Flying with your bass...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Nick Bibeault, Dec 15, 2003.

  1. Ok, i know this must have been done a thousand+ times already, but i just want to check in on what the best method of taking an exspensive bass on a plane...

    here is the situation:
    Tomorrow i'm leaving for Florida for a month long visit and i am flying on South West Airlines into Tampa International. Since i'll be gone for a month i would want to take my bass with me so i can still practice daily. I have heard horror stories of people checking their basses under the plane in flight casses and never seeing/getting a busted bass in return.

    I do have a non flight grade standard non fitted hardshell case which i plan on stuffing with soft towells to make it a form fitted as possible. I was thinking that i should be able to take it on as carry on and stow it in the closet if there is one, does that sound like a reasonable idea? I have tried to call customer relations but i never get through and their office is closed now till 9am eastern time.

    is there anyone out there who works for an airline or has flown with their bass as a carry on? Please give me what ever information you can. By the way, the dimensions of the hardcase are 49" tallx16"widex4"deep.

    i appreciate any ideas or thoughts.
  2. I flew Continental last month and was told by CS on the phone that I had no choice but to check the bass into the baggage compartment. So I did what you're gonna do, lay in towels on all four sides to make it as form fitting and padded as possible. Word of caution, you can't even lock your case. I used two luggage straps on each end to make sure it wouldn't pop open during flight and handling.

    HOWEVER, when I boarded I noticed someone who had their guitar (in a gig bag) with him putting in the overhead. When I asked how he did that, he basically said he had two baggeges to check-in (the limit) and the ticket agent said he could carry it on. We figured it was smaller and it was in a gig bag? I couldn't get two same answers from the flight attendents.

    So I guess it's hit or miss, maybe a better chance with a gig bag. I'll tell you though, it was not a very comfortable 3-hour flight each way thinking if I was going to have a bass on the other end.
  3. Metal Mitch

    Metal Mitch

    Jul 14, 2003
    Fly cheap and buy a seat for it.
  4. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
  5. Try asking them to check it into the hold at the aircraft side like they do with pushchairs, buggies etc. Explain it's a fragile and expensive instrument. They may let you on to the aircraft with it at the discretion of the flight attendants. There's also a letter here: or here: and discussion of flying with basses here: and here

    Hope this helps,
  6. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    It is really hit of miss. when I performed at Bassquake 2003 I was allowed to bring my bass on-board on the trip out (Friday) but was told, on the way home that the policy had changed and that I had to check it. I called Delta when I got home and was told that it was up to the flight crew (I have NEVER had a problem with a flight crew). But I never made it that far. I was stopped by the TSA who told me that Delta would NOT allow musical instruments on board.

    I fly with my bass in a gig bag and check through my SKB Bass Safe empty. They retrieved my SKB and I checked it w/o harm.

    The aforementioned letter is from the TSA. The TSA is not the FAA 9who makes the rules) nor is the airline which could get fined if athey allow too big an item on-board. Although I carry the letter, it is really not worth too much.

    As for the SKB casew. It did a fine job. Mike Tobias didn't trust the design of it, although it did work for me. I spoke, at length with the guy from SKB who assured me it would work. My big issue with the case is that there is an oil used in the manufacturing process which is difficult to remove. Every attempt I have made to put a "Fragile" sticker on it has failed.

  7. Thank you for the replys. I am going to try to call customer relations for Southwest Air again soon and i hope for the best but i am afraid that they too will tell me that it is at the disgression of the flight crew which i am afraid of.

    I'll let you all know tonight when i have arrived in Florida (hopefully with my bass) how it went.

    I am too afraid to check my bass even in the non flight grade case so if i cant stow it in the cabin, its not going:bawl:
  8. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    One negative thing about Southwest. They do not have clostes on board, so the option of putting the bass in a closet is not open to you.


    BTW, that SKB case is only about $100.00 - that and a gig bag might provide you with some piece of mind
  9. bill h

    bill h

    Aug 31, 2002
    small town MN
    send it by mail
  10. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    Since you'll be away a month, that is an excellent idea. Use FedEx not UPS!
  11. Well i lucked out this time. The flight had more empty seats than occupants so they didn't mind me putting my bass in the over head storage. But on the way back i don't think i'll be so lucky so i might take the safer route of going fed-ex overnight air or something.
  12. If you put your bass in one of those sweet bass safes, don't you still have to leave it unlocked for them to search?

    The problems with this are a) stuff gets stolen sometimes, and b) they don't always repack things well.

    I flew with my precious bass trombone last year. For those of you without trombones, the mouthpiece (a decent chunk of metal) is generally stored in a small compartment inside the case. After they searched my horn, they left the mouthpiece rolling around inside the case, with my 10.5-inch (large) red brass bell. How it didn't get covered in little dents from the mouthpiece rolling around is beyond me.

    So basically, if you're flying with any cased instrument, you also might consider packing any accessories that could mar your instrument in your suitcase.
  13. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    When I used the Bass safe, they opened i and checked it - never got the latch back correctly. Actually I saw one of the baggage handlers banging the latch trying to get it closed from the window of the plane

  14. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    I've flown with an ATA-style flight case with butterfly clasps MANY times, checking it as luggage, and haven't had any problems. I've seen REGULAR guitar cases come through baggage claim with a hole punched right through it, even though it was wrapped shut with duct tape. I have also carried them on in a gig bag, placed in the overhead.

    Me, I prefer the gig bag/overhead, but if its a crowded flight, they may make you gate-check it to go in with the regular luggage. Me personally, I prefer the ATA flight case . . .
  15. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Yeah, I just came in from Boston the other day, and while my bass was 100% FINE, one of the latches wasn't properly closed and the gig bag was half unzipped inside :mad:

    I wish that baggage handling policies were better, it seems like such a crock that they aren't to be held responsible for their ineptitude.

    either way, the bass safe is still a great solution, while it has it's downsides(that slippy coating, the difficulty of putting it back together sometimes) it's still a very great way to fly with your bass.

    I'm 4/4 for flying with it, and I can't imagine there ever being an issue in the future.
  16. AltIII


    Sep 3, 2002
    It is beyond me how baggage crews can get away with vandalizing musical instruments. Many people make thier living off of those instruments.Makes me wish I could afford insurance.
  17. I flew across canada with an acoustic guitar a couple of years ago. i had a hardshell case. nothing fancy, just the standard that comes with every acoustic guitar out there. i paced all my socks and underwear around the body (and under) and around the neck. if the case stays closed, the most dangerous location is the headstock attachment. a headstock can snap off just from the case standing on its end and falling over. i packed it as tight as i could (to the point where i almost had to sit on it to close it) and put a ring of zip ties around the neck section of the case. the case got a couple of dings on it, but the guitar survived just fine.

    Is it ok to take the neck off a bass and pack the body and neck separately in your luggage? i would think this would be a very safe way to travel. lots of padding on all sides, and the weaker joints are relieved of the stresses. i guess reclimatizing may take a bit longer, but are there any other problems with this?
  18. Phat Ham

    Phat Ham

    Feb 13, 2000
    I always carry on my bass in a gig bag. I've never had a single problem. Depending on the aircraft and how crowded the flight was, I've either put it in an overhead bin, in the closet, or behind the last row of seats in front of a bulkhead. On the two flights I took yesterday (D.C to Chicago, Chicago to Tokyo), I put the bass in the closet since the overhead bins were too small to fit my bass. The airlines I've flown with a bass are United, Northwest, AA, ANA, JAL, and JAS.
  19. If you ever take long flights, where you have to put your bass in the belly of the plane, make sure you take of your strings. The very low temperatures reached in the belly can cause problems with the neck, because the neck and the strings contract differently.
    You could end up with no scratches or dents at all, but a totally warped neck. No good...

    Anyways, a flight case might be a good idea, I think they designed that specially for flying :p
  20. Phat Ham

    Phat Ham

    Feb 13, 2000
    I don't think that's a very good idea. Bass (and guitar) necks are made with truss rods to counter act the tension of the strings. taking the strings off would leave the truss rod pulling against nothing, and would increase chances of something getting messed up. If you don't beleive me consider this: all basses and guitars are shipped with strings tuned up, and it's not like Fedex and UPS regulate the temperatures in their cargo holds.