Tips on flying with a bass guitar

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by David Silva, Jul 22, 2018.

  1. David Silva

    David Silva

    May 4, 2017
    Hello everyone,

    I will be flying out west for some shows and I am real nervous about the airline damaging or losing my bass. I will be flying Delta airlines and I was hoping I could take it aboard the plane in a semi hard case. Can anyone provide tips or advice on getting my bass there safely? I really appreciate it. I will be looking at insurance as well for the trip. The bass costs around 800 dollars. It’ s Not my most expensive bass but still isn’t super cheap if something happened to it, plus I would have to scramble to find a bass in another state on short notice.... I will be taking a Sire V7 vintage 5.
  2. chris merrill

    chris merrill Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2012
    Chicago, IL
    Endorsing Artist for: GHS Strings, Lakland Basses
    Reunion blues or mono bag. Carry it on. If no room in the overhead, try the captains closet or worst case you can “gate check” or “valet check” like a stroller or wheel chair. It won’t ride the belts that way and you grab it as soon as you exit the plane on the jetway.
    I do this a few times a month and haven’t had a problem. (Knock on alder)
  3. AaronVonRock


    Feb 22, 2013
    OP, this is the best advice you're going to find. All of the bases have been covered.
  4. bass12

    bass12 Have You Met Grace Jones?

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Carrying on is a great plan - until it doesn't work. There are no guarantees when you fly. I would just assume you are going to have to check your bass as baggage.
    Mili, JimmyM, Slough Feg Bass and 6 others like this.
  5. Tvrtko


    Dec 27, 2002
    South of the USA
    Get insurance, anyway.
    Bunk McNulty and nateh415 like this.
  6. ClassicJazz

    ClassicJazz Bottom Feeders Unite!! Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2005
    Delray Beach, Florida
    If you need to check it in, highly recommended the SKB Bass Safe. The cool thing about it, your bass and gig bag go into it. When you get to your location you got your gig bag already.

    If carry on, the Mono Vertigo gig bag. If you want to protect your bass, don’t cheap out on a gig bag. I’ve flown with my ‘72 Jazz and Fodera with the Mono bag and had no worries.

    As far as the plane, laws say you can bring your instrument on the long as there is room.

    This is important, be sure to get on the plane early so you can snagg a overhead. So that means getting a seat towards the rear of the plane since they board rear seats first, or if you fly Southwest spend the extra $15 for early boarding.
  7. I use a Johnson hard case. It's a little smaller than most hard cases and will usually fit on the bottom of the overhead compartment, because let's face it; they're not going to give you an entire overhead for your bass and it will end up underneath everything if your trying to get there early enough to get your bass in there. I always offer assistance getting other peoples carry-ons in and out of the bin my bass is in. The case is tough enough to handle other carry on luggage on top of it, if carefully placed, and offers more protection if it has to be gate checked.
  8. superheavyfunk


    Mar 11, 2013
    You can't do anything about it potentially getting lost. That just happens sometimes and it sucks... Just make sure you've got some room on your credit card to rent one, just in case. Also, its much better if you don't have any connecting flights. The more you switch, the greater the chance of stuff getting misplaced.

    I just did an 8 day string in Germany and my bass got lost for a few days in the shuffle (I went to Hamburg, my bass went to Brussels - figure that one out! Lol). I just rented one for the three days I needed it and then used my own bass for the rest of the shows after it was found. Definitely not an ideal situation but handled easily enough, even with the language barrier. In your case, I really don't think you've got a lot to worry about. :)
  9. I’ve taken a bass on a plane on three separate trips. I can typically get it stowed in the Flight Attendent’s closet at the main entrance. And that’s in a hard Gator case.
    I wouldn’t recommend taking a soft case. I’ve seen those literally thrown into the luggage compartment from ground level. That was on a small dual-propeller plane, but still. My hard case was then thrown on right after, along with a few suitcases.
    ATLbassist likes this.
  10. blastoff


    Sep 5, 2007
    way out west
    i used to fly cross country with my upright in a david gage flight case. that was no picnic. i basically had to bribe the baggage attendants each time. electrics are a bit easier. ive always been able to get them in the cabin with me.
  11. mastodon88


    May 28, 2012
    Sacramento CA
    I can vouch for Reunion Blues gig bag!! if you smile nicely to the flight attendants they'll let you put it behind some seats in the back :).
    HolmeBass and Morrighan like this.
  12. Hevy T

    Hevy T Supporting Member

    Jan 11, 2011
    Lethbridge, AB Canada
    If the destination had either a GC or a L and M, I think I would leave my bass home and just rent one for the duration of my stay. Or even rent one before I leave and make sure I opted for the optional Renters Insurance

    Who knows that might even eventually turn into a NBD post lol
    Frank77 and Mammoth_Bass like this.
  13. I flew with Delta done months ago with a bass and a guitar, both with the new Fender hardcase (SKB). I sent the bass to the cargo and the guitar as carry on.
    Fly attendants told me I could fit the guitar on the overhead, that wasn't exactly true...
    Although it fits, it blocks anything else these because it doesn't lies flat.
    I'm sure the other people in the flight has me, but both the first and the bass arrived with no issues
  14. thewildest

    thewildest Supporting Member

    May 25, 2011
    Florida, USA
    I use a SKB 2SKB-4814W (ATA Golf travel case), and carried 2 instruments on it pretty comfortably and checked them. These are easy to carry, strong as a tank and allow you to put your bass inside its soft carrying bag and then inside the “sarcophagus” as I call it. It is the cheapest, most practical, less stressful way in my mind.

    If you are travelling with an irreplaceable instrument I would not check it, and take the risk to have to “convince” the flight attendants to do their jobs and accommodate my special needs. If that’s the case, I would add extra foam/bubble wrap around the neck/tuners and knobs/bridge area. Sometimes while trying to arrange the bags in these small compartments these people will squeeze it like they would do with a pillow.
  15. While I haven't flown with my bass recently, I always used my Reunion Blues leather bag with it's ATA approved hook. It was then classified as a "hanging bag" and is airline approved to hang in the closet. Never stowed it in the overhead. The key is getting on near the front before the closet fills up. The only issue is if you are on a small commuter prop plane and there is no closet, and the overhead isn't big enough. Then you get gate checked which can definitely be a risk.

    Do the Mono bags or any of the other brands have an ATA approved hanging hook as part of the design? Believe me, it can matter. A lot.

    Reunion Blues Back.jpg
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2018
    Hans Gruber likes this.
  16. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    I'm heading out from Connecticut to a gig in Colorado next week. I've got a TSA approved flight case, and I'm going to put it in checked luggage, mainly because it is never certain what's going to happen when you board. The airlines tell you to get there early, ask to board early with your carry-on; what they don't tell you is that the only rules and regulations that matter are those enforced by the pilot and crew on your flight. Most of the time they're accommodating, but once it a while they aren't.
  17. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    Bring an adaptor so you plug into the arm rest. The other fliers will love a slap solo when the plane hits those air pockets. Speaking of turbulence. Remember to tell your bass, don’t order the fish, everything will be fine, you’re landing soon, and there is such a thing as a water landing.
    lermgalieu and Bunk McNulty like this.
  18. Morrighan

    Morrighan la Contessa Supporting Member

    Oct 22, 2015
    Isle of Everywhere
    +1 on the Reunion Blues gig bag. My bass has seen [bignum] air miles in one without incident. No experience with the Mono but expect it's as robust as the the RB.
  19. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    I fly a lot for my professional job, so I have a few tips, plus a lot of insight from watching Nashville musicians try to fly with their instruments:

    • Your ability to carry on will vary greatly depending on the size of the plane. You need to find out what plane you will be on. If it's a "regional jet" like and Embraer, then you should know that the overheads are VERY small and there is only one "flight attendant closet" which is usually half full of their gear. On those types of planes, you will be forced to check your bass. On something like a 737 (the planes used exclusively by Southwest), the overhead is JUST big enough to fit a bass soft case....but,
    • In order to get your bag into the overhead on a larger plane, you will need to be one of the first to board. Everyone, not just musicians, get to use the overhead, and they are first come, first served. Pay extra to get early boarding to better your chances to get an overhead. Be sure that it's your only overhead piece of luggage, since you only get one. Again, no guarantees.
    • If there isn't room, or your bag doesn't fit, you're SOL. Don't complain, and don't start pulling other people's luggage out of the overhead. I see both happen regularly, and I can promise that neither end well. If the flight attendants don't stop you, and angry, frustrated, TSA-gropped fellow passenger may just remind you that you are not special. There is no law which REQUIRES them to force your bass on board (no matter what you'll hear today from other TB members.)
    • Use a "bag" that sturdy enough to be gate checked. The Mono or Reunion Blues bags offer just as much protection as an OEM hard case. Hard cases don't fit in ANY plane.
    • I should have put this first......because it's the best option and the one that yields the least amount of stress for all involved: Get a SKB Bass Safe and check your bass. Less to carry through security, less stress wondering if you'll get on board, less anger and vitriol from your fellow passengers. They are super secure and sturdy, unless they roll over it with the plane.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2018
  20. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Have you been on many planes recently? Most don't have any closets, and if they do they are barely big enough for the coats in first class, much less any "hanging bags".