Flying with DB onboard

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Beau, May 19, 2005.

  1. Beau


    Apr 3, 2000
    Brooklyn, NY
    Hi All,

    Just to let everyone know, apparently it is still possible to bring a double bass onboard an airplane. I just got off the phone with Jetblue, and I bought two tickets from NYC to San Jose, one for me and one for my upright. I was worried that they might not let you do this anymore, but apparently there is no security regulation against it.

    Of course, now I am deadly nervous that I won't be able to fit my bass into the seat ala Rufus Reid, but I guess you can only solve one problem at a time.

    If anyone has actually done this, I would be grateful to hear a quick "It is in fact possible" to assuage my fears. I will let you all know how it worked out after I fly on June 1.

  2. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    I have done it but it was a long time ago. I flew late at night so that the flight wouldn't be too crowded. I boarded with the group that "requires assistance". I was able to sit in a seat that didn't have any other seats in front of it (the divider wall instead). I placed the bass with the back leaning into the seat and used a seat belt extender. It was no problem.

    The flight attendants were very helpful and it was definitely a conversation starter.

    Good luck.
  3. I remember overhearing Edgar Meyer talking about how he takes his bass on planes, and typically stores it in the seat upside down, with the scroll where your feet would go.

    It's quite possible he was kidding. Just a thought.
  4. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    That's how Rufus describes it in the "Evolving Bassist" book as well, if I remember correctly. Hopefully, the airline you're using hasn't fudged the space available by cramming a few more seats into the existing airframe.
  5. Just make sure you ask for 'BULK-HEAD' seats and as Freddels mentions, ask for seat belt sure and pre-board with the Mothers and babies and the other folks that need assistance. I always use to put the bass in the outside seat because there was usually a bit more room there. Be sure and get the basses meals! You have those coming. I would put an index card on my bass that said 'Yes I have paid for a ticket' I would always have some jerk, as the other passengers passed on the way to their seats, give some remark about the possibility of the bass being a carry-on.
    I haven't done that for many years....went to a flight case finally.
  6. Beau


    Apr 3, 2000
    Brooklyn, NY
    Thanks guys, I'm glad to hear that this has been accomplished successfully in the past.

    The very nice person who booked my tickets gave me two seats in the first row, right behind the bulkhead, which sounds like just what you guys are suggesting. Plus, there are no overhead compartments above the first row, which should leave a bit more wiggle room.

    Thanks for the words of wisdom, they definitely do ease my mind a bit.

  7. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    You should be in good shape there...I've parked my expando-family there a few times, it works out great. You might piss off movie-watchers, but....c'est la vie.
  8. basstef

    basstef Supporting Member

    Dec 18, 2004
    Bologna, Italy
    I've done it two times last summer going to and coming back from London with Ryanair. The first journey was fine, I showed up early and everything was cool. I had already spoken on the phone with them before buying the tickets and they said it was ok as long as I had an extra ticket. When I said :"are you sure?? Maybe the double bass may not fit in just one seat!", they said :"no problem". It sounded a kind of strange or even too easy...anyway the first trip was totally trouble-free. The plane was not packed at all and they helped me to put the bass in TWO (!) seats, secured with an extra long safety belt.
    In the journey back to Milano, check-in was fine either, but as soon as I got into the cabin, the hostess was really shocked and started complaining about my instrument etc. I said I had the right to accomodate my bass into a seat, since I had an extra ticket and I was allowed to got into the cabin!
    So we found two empty seats on the aisle side and we put it there, but at the window, same row, there was a guy who had really become in prison, since he was really locked by my instrument...Well, with the plane already moving, the hostess came to me very nervous and asked me to move the bass from there! We carried it on our shoulders and just had the time to put it into the closet (locked!) and get back to our seats that the plane has taken off!! Very funny if not grotesque ;)
    Well that was my last time and for sure I keep using my Gage case from then on....

    Good luck!!!
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Just remember, in the case of a showdown on an overbooked flight, they're gonna bump an inanimate object before they do a living, breathing, complaining person. If you aren't on a schedule, cool. But if you're on tour, well ya see where I'm going.

    JetBlue has those giant airbus things, the only drawback is that they seat 3 and 3, right? So if the flight is tight, yer gonna have one unhappy camper, unless you put the bass near the window and you take the center seat.

    The only time I bought a ticket for my bass, the return flight to NYC (from East Bum****) was on a FockeWulf F-90 (or summat like that). the seats were too small to fit the bass in (as described above a la RR), luckily the fkight was way underbooked so I got to lie the bass down on three empty seats in the rear of the plane.
  10. Nuno A.

    Nuno A. Velvet Strings Customer Service

    Jul 9, 2001
    All i can say is that you were very lucky, i often fly with Ryan, and most of the times is from Milano-Bergamo, when i called them , one time they say they wouldnt allow me to travel with my bass, other time they said it was ok as long as i had a ticket, so i bought 2 tickets, i went to the check in and :crying: , no way Jose, they didnt want me to bring the bass with me, after some arguing i finally made it to the plane and to my exasperation, the plane was fully packed, so, after a big mess trying to put the bass somewhere, the hostess convinced 2 passengers to move to other seats so that i could acomodate my bass.... too much trouble, anyway , since the flights are so cheap, next time i will buy 3 seats... then we'll see :spit:

  11. It's times like these, when you usually see the worst and the best of humanity...i've had countless nightmarish trips with basses, but the last time I traveled with the bass with a paid seat proved to show the best. This was NYC-Denver. Full, I mean full flight. I have a ticky for me and one for my bass. They were about to kick me and my buddy out....when a guy from FIRST CLASS comes up and says to the Stew " There's an empty seat in first class next to mine...if I trade him my First Class ticket for his coach, will you let the bass go in the empty seat? The Captain said "sure" So this Saint gives me his seat and the bass in the next seat. They even gave me a first class meal. Of course, my new friend got his back in coach too......Man what an unreal experience.
  12. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    "Unreal" is an understatement, Paul. Seems like flying brings out the azzholism in most people...that's a definite exception.
  13. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui forgot the end of the story;

    "I went back to coach to thank the kind fellow, but when I arrived at his seat...he was gone."
    (cue Theramin)
  14. Perfect Man, especially with the theramin.....that story's about as believable as The Man From Planet X
  15. Hi all.

    I also have heard that flying with a double bass in the cabin is still possible as long as you buy an extra seat. I have recently contacted several airlines about this, and most indicated it would be possible. As I have to transport a bass within the next year, I have been thinking a lot about the pros and cons of travelling with the bass in the cabin or in a flight case respectively. What does everyone think about this?

    My factors have been:

    1. Cost. It may be more expensive to rent/buy a flight case than buy an extra seat. On the other hand, in the long run, buying a flight case would be cheaper. I am looking at only 2 flights (hopefully!) in the next 5 or so years.

    2. Protection for the bass. Although flight cases protect the bass, it can still be damaged being loaded onto the plane. But what about storing the bass upside down in the cabin? What about turbulence? How do those of you who fly with it in the cabin deal with these issues?

    I have searched all over talkbass and other sites and have almost decided to go with the extra seat option (the flight is one way from Beijing to Europe, so around US$400).

    What other factors play a role in decided how you fly with your bass? For those of you that changed TO the flight case option, what were your motivations?

    It seems that no ONE method of transporting a bass can ever be perfect!
  16. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    This conversation is why renting uprights is so common. There really is no good way to fly one. Doing a cost analysis between buying your bass a seat and buying a flight case and flying it as baggage yields no clear winner. Obviously, if you're only going to fly it once in a blue moon, buying it a seat is the way to go, and if you fly more than 20 times a year, getting the flight case is your cheapest option. But if you have to fly it fairly often but maybe not 20 times a year, it's really tough to decide which is the cheaper option. Most domestic USA flights go between $200-300 a ticket round trip. The airlines charge an average of $80 each way to carry a bass in a flight case as baggage. So that's an extra $160 per round trip right there, plus around $2000 for the case. Is that cheaper than paying an extra $300 for the seat each time? Maybe after 20-30 flights it is.

    In short, you're just screwed.
  17. For those of you that finally changed to the flight case option (like Paul), what motivated your decision? Was it cost, convenience, safety, or were other factors involved?

    I'd appreciate any input on this, as I am currently deciding whether or not to buy a flight case! Thanks all.
  18. Beau


    Apr 3, 2000
    Brooklyn, NY
    Hi All,

    I thought I would update and let everyone know how the flight worked out. Forgive the somewhat detailed description, but I figure someone out there might be like I was and want to hear the boring details, in order to reassure them before they try it.

    My trip was basically pain free, the hardest part being the trip from Brooklyn to JFK on the A train with my bass and bags.

    I got to the airport three hours early, checked in and got my two boarding passes with no problem. Security had to inspect my bass, as you would expect, but they were very conscientious. (For example, they asked me about the safest way to hold it so that they could walk it through the scanner to the security area.) Then they just had me open up the soft case and empty the pockets, as they ran a little swab of cloth over the bass to test for chemicals.

    At the gate, I let the attendant know that I had two seats reserved and asked if I could board during pre-boarding. She said that was fine, so I sat down next to a pretty cellist also flying to California and hung out for an hour.

    On board, I had a window and middle seat in the first row behind the bulkhead (1E, 1F). It was a pretty tight squeeze fitting my bass into the seat, but I was able to squeeze her in upside down. I was a little bit nervous about there being too much pressure on the neck of the bass, but was able to distribute the weight of the bass so it wasn't all on the neck. Turbulence wasn't an issue as the bass was edged in tight enough that it moved as the plane moved. The flight attendants gave me a seatbelt extender to strap down the bass, and were very friendly and helpful in general.

    Overall, I only had to deal with very kind, bass-friendly people. At one point I even hit the trifecta of friendly double-bass comments, back to back to back (..."Don't you wish you played the piccolo?"...."That's a big guitar."...."Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom.")

    I wouldn't want to do this all the time, and if I were going to be travelling a lot I would definitely want to look at a flight case, but for a one-off flight, apparently JetBlue works out pretty well.

    Many thanks to everyone who responded to this thread, I appreciate the advice and experience.

  19. Hallelujah!!! Praise be to the bass GODS!!! :hyper:

  20. Beau - you read my mind! Thankyou for the detailed post. I am glad to see that a bass travelling upside down will not be damaged - although I still fail to understand how this works. :confused:

    Glad you had a good flight! (But what about the cellist ....? :cool: )