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Flying with bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Eric M, Sep 15, 2000.

  1. Eric M

    Eric M

    Aug 26, 2000
    I posted this question on usenet, thought I'd see what y'all had to say.

    I've flown many times with my bass, always carrying it on with me in a gig bag, and tucking it away in the overhead compartment. It always worked, but I NEVER failed to get chewed out by a flight attendant on how I wasn't supposed to do it, who also tried to get me to surrender it to be gate-checked (i.e. they give you a red tag receipt, then place it in the luggage compartment with everything else, then have it waiting for you plane-side as you depart).

    I've grown tired of the hassle, and with the onset of the new, smaller regional-jets, there simply isn't room in the overheads for a bass anymore. Plus, I have 3 plane changes next week, which means 3 times the hassle. SOOOOOO, I found an ATA flight case (Anvil-like, but not Anvil) on ebay, and I'm set to check it with the rest of my luggage.

    Big question, I've heard that I should detune the strings to take the tension off the neck when shipping it this way. Someone surmised on usenet that it is to compensate for depressurization in the baggage compartment, and that doing so will avoid necessary truss rod adjustments on arrival. I don't really buy into this, as I've ALWAYS had to make truss rod adjustments anyway due to temperature and humidity differentials between locations. I'm talking a bolt-on wood neck bass here (I'm not taking my Modulus this time, which of course would totally alleviate the concern through graphite).

    Any views/opinions?
  2. Slater

    Slater Leave that thing alone. Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    Most guitar/bass manufacturers try to ship their instruments tuned to pitch and ready to play. That's how I received my Fender ADJazz-5, and it went from CA to NY then to me in MI. I just had to tweak the tuners slightly and it was ready to play.
  3. geo?


    Mar 29, 2000
    Yeah, last time I had to fly I brought one of my Ibanez's with me (mainly because I wasn't -horribly- attached to it, it was an experiment of sorts). Much to my surprise the woman at the ticket counter didn't have me sign off on the case (an SKB, BTW). When I arrived at my destination I was shocked to find that the four metal caps on the bottom of the case, opposite of the handle, had been jammed into the body of the case! I immediately opened the case to discover that the bass hadn't been damaged and that the case was still structurally sound (save the footings). The woman at the Lost/Damaged Luggage counter balked when I told her that I didn't sign a waiver. After about 10 minutes she appeared from behind a partition and informed me that they had made a mistake, and because of that they were COMPLETELY LIABLE!! They replaced the case and everything. I got lucky. I guess the point is, don't fly your bass with an SKB (unless you don't sign a waiver ;))


    Oh yeah, the bass didn't need truss rod adjustment either. In fact, it was still in tune!! I should also mention that I did wrap the bass in bubble wrap inside the SKB. That may have helped alleviate any damage to the bass.
  4. Correct, the luggage compartment is pressurized. It is not directly heated, though. (Do not fly with your pets!) I work on jets so I know.---On your case. The cases are not actually approved by the ATA they are only built to their specs. (same specs used on cases for transporting aircraft parts) So they can still make you sign a waiver...Protect your bass. <p>
    Slater, doesn't fender use ground transport for shipping?
  5. Phat Ham

    Phat Ham

    Feb 13, 2000
    I've flown many times with my bass in a gig bag. If the flight wasn't too full they would change my seat at boarding so that I could just put my bass in the seat next to mine. (They make me put the seat belt through the strap.) Otherwise I would put it in the closet where things like suits are hung. I've never been hassled. In fact, I've found ground personnell and flight attendants more than helpful.

    There was one time though that I flew from Washington Dulles to Charlottesville Albemarle Airport. It was in one of those 30 seat turboprop planes. There wasn't enough room in the closet so I had to gate-check my bass, but the ground crew was real careful with it and nothing happened to it. I also have never signed a waiver.

    I have also flown with my bass both in tune and detuned. Both ways didn't require any adjustments upon arrival.

    [Edited by Phat Ham on 09-16-2000 at 03:18 PM]
  6. Skb's always have a problem with hardware coming off. I have ripped off more handles and latches on those cases that you can imagine!
  7. Slater

    Slater Leave that thing alone. Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    My bass was shipped 2nd-Day-Air from CA to NY and then 2nd-Day-Air again from NY to me in MI. This was in order for the dealer I purchased the bass from to keep their promise of a delivery date.
  8. Eric M

    Eric M

    Aug 26, 2000
    Well, I flew with the bass checked as luggage, inside an Anvil-like flite case. Both bass and case made it without a scratch, with several plane changes.

    Only kicker was that they (American Airlines) charged me an extra $75 since the case was larger than they permit for checked luggage. It was under the weight limit, but too long.
  9. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I've flown from the U.S. to South America and back many times with basses. I always slightly detuned the strings because I had been told by other South American bassists that you have to because of the huge temperature changes from the luggage sitting in the airport waiting to be loaded and the temperatures at high altitude, then back on ground agin at the destination.

    My basses never suffered damage, but the SKG cases went to hell and back with scratches,gouges, loss of the "feet", handle, latch and hinge damage.

    All that said, my biggest fear was not damage, it was outright theft...always a huge concern when traveling to and from South America. For that reason, I always used heavy duty cable and wove the most inticate web around the case, so it would be so time consuming for thieves to get inside that they'd leave the case alone. Caracas and Miami started offering at extra cost, a plastic sealed wrap, like heavy duty Saran wrap to completely encase suitcases and other luggage. I always bought this for my bass cases as an added insurance. Of course, they could just steal the bass, case and all, but fate smiled on me and that never happened.

    The one time I brought an instrument on board with me, it wasn't a bass, but a keyboard. I propped it up by the window, but the hostess told me I couldn't do that. I'd have to put it in the closet. But my friend argued that the lady across the aisle had several packages stored the same way and nothing was said. As my friend has an air of authority and a command voice, the hostess left us alone, but gave us a "look." If any of you have ever traveled to South America or Asia, you know those planes are loaded to the gills with people who carry TONS of carry on luggage and shopping bags. Why they get away with it I don't know, but they do.

    Oh, about the double bass mentioned above. I read that one prominent cellist actually buys a seat for his cello and he and the cello fly peacefully side by side when traveling. He must be well paid, though, as I recall he traveled first class.

    Jason Oldsted
  10. those times I´ve flown with my bass I´ve always been able to have it in a gig bag and as carry on... but when I was gonna take a pc monitor as carry on.. NO WAY!! :eek: that stupid guy who scans the tickets told me I can´t... no one else!! I didn´t even have a box or anything under it... so I had to have it put in the luggage room... lucky for me it got away pretty well except for some green dot which I don´t know how got there... :)

    the point of this story: none...
    why I said it: I don´t know
    Maybe I should stop typing: YES!!
  11. MtnGoat


    May 7, 2000
    Eric M.,
    I have flown many times with my basses, both around the U.S. and internationally. On all of these flights I have used an ATA flight case that was specifically built for my particular bass (one for a modulus, one for a neck-through wood neck bass). I have never had any problems and my peace of mind has remained intact as well. The only thing that sucks about the ATA cases is hefting them around once you get to your destination, not to mention that they are a bit expensive. In my opinion, it is worthwhile to spend $300 for a good case and save yourself from worrying about your bass, or the hassle of dealing with problems. From what I have heard from other musicians and from the case companies, the important thing is to be sure the neck is supported along its entire length with the strings at full tension. This arrangement provides the maximum stability for the neck. For this reason, you may not want to buy an used case unless you are sure it will provide the type of fit I have described. Good luck.
  12. geo?


    Mar 29, 2000

    Who made your ATA's? I'm in the market and $300 is actually cheap in comparison with the places I've been inquiring at.

  13. MtnGoat


    May 7, 2000
    One of my cases was made by USA Case (Bessemer, MI) and it is my favorite case. They really did a nice job on the interior with a lot of attention to detail. I have tried to track them down directly, but cannot find a listing for them. I paid about $180 ($20 over wholesale) for this case and bought it through the builder of my bass.

    My other bass case was made by Jan-Al (Los Angeles). I bought and picked up this case directly from Jan-Al along with several other cases that I had them build. They have a quick turnaround of about 10 days. I think my case from Jan-Al cost me around $330 with recessed hardware and velvet lining. I sent a template and several profile measurements of the bass.

    There are a bunch of case companies out there. Also try Grayfield Corp. (Franktown, CO). I once tried to save some money and bought a case for $200 from discount distributors and the thing was a total piece of crap. Three of the corners were torn off on the first flight. Needless to say I traded that case for 4 sets of strings at my local bass shop.

    [Edited by Digagroove on 09-27-2000 at 07:37 PM]
  14. When the school jazz band played at Disney World in Orlando, I just used my molded case and put it in a huge cardboard box and I had no problems. On the way back I decided to nix the box since it was such a pain in the ass, I just sent the case. Aside from one dent, it was fine, my friend wasnt so lucky. He even had his guitar in a case in a box and they put a hole all the way through it! They broke his toggle switch (which he repaired). They did repair his case though, with some ugly tar type stuff.
  15. Saint


    Mar 2, 2000
    DC - USA
    If you're gonna check it with the baggage, I hope you have a really, really good case. I used to take my 1980's Vantage with me on planes and always carried it on, despite the fact that I had a decent hardshell case for it. On one fateful trip, a one-hour USAIR flight from OH to NJ, I tired of arguing with the flight attendant --the first to ever give me any problems about carrying it on board-- and let them check it with the baggage. When I finally got it, the case was crushed and the bass had cracked finish, a broken off toggle switch, a broken off tone control, and various and sundry other injuries. Sure, it still played, but it was never the same. Did I get reimbursed? HA-HA-HA-HA-HA
  16. When I fly with my basses they always go in a gig bag inside with me either in overhead luggage or in the hanging closet. I always tell them at every step along the way that I am flying with an instrument that will not be checked as baggage. I have been hassled by attendants and even other passengers but never bullied to the point where I allowed them to red check my instruments. I once flew with my bass in an Anvil case with 1/2" plywood sides that got a 3" hole punched all the way through both sides and through the nech and body with no explaination, fortunantly it was back in the day when you could buy insurance at the airport so I got a check for 3 grand but it didn't really replace the bass that was destroyed. On a lighter note I was flying with a Steinberger bass and almost missed my plane because security was trying to figure out where the bullets go in...
  17. Usedtobejim


    Jan 3, 2000
    I fly a lot with my job, never traveling with my bass however. I do see a lot of musicians with their gear and I wonder why they bother. I looked at your profile and I would recommend Fed-Ex/UPS your bass and get an insurance policy for your equipment. Depending on where you are going, you can send it out and have it received by your hotel or to the gig before you even leave for the trip. The Tracking numbers also are underrated by the general public IMO. I would also consider the rental options from music stores in the city you are going to if it is practical or a product endorsement from a manufacturer. I prefer to play my own instruments, but it may be better for your own state of mind and your personal safety to look at alternatives to checked/carry on issues with the airlines. Take this from a guy that is still dealing with a BS damaged package problem from 2 months ago.
    Also Remember...
    The biggest problem you can face is THEFT in an airport.

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