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Transporting a bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by ubassman, Dec 28, 2012.

  1. ubassman


    Jul 23, 2012
    Anyone got any tips and advice about shipping a double bass internationally?
  2. Put it in a proper flight case, take it as baggage or ship it with an airline. Take it to and from the airports at either end yourself, most damage happens in ground transport.

    Plane holds are airconditioned and pressurised, so while it'll be out in the weather during loading and unloading, the trip itself will be much the same conditions as you get as a passenger.
  3. contrabart


    Mar 19, 2010
    If it's for touring: try to find basses at the places you'll be playing. Flying with a bass has gotten so difficult since 9-11 it's almost not worth it anymore. Lots of times expensive too.
  4. I agree with Andrew, I have recently moved my bass from London to Florida, I hired a Kolstein bass carrier and took it empty to London and brought my bass back and it all went well, no problems and more important no damage, the only slight hiccup was at Gatwick while the airline sorted out whose job it was to load it.
    If you need any more info let me know
  5. ubassman


    Jul 23, 2012
    ....did you have to pay through the nose to take it in the hold? ...I can just visualise the turmoil at Gatwick !!
  6. I travelled with Virgin Atlantic, they were not fazed at all when I turned up at check in with this very large item, the cost was 50 pounds for oversize baggage and I did tell reservations what I was doing so they were expecting me. It all worked out well, with no damage.
  7. davidprice


    Jan 1, 2005
    For those who have flown with basses in flight cases (I'm looking at doing it for the first time), how do you pack the bass inside the case? loosen strings, remove the strings and bridge, knock down the soundpost? Anything else (other than pray...)?
  8. contrabart


    Mar 19, 2010
    loosen the strings a little bit, leave the soundpost as it is. and pray...
  9. samriley


    Jul 14, 2008
    you're not going to want to hear this but I sent my bass home via air transit from london to Adelaide, Australia, and I was not travelling with it. Somewhere along the line, and I would not like to know exactly what happened, but the top of the scroll was knocked clean off during transit. this was in a gage flight case that I had hired from NYC, inflated the air sacks, packed it with extra clothing etc. So anyway, your bass can still get damaged so be prepared, and have insurance!!!!!!!!
    I've travelled with basses previous without a problem, so just loosen the strings a fair bit and yeh, pray!!
  10. davidprice


    Jan 1, 2005
    Thanks. "Pray" does seem to be the one piece of unanimous advice!
    @ Sam - sorry to hear that both for you and it does, of course, underscore the main anxiety. I don't know that freight alternatives are any better (though, I guess, they skip TSA so should at least remain packed as intended).
  11. I've repaired a few broken things in the neck/scroll area when basses have been flown in expensive (Gage, SBS, some unknown but heavy-duty European fiberglass trunk, and another similar and very strong Canadian-made trunk) cases by various airlines. The only situation in which the airline made good on paying for the damage was with Westjet, when a luggage cart sheered the head of the trunk right off just before the bass was to be loaded. They even covered a couple of flights for the bassist to visit my shop before and after the repairs. But generally speaking, I'd say:

    - Buy good insurance because airlines generally don't care and their baggage handlers will kill your bass for giggles (NOT the case with Westjet - the poor driver of the baggage train was practically in tears apparently) and the general policy seems to be that if the case is approximately the same shape as it's supposed to be, they've done nothing wrong... no matter what shape it was at the moment they dropped a ton of other stuff on it.

    - Keep the whole area of the neck/scroll free of contact in every direction for at least 2 inches, and brace the instrument body including the neck heel very securely such that the bass cannot wiggle significantly. A lot of neck damage happens because of movement within the case, the scroll/tuners bashing into the case itself. Inflated bags around the scroll are a VERY BAD IDEA as these will inflict almost as much damage to a moving scroll as will a hard surface. It's more the momentum of the bass moving around that does damage than it is the neck/head mass - most neck joints are more than adequately strong to resist the neck/head bouncing around in transit. After all, the neck joint withstands quite a lot of strain from the strings.

    - Avoid putting anything at all firm above or below the soundpost if you're leaving the post in place. A punctured belly or back is not a fun thing to repair, nor cheap when repaired properly. I'd recommend at least 2" of clearance above the belly and below the back in that area, and check a trunk's ability to flex in the middle of the body. Moulded-in ribs to stiffen the trunk through the middle are a very good idea. Large expanses of puncture-resistant but highly flexible fiberglass or carbon fiber are invitations to major belly and/or back damage.

    No matter how good the trunk, it can be damaged. In the case of the Canadian-made trunk, this was a roughly 70 pound monster which was really stiff, yet the airline (Alaska) managed to squash it diagonally under other items in the hold and flex the entire body of the gorgeous-sounding mid-19th century French bass inside on that axis, releasing almost the entire treble-side belly seam. The bassist was very lucky that the impact wasn't another 100 pounds or so harder; the bass would have shattered. No amount of preparation can prevent stuff like this. So the first bit of advice, getting excellent insurance, seems the most important. And make sure you have communicated very thoroughly with your insurer regarding liability during air transport and during handling on the ground by unknown parties. Don't let the fine print protect the insurer from paying for the damage.

    That said, most bass trips are not unlucky at all. I knew a great old player who routinely took her bass back and forth from Toronto to Vancouver for opera performances, for many years, using nothing but a home-made gig bag. But those were the good old days when they'd seatbelt a bass into the flight attendant area or in an empty seat. That sort of kindness seems lost on airline employees and policy makers today. So most bassists end up renting, or having a removable-neck modification made to their instrument, or buying a Chadwick or other such travel instrument.

    Wish I could say trucking was better... but I've seen a few broken necks that way too. Mostly from idiots unloading carelessly, or from standing the thing up for the ride and having it fall over on a bumpy road or hard corner because they didn't bother tying it to the wall of the truck. Dropping the post is a good idea for either airline or truck shipping.
  12. just ran into a drummer friend recently, fresh off of a long tour. he mentioned having a horrible experience at an airport trying to get a cymbal bag onto a flight.

    if cymbals are an issue, i'd imagine they have an even bigger issue with basses.

    i know even electric basses have been known to be a problem..

    i have no advice.. just horror stories about flights with instruments. sorry, and best of luck!
  13. davidprice


    Jan 1, 2005
    Thank you, Gerard, for so many practical specifics. Hardly a stress or risk free proposition. Still, it does seem like proper packing is the best thing one can do to increase the odds so this info is very useful and will - hopefully - prevent some damage.
  14. IntBassist


    Mar 21, 2013
    Is anyone up to date with which airlines will take a bass under the plane, and the charges from the US to the UK? After talking with someone in India, American Airlines told me it would be 100% of a full adult fare (to put in under the plane)...meaning roughly $1000!!!! insane. Any help out there?

    Also, I see a lot of airlines have a 70lb weight limit to Europe. My bass weighs in at about 95lbs in the flight case.
  15. davidprice


    Jan 1, 2005
    I wish I had more to contribute but it sure doesn't look like there are many good options. Hopefully it might get better: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/avi...s-have-won-a-major-victory-over-airlines.html
    In the meantime, to the UK perhaps Virgin as mentioned above. I've heard Lufthansa can be bass friendly (though I'd still have a plan B backup in case the bass was refused at the airport).

    re: the 70 lbs limit - I wonder what the quality is on these cases: http://www.jimlaabsmusic.com/index.php?_a=viewProd&productId=4109
    At 44 lbs it seems like it could get by at under the limit.