The Joy of Airline travel with an Instrument

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by P. Aaron, Sep 11, 2004.

  1. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    Before you guys rag on me for taking a "guitar(??!!)" on this vacation, it was the only instrument that would fit the requirements mandated by the Transportation Security Authority(TSA).

    Plus, I love my P-Bass, and I wouldn't let that thing outta my sight with strangers around. An Ibanez guitar, easier to replace. It was going to be rainy weather, I would go insane without something to do.

    To Whom it may concern,

    Prior to flying, I inquired about transporting a musical instrument. (electric guitar) I was informed that the instrument had to be checked baggage, it being too large for carry on. It is a valuable guitar, so I purchased (at the recommendation of your very own TSA) the appropriate TSA approved lock for the guitar case. Under the care of your baggage handlers, the guitar case was ripped at the lock loop on the flight from DTW to RDU, and further damaged on the return trip from RDU to DTW. My TSA lock was also missing(after the return flight). Despite my informing the clerks at both terminals to and from that the locks were TSA approved. The clerks acknowledged my note of that fact.

    The guitar case I am talking about is top of the line, built especially for airline and ground transport. The case is professional grade and made of hard plastic that is very difficult to damage, and very expensive to replace. I have owned this instrument and its original case for over 10 years. One flight with your airline has damaged this case beyond repair, and destroyed any security function it had. If the delays (at both terminals) for the flights had been all that was wrong, I would be a little less enraged. But the seemingly blatant destruction of my property in your care is almost intentional it seems. In spite of the fact that I adapted to your rules for checked baggage, and complied with the regulations, your airline mandated. I expect (***)Airlines to compensate me for the replacement of me guitar case with an exact duplicate, and also compensate me for the missing TSA approved baggage lock. I will be happy to provide competitive pricing for both.
    P. Aaron

    (the return flight was delayed 4.5 hours!)

    Then I read this today:

    I was compensated for the damage. I just hated breaking up an original guitar and its case. It was a mint package. The case, after over 10 years, still had that "new" smell.
    Any flight I take in the future, I will use a gig bag and carry the instrument on.
  2. "Lost, stolen or damaged items include watches, jewelry, suits, prescription drugs, computers, cash and underwear."

  3. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    Real "secure" airlines these days.
  4. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    I wouldn't.They make you put it in the overhead compartments in soft cases only. Stuff moves around in there. I know people who have had instruments damaged this way.

    Moulded plastic cases are ok but I've never felt comfortable flying my basses in them. Proper flight cases made of wood paneling or metal are a bare minimum for flying IMO. I've just ordered one of these......

    Oh and don't forget to loosen the strings before you fly. The pressurised cabin combined with the pressure from the strings can do nasty things to your neck.
  5. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    But if I am sitting right below it, I'll have a handle on what's going on with it. When the baggage guys handled it in the back room, they did their best to wreck it.
  6. 73jbass


    Apr 17, 2004
    The typical aircraft cabin is pressurized to around 10,000 feet.That will have no effect at all on a musical instrument. The only place a full size bass case will fit inside a commercial plane is in a garment closet.The only problem is,that is where the flight crew stow all their gear.I was going to take a bass with me on vacation back in October,but the case was considered oversize,and was going to cost me 100.00 each way to take it with me. And I work for the airline! No employee discounts.
  7. People from some other forums that I'm a member/moderator for, ship their basses and/or guitars when they travel, rather than take them on the airline. Some say they only take their good instruments when they are not flying to their destination.

    I wonder what the rules are like for charter flights?
  8. Bard2dbone


    Aug 4, 2002
    Arlington TX
    This is a hobbyhorse I've ridden for a long time. American Airlines managed to destroy one of my favorite basses back in the '80's and I'm unlikely to ever forgive or forget.

    Whenever the subject turns to 'lawsuit' basses of any kind, or Univox basses in particular, I have to tell the story of a Ric copy I got to be the backup to my 4003 and ended up liking it more than the 'real' Ric.

    At least I liked it before the airlines apparently removed it from its flight cases and played hockey with it. Or maybe they just sat it on top of the cargo container that they put the luggage into to load it onto the plane without its case and let it slide off.

    I don't actually know WHAT they did to damage it so badly, but it had chunks knocked out of the body and binding, and the neck had a new and interesting set of curves added to it. The trussrod(s?) was(were?) broken and the bass was ruined.

    When I tried to get them to compensate me for the damage, they said, basically, that it was my own fault for having it on the plane in the first place.

    So, in summary: If you take a bass on a flight in a locked flight case and they take it from you, bust open the case and throw your bass down on the concreted until pieces break off, well you should have expected that.
  9. Bard2dbone


    Aug 4, 2002
    Arlington TX
    That sounds like a REALLY good idea to me. But then I'm old now and off the road.
  10. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    If you have a proper, well-made gigbag (i.e. Undercover, Moordian, Reunion Blues, etc), you won't have much of a worry with it in the overhead.

    And PLEASE stop perpetuating the myth that detuning the strings is the right thing to do. It most certainly and undeniably is NOT. Never ever detune strings before shipping your bass. Ever. I won't elaborate, but if you do a search, you will find plenty of information explaining WHY not to do it.
  11. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    New York, NY
    Be very careful about assuming you can carry-on basses with gig bags. I had the same airline Boston-LA then LA-Boston. The airport in Boston let me carry my Roscoe on in a gig bag. At LAX, they ABSOLUTELY WOULD NOT let me carry it on. They were freaking out, and yelling at us because somehow it was Boston's fault, we shouldn't have been told we could do that. Anyway, I wound up having to check my really really expensive Roscoe in a gig bag. Scary as hell. Thankfully it was fine, but man.

    Buy a dope-ass flight case if you're flying with instruments. It will take the guesswork out of it.
  12. bassandbeyond


    Aug 28, 2004
    Gaithersburg MD
    Affiliated with Tune Guitar Maniac
    Yes, they can be real Nazis about this, and there's not much you can do about it when you're stuck in the terminal. The fact of the matter is, a long scale bass guitar in a gig bag almost always can fit into the overhead compartment or hang in the garment bag closet of any commercial airliner, BUT it does technically exceed the maximum length allowable for carry-on baggage. Therefore, they are entitled to insist that you check it. But then they can stick you with outrageous excess baggage charges when you check it!!! And things aren't getting any easier since 9-11. I'm not sure what the best solution is anymore.... :(
  13. Bard2dbone


    Aug 4, 2002
    Arlington TX
    Didn't do me any good.
  14. DistortedBass

    DistortedBass Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2006
    Los Angeles
    Schecter Guitars Endorsee
    I had to take one of my favorite basses with me on a flight to and from Japan. I have a pretty good methodology for getting your bass on the plane, ymmv though.

    First, and i'll supply a link if i can find it, you can print out a letter from the TSA that says you are allowed to carry a musical instrument on board and it does not count towards your carry on luggage limit and is a TSA approved item.

    When i went to the check in counter i kept the bass in front of me below the counter so they couldn't see I had it and didn't strap it back on until i was out of line.

    Went through security, got a suspicious look at the bag, but I had the letter ready.

    The real hurdle is getting past the gate crew. once your on the plane, the crew is pretty helpfull and figure if you got that far it must be okay.

    When i went to board and hand over my ticket, i let some slack out of the straps so the bag would hang low on my back and not be very visible from the front. It also made it look shorter rather than sticking out a foot over my head.

    As soon as i got to the plane door I asked the first person to greet me if i could put my bag in the closet. I said it as a delicate item and was afraid someone might damage it in the overhead. I didn't say anything about being worried it wouldn't fit. I find smiling and just asking permission as you do what you want seems to make them feel like you know what your doing and go along with it.

    Even the Japanese greeter that didn't speak much english just smiled and nodded and helped me find the best spot in the closet.

    Hope that helps someone.
  15. manbass


    May 20, 2004
    Tampa Bay
    Heres the TSA Website Narrative

    "Carrying Instruments Through Screening Checkpoints
    You may carry one (1) musical instrument in addition to 1 carry-on and 1 personal item through the screening checkpoint. This is a TSA Screening Policy. Airlines may or may not allow the additional carry-on item on their aircraft. Please check with your airline before you arrive at the airport.
    Security officers must x-ray or physically screen your instrument before it can be transported on an aircraft.
    Security officers will handle musical instruments very carefully and will allow you to be as involved as possible in any physical screening.
    If security officers cannot clear the instrument through the security checkpoint as a carry-on item, you should transport the instrument and checked baggage instead."

    Heres is Continentals Policy:

    "Musical Instruments
    Musical instruments can be carried on board or checked as baggage. If necessary, a seat can also be purchased for an instrument.
    Carried on Board
    • A musical instrument can be carried on in place of a carry-on bag.
    • The maximum combined linear measurement (L + W + H) of the instrument is 51 inches (130 cm).
    • The maximum weight of the carry-on bag is 40 pounds (18 kg).
    Checked as Baggage
    • Instrument should be in a hard shell case to protect it during normal handling.
    • Excess charges apply if checking more than the free baggage allowance.
    • Oversize charges apply to musical instruments that measure 90 - 115 linear inches.
    • Overweight charges apply to musical instruments that are over 50 pounds.
    • Musical instruments over 70 pounds will not be accepted.
    • If the instrument is over 115 linear inches, contact Reservations.
    In addition to the above polices, stringed instruments should have the strings loosened to protect the neck from damage due to expansion and contraction which result from temperature variations.
    Cabin Seat Baggage
    • Continental will allow a customer to purchase a ticket for a musical instrument which is too fragile or bulky to be handled as checked baggage. Upright Basses and Contra Basses will not be accepted as Cabin Seat Baggage.
    Continental is not liable for damage to musical instrument.
    Excess Valuation may not be purchased for musical instruments."

    So here goes my upcoming effort...I am flying Tampa to Newark on Continental this Sat 12/30/07. I am taking my Steinberger XT-25 5 string headless AS A CARRY-ON. In the flimsy Gig bag its L-W-H measurements are 53" which is 2 INCHES OVER THE AIRLINE SIZE MAXIMUM. I plan to fold over the excess to get in under that measurement. I will report back when this adventure is complete on 1/7/08. Wish me luck.
  16. bassbluestew


    Feb 13, 2005
    I've done over 350 flights in the past 4 years with my SKB bass safe / gig bag combo. I fly some of the WORST airlines in Europre and regularly go through far all I've had is a bent tuning peg !

    Touch wood.......................

  17. Hoover

    Hoover Banned

    Nov 2, 2007
    New York City
    So if a Fender Jazz Bass was only 3" wide you'd be all set!

    FWIW I've successfully taken a Steinberger L-2 in its original gigbag on a flight as carry-on luggage, & had it fit just fine in the overhead bin...on the first half of the flight. On the connecting flight, the bins were somehow 4" shorter than the last plane, and the 'berger just barely fit!

    Note that this was long before post-9/11 TSA paranoia, so no idea whether you'd get crap about your extra 2 inches.
  18. Hoover

    Hoover Banned

    Nov 2, 2007
    New York City
    About fifteen years ago I was flying from Boston MA to Houston TX for a gig, and at the recommendation of some other musicians I decided to ship my bass via commercial air freight; it was allegedly more secure than bringing it as checked luggage, but could arrive at the airport terminal the same day my plane arrived in Houston, yet it was cheaper than UPS or FedEx overnight service.

    So I go to the air freight terminal with my bass in a custom flight case, and I fill out some paperwork, and they take the case. But since this is the commercial air freight terminal, they have to handle my bass the same way they would handle a shipment of, say, half a ton of polystyrene beads, or a cord of firewood: They take my bass in its case -- which weighs maybe 40 lbs all together -- and set it down on a wood palette. Which maybe weighs 30 lbs itself. And then they drive up to the palette in a huge fork lift to carry it over to the room-sized industrial scale to get an "accurate" (sic) shipping weight. Fork driver inserts the blades of his lift under the palette & hits the "up" button

    ...and proceeds to launch my bass ten feet into the air, where it does a two-and-a-half gainer before crashing to the tarmac. Douchbag then slowly climbs out of his lift and tries to manually pick my case up to put it back on the palette...but then decides that's too much effort and starts getting back in the lift to try to pick it up with the fork blades again.

    It was at this point that I leapt over the counter, ran out into the hanger, and took my bass back. Told them to tear up the paperwork, I'd take my chances checking the bass as luggage on my passenger flight.

    Which was a completely uneventful process.
  19. manbass


    May 20, 2004
    Tampa Bay
    Thats hilarious. Great story.