Flying with Double Bass for First Time

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by papa bajo, Mar 15, 2006.

  1. Hi,

    I am flying with my bass in a David Gage trunk, from JFK, NYC to Madrid, Spain later this month. I wanted to ask the members of this board for any tips on making it a smooth and safe journey. Somewhere I saw tips for check-in. Has anybody flown this route before? I am flying on Iberia airlines. What about if they need to open the case at security/customs? Do I need to attach a key or allen wrench or something?

    Based on what the rep on the phone said I think they charge around $100 for oversize/overweight each way... Anyone with experience flying New York to Europe--what kinds of charges were you subject to? I know it can be somewhat random...

    Sorry if this has been addressed before. Thanks for your help. This board is an amazing resource.


    BTW, I am not going to try it, but Iberia says that they do allow you to buy an extra seat and have the bass ride in the cabin next to you...
  2. I've had mixed experiences with security. Sometimes all they do is swab the handles to check for explosives. More often, they'll want to open the case itself and swab inside of it. I've only once noticed that they took it out of its soft case to check the bass, but this would have been done beyond where I could see it.

    You'll need to make sure they can open the thing, whether you're present or not. Some airports have the security check for oversize luggage right next to the ticket counter. You can stand there and watch them do it in front of you. Sometimes in Seattle I'm even allowed to open the case for the security guy. However, some airports wheel it away from the counter and behind a wall, where you are not permitted to watch. If they can't open it, they won't let it on the plane.

    Honestly, if I knew I could get away with putting the bass in a seat I'd do it. I've just never tried it. Seems like it would save all kinds of trouble.
  3. Also, I know now in some parts of Europe the weight limit for checked baggage is something like 50 pounds. Considering that an empty Gage case is still more than that, you might be in some trouble.
  4. Iberia's web site says:

    Excess luggage

    Under the weight system (see the above "luggage allowance" menu), charges are payable for excess weight at a rate of 1.5% of the value of the highest Tourist Class adult fare for a one-way journey without stopovers (class Y) in force on the date on which the excess luggage ticket is issued. The above applies regardless of the service class in which a flight booking has been made.

    When the permitted size of a piece of luggage is exceeded, 1 charge will be applied per piece in excess of 158 cm/62". Please remember that pieces of luggage must not exceed 203 cm/80" or 32 kg/70 lb under any circumstances.

    When both the permitted number and size of pieces of luggage are exceeded (and provided that they do not exceed 203 cm/80" or 32 kg/70 lb), 2 charges will be payable.

    Items that exceed 203 cm/80" or 32 kg/70 lb will not be classed as luggage, but may be carried, if the passenger and Iberia are in agreement, for a triple charge for the first 45 kg or fraction thereof, plus a further charge for every additional 10 kg or fraction thereof.


    It sounds like I fall into that last category. Triple charge.

    $2000 full price tourist ticket x 1.5% = $30 charge x 3 = $90

    Does this sound reasonable?

    Another question, recommendations for travel damage insurance? I saw musicpro and clarion recommended. I just want something for this trip, if possible.

    thanks again
  5. Hi,

    Just a quick follow-up question.

    Do the folks who use the Gage flightcase lock it or not when they check it at the airport?

    I am a little worried about the security and customs people being able to figure out how to open it.

    I can also check with the Gage shop to see what they recommend.

    Many thanks,
  6. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I advise against packing your metronome with it. I once had an airline agent say "sir, your bag is ticking" to me as I was in line to board. I couldn't hear it so, my response was pretty indignant and she failed to mention that it was subdividing into triplets.

    It would be a shame if the bomb squad blew up your bass, just to be sure.

  7. ToR-Tu-Ra


    Oct 15, 2005
    Mexico City


    How could she miss the triplets????:rollno:
  8. Ha!

    Yes. Good point.

    I will avoid any ticking, wires, mysterious white powders, etc.

    And I may light a candle and say a prayer to Ray Brown for protection.
  9. GirlBass


    Jul 31, 2005
    New York
    You have to lock your gage trunk in order to keep it closed. Normally if you just keep the key on you the security guys will use it to open in, and then return the key.
  10. Don't count on that. If they want to take it away from you before inspecting it, you need to make sure they can still open the case.
  11. GirlBass


    Jul 31, 2005
    New York
    How are you supposed to do that with a gage trunk? there's no difference between "closed" and "locked."
    I've always just told them it was locked and the TSA guys either have me open it or use the key. I guess you have to make sure to tell them that it's locked before they take it away or who knows what will happen to the bass.
  12. That's basically why I wouldn't want a Gage case in the first place. If security can't open it, it's a waste of money.
  13. GirlBass


    Jul 31, 2005
    New York
    Right, that is definitely a problem for us Gage trunk owners; however, the person that started this thread has a Gage case and asked if it should be locked or not at the airport. He didn't ask what kind of trunk he should get.
  14. Anon2962


    Aug 4, 2004
    True story: A professional Irish viola player had his viola put on the wrong baggage carrousel in an airport in London in the 1980s (during a time when the IRA were regularly making bomb threats on airports etc.) Not seeing it on the wrong corrousel, and thinking that his precious viola had been lost somewhere in transit he immediately went to make some phone calls to the airline he had flown, the orchestra manager etc. while on the phone the airpost was evacuated..not putting two and two together he was outside when he heard the 'BANG' - yup, airport security had carried out a controlled explosion on his viola. ouch. Viola kebab.

    on a related viola-doom story, i was recently a passenger of a viola player who was driving away from a rehearsal. while reversing out of the car park, the car rolled over something. 'that's weird, i wonder what that was...maybe somethings wrong with the tire' he said. so he put the car is 1st gear and drove over it again- 'hmmm there's definately something there, must be a rock'. So, back into reverse and same thing again strange bump. i look out the passenger window to see a cellist running towards the car, pale faced. i wind down the window " OH GOD! TELL ME THERE'S NOT AN INSTRUMENT IN THAT CASE!", she shouted. The driver slammed on the brake "AHHH! MY VIOLA". just as he said it, i heard the sound of a viola dying. 'chhkkk-twang-crunch'.

    needless to say the viola was COMPLETELY smashed up.

    there were 4 things that made this even more painful:

    1) we only heard the crunch the last time, so the case MAY have saved it the first 2 times it got driven over.

    2) The third time he stoppod the car ON the viola. yes, the car was parked on the viola. I had to use the jack to lift the car up and off it.

    3) The instrument was on loan from a friend of his who had MADE the viola. These instruments are like his children.

    4) The instrument was uninsured.

    Maybe this kind of stuff only happens to viola players...:ninja:
  15. Justin K-ski

    Justin K-ski

    May 13, 2005
    I have a gage case. look on the bottom of the case there should be 2-4 black wooden rails. In one of the rails is a specially designed nook for holding the allen wrench.

    What I do is tape the wrench directly on the front of the case with masking tape. Then I write "KEY HERE" in huge letters. That way if security needs to open my case they have a key and if they don't return it I still have the one at the bottom.
  16. Thanks for your advice, that sounds like the way to go...
  17. She is here in madrid! My bass arrived safe and sound the morning, thanks to the Gage case and Iberia airlines. They did not charge any additional fees for the size or weight. (Do not want to jinx the trip back to NY), though. Thanks to everyone for the tips and helpful advice, your experience was essential...

  18. You're lucky. I once got away with out paying any fees for a flight, but usually your credit card is the first thing they ask for.
  19. Audiophage


    Jan 9, 2005
    Good luck, considering the current political climate I wouldn't be surprised if they wanted to open your bass up or something like that.
  20. Thanks folks,

    Paul C, how much do they usually charge you? Transatlantic flights? What airlines?

    Iberia seemed cool. There were lots of other musicians and instruments on the plane, including a harp. At JFK, DHS opened the trunk and swabbed inside, but did not take the bass out of the soft case. Going back in to the USA may be another story, we'll see.