would not go near an airport without a full bore ATA300 case. I'd rent in L.A. first.
  6. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    Plenty of threads on this already, just do a search.

    One problem I noticed with this thread right away is the "taping the case" advice. They WILL cut the tape to inspect the interior of the case, so that's useless advice . . .

    Either try to carry it on in a THICK QUALITY bag and if it doesn't work gate check it and pray, or check it with luggage only in an "anvil-type" ATA spec flight case with metal edges. That, or an SKB flight chamber that holds your bass AND gig bag, which is designed for flying.
  7. lildrgn


    Jul 11, 2000
    Seattle, WA
    Well, I called Alaska Air and after a 20 minute hold, my call lasted all of 1 minute.

    Me: "I'm flying to Orange County tomorrow and am taking my guitar (didn't want to explain the whole bass vs guitar thing to the other end) in a soft case with me."

    Her: "No problem."

    Me: :eek: "Really?"

    Her: "Just put it in the overhead compartment. Unless the flight is really full and they'll have to gate check it."

    So, we'll see how it really goes tomorrow.

    /crosses fingers
  8. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    FWIW: I have been told "no problem" on three of the major US airlines, and each time what the person told me on the phone had no bearing in reality of how the matter was treated at the check-in counter or at the gate. Just beware . . .
  9. realdeal

    realdeal Banned

    Dec 10, 2004
  10. lildrgn


    Jul 11, 2000
    Seattle, WA
    Searched and found nothing. Hence, the new thread. Thanks for the info, though.

    Everyone: say a prayer for me.
  11. Syeknom


    Oct 17, 2004
    Leuven, Belgium
  12. I've flown my G&L in the stock SKB case a few times. When we checked in that's when they went through your stuff, with you there. I retaped it with duck tape and they have their wussy packing tape type stuff. The bass has been fine on a half dozen or so halfway across the country trips in baggage.

    If you can carry it on- do so.
  13. lildrgn


    Jul 11, 2000
    Seattle, WA

    Went to the baggage counter. They didn't say ONE word to me about the bass.

    Went to the gate. They didn't say ONE word to me about the bass.

    Stuffed it in an overhead compartment, took it off the plane at John Wayne. Now I'm where I need to be and all is good and well in the world.

    I love it when a plan comes together.
  14. sgt.floyd


    Dec 5, 2004
    I fly with instruments all the time (for the last month I've been averageing a plane flight every 2.5 days :scowl: ) - either an electric bass, an acoustic bass, electric cello(about the same size as an electric bass), or a mandocello (about the size of a thin acoustic guitar). I simply put them in a gig bag and make them one of my alloted carry on items.

    Airport security doesn't care what bags you have or how big they are, that's the airline's problem, so don't worry about them unless you've got something that could be used as a weapon in the case. like a pair of nail clippers or a lighter. :rolleyes: . or the endpin in the case of the electric cello (2' steel rod with a spike at the end of it- that goes in checked baggage). every once in a while they'll take a good look at the bow for the cello, but 99% of the time they don't even bat an eye.

    When I get on the plane, the instrument either goes in the overhead, or if it doesn't fit (or it's full), I put on a big smile, and ask as nicely and politely as I can (in a non patronizing manner) if they would mind if I put it in the closet. no one has ever said no.

    Keep in mind the flight attendants are stressd out and generally used to people being obnoxious. Manners, respect and confidence go a loooonnng way in this arena. I've only had to break out the "this is a $3000 instrument, please don't make me put it in the belly of the plane" speech once (Chicago Midway, carrying on the acoustic in it's hard case).

    The ONLY one that ends up getting checked is the acoustic bass, due to it's size and the fact that I only have a hard case for it. It was damaged once, but I think that was due to it leaving a heated room, near the heater, to a car outside in 0 degree weather, to a baggage compartment in 0 degree weather. It cracked up the back. I'm hesitant to fly with that one anymore because of that. The other ~10 times it ended up in the baggage compartment it was fine. The case is the key here- good solid wood case with sturdy latches. It gets pretty dinged up, but that's what cases are for. I put "FRAGILE" stickers all over it, but I doubt that it does any good.

    anyway, I hope this helps.

    good luck.