Flying with an electric bass - checked or carry on

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Scott Loveless, Oct 12, 2019.

  1. Helloooo!

    So, it looks like I'll be taking a few trips from Harrisburg, PA to Nashville, TN during 2020 for business. Allegiant offers direct flights between those airports. With a little luck I'll manage to arrange some private or group lesson time with Jeff Berlin while I'm there, and I'll need to bring a bass.

    My preference would be to travel with the instrument in a gig bag and carry it onto the aircraft, stowing it in an overhead compartment. I asked Allegiant about this and they had this to say (paraphrased a bit):

    -If it fits in the overhead, and if there's enough room left for it when I get on the plane, I can carry it on. (I need to get on first.)
    -Otherwise, I'll have to either purchase a seat for it (if available) or gate check it.

    This is where it gets interesting. They consider musical instruments "fragile" and "will only be accepted to be checked if they are appropriately packaged in a hard shell case designed for shipping such items". Which means I need to bring it in a hard shell case that probably won't fit in the overhead compartment to begin with. Ugh.

    As far as I can tell, Allegiant's fleet consists entirely of Airbus A320 and A319 aircraft. Does anyone have any experience getting your bass into the overhead on one of these? Or specifically on one of Allegiant's planes?

    I'm probably overthinking this...
    GKon likes this.
  2. BurnOut

    BurnOut It's The Billy Baloney Show In Memoriam

    Feb 1, 2015
    The Natti
    @BassCliff would probably know a thing or two about this. He's a seasoned professional road warrior.
  3. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.

    I've been traveling with my bass, always checked, for years. I use this case, an SKB-44Pro.

    Pro Rectangular Electric Bass Case | SKB Music / ProAV


    I love this case. SKB gives you a no-questions-asked-100%-replacement-guarantee. I've had mine replaced twice because the baggage handlers toss it around like an old dog toy. But my bass had never suffered any damage. This particular case should be a little less than $200 but it's the only one you'll ever have to buy.

    Thank you for your indulgence,

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  4. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I'm going to predict that you will be OK carrying on your bass and putting it in an overhead for a single round trip flight. Those Airbus planes have decent space that should fit a bass in a gig bag. However, when they ask for passengers who have difficulty in travel to get on first, I strongly suggest you get on then (walk with a limp if you have to), hold your bass in your hand and not your back and try not to make a showing out of it, and by all means, keep an eye out for the bozos who try to shove their 100 lb carryon suitcases on top of it and try to jam it in there and ruin your bass when they realize it's not fitting right. I'd shut the bin immediately after you put it in to discourage others from using it.

    I used to fly a lot and I gave it up and use an SKB Roto Case with a padded gigbag inside of it checked in as baggage. But I don't think there's much sense in buying a fairly expensive case for one flight.
    corndog and RattleSnack like this.
  5. I’ve flown Allegiant several times, not with a bass though. What I did notice is that since they charge for carry on, the overheads were never full. This may work on your favour. They seem to be big enough to fit a bass in a gig bag, if the bag isn’t to bulky.

    A few weeks back I had to travel from Toronto-Tampa-Phoenix (3 different airlines) and needed to take a bass to prep for a gig I had right after I returned home. I own a Ric and a Squier vm Precision. Time for a road trip for the Squier. I took the neck off and bubble wrapped it and carried it with me, while the body went into my checked suitcase along with the screwdriver to re-assemble. It worked out great, only got asked once in security what it was. Once I told them it was a guitar neck, it got scanned and pushed through. The neck was slim enough to cram into a full bin easily. I wouldn’t hesitate to travel that way again.
    Might be something to consider
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  6. Es-La-Una


    Oct 27, 2016
    An airline's overhead compartment is certainly big enough for a clarinet or a trumpet carrying case. But a bass guitar? I suspect that it’s going to be a really tight fit. By the time you board the plane, it’ll be too late to go back and gate check your bass if it doesn’t fit into the overhead storage compartment. You’ll then have to leave the plane and rebook to another flight.

    Ask Allegiant for the length, height, and depth of their overhead storage compartment. Then compare it with the length/height/depth of your bass carrying case.
  7. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    An airline steward told me that the size of the overhead
    varies based on the type of plane.
  8. That's what I like to hear. It looks like that one runs about $195 and the 44 (not pro) is a bit less with 3 latches instead of 4, but reinforced corners. I will seriously consider these. Thank you for the suggestion.

    I do have occasional sciatica issues that require the use of a cane, and I could probably work that in my favor. One of the cool things about the Roto case is that I'd also have a gig bag for traveling around town when I got there, instead of lugging a case into and out of buses, taxis, Ubers, etc.

    I was wondering about the carry on volume. They also only allow one per passenger, so there shouldn't be families with 12 carry on bags trying to skirt the checked bag fee.

    Food for thought. Thanks guys! Much appreciated.
    BassCliff and JimmyM like this.
  9. TheReceder


    Jul 12, 2010
    I watched my vintage Jazz bass get launched out of the cargo bay by airline ground crew. If I need a bass I'll arrange for one at the location as opposed to risking another mishap. Luckily my stock case took the beating, but the response from the Airline was pretty much the same as in the Dave Carrol video.

    Boogiepop, Samatza, 12BitSlab and 6 others like this.
  10. twinjet

    twinjet Powered by GE90s; fueled with coffee. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    I have never flown on an Airbus, only Boeing. I purchased a Reunion Blues Continental Voyager which has survived over a year of biweekly air travel without much more than slight cosmetic damage. It fits in Boeing overheads fine, but if a gate agent forces you to check it, your bass will be ok.

    If you aren't opposed to a hybrid gig bag, check it out.
    Ubersheist and imabuddha like this.
  11. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I took a bass on a trip once. Everyone I consulted ahead of time told me I could carry it on the plane with me and the crew would be most accommodating in helping and blah blah blah. The reality was that I was given the option to gate check it or go home.
    Pilgrim and TJH3113 like this.
  12. quindecima

    quindecima Inactive

    Sep 18, 2016
    Walterville, Oregon
    Cool Song!
  13. bass4more

    bass4more Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2007
    Oakland, CA
    I've only checked a bass into luggage once. I never saw it again. YMMV.
    TJH3113 and Rabidhamster like this.
  14. glocke1

    glocke1 Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2002

    Listen to this guy. When I did the Aebersold workshop this summer I brought this.

    I saw some people board with guitars or basses that were put into a storage closet on the plane but my feeling is that there are too many variables in play to trust that to happen.

    if I had a beater/sacrificial bass I’d carry it on though
  15. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    There IS too many variables, not the least of which is the mood of the flight crew and their attitude toward you asking them to do something out of the ordinary.

    But those particular Airbuses should have plenty of room for a bass in a gig bag in the carryon bins. It's really only the smallest planes that have a problem with them fitting, and Airbuses in that family of planes are pretty big. You can look them up on the Airbus website.
    Bunk McNulty likes this.
  16. hennessybass

    hennessybass Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2008
    Bayou City
    I've been using a SKB case for years, but the "shaped" version.
    It's a little cheaper and smaller than the one BassCliff uses. It's actually a little smaller than my Mono case, and I can fit all the same stuff in it.

    I would have zero concerns about checking a bass in that case and that's probably the route I would go.
    I might put a strap around it just to make sure it doesn't fly open, but it does have four latches (one with a TSA lock).
    As far as it just getting lost (not damaged), well thats a whole other discussion.

    My second choice would be to carry on in a good gig bag - like my Mono. I would go into this situation assuming that I would have to gate check. I just don't see fitting a bass guitar in an overhead bin. Also heard very good things about the reunion blues. -- The risk here is that if you are checking in at the airport, they might tell you that you can't carry on your bass cuz it's too big and you have to check it.

    The shaped SKB is light and very easy to cary. The placement of the handle makes it very balanced and easy to maneuver. The handle on the Mono is placed bad and the case has neck dive... but it has backpack straps.

    I usually travel with a backpack type bag for my clothes, so two backpacks don't work and the SKB would be fine. If you have a roller bag suitcase for your other stuff, then a backpack type gig bag might be better. Something to think about.

    My uncle use to rent a bass when he traveled to visit my parents. He would head from the airport to the renal place, pick up the bass and then drop it off before he went back to the airport.
    Might also check out Fretish - an app for renting equipment. I don't know anything about it though.

    Mono vs SKB -- note that my Mono is old, and has the big pocket and little one at the headstock that stick out. I think the newer mono is a little more streamline.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2019
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  17. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    And while I'm thinking of it, a lot of people print out a copy of the agreement the Musician's Union made with the airlines about carrying on instruments and bring it with them, and the truth of the matter is you might as wipe your butt with it for all they care. Never underestimate the ability of tired and overworked gate agents and flight crew to deny you entry onto the plane for any reason at any time.
  18. Oddly


    Jan 17, 2014
    Dublin, Ireland.
    I work for an airline handling company (in the American experience may differ, although I doubt it)
    I'd suggest either pay for an extra seat for the bass, or get the best hard case you can afford and check it in.
    If your airline offers priority boarding, you might get away with using an overhead, but it's my experience that more and more travellers are now booking priority as that usually includes a cabin bag.
    It's got to the stage where the priority line now includes almost all passengers!
    Hoping you get gate agents/cabin crew in a good enough mood to accommodate you is risky.
    They have a lot of stuff to deal with at boarding, and it's way easier for them to just say no.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2019
  19. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    This is why I started using a flight case. No matter what anyone at the ticket counter tells you, your ability to bring an instrument on the plane is at the sole discretion of the crew. It only took one bad experience...
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  20. dramatwist


    Sep 27, 2019
    This. +1. Solid as a rock. I use one for my "The Loar" jazzbox.
    BassCliff likes this.