We have all heard our fair share of horror stories when it comes to musicians traveling. While a musical instrument is on many airlines considered a personal item, there is still a strong chance that an airline representative will feel obliged to not grant airplane entry with a musical instrument. With guitars and cellos smashed in transit, and expensive Steinway pianos being taken apart, we want to be aware of all the tricks of trade when traveling with a musical instrument.


As musicians approaching the check in counter we start creating different disaster scenarios in our head, preparing for the inevitable battle with the airline representative. As we reach the counter, we take our stance and the duel begins. Typically these duels don’t end on a positive note for the musician. In a game of power the airline almost always wins. However, behind every counter there is a person, who will respond to kindness. Remember, a kind and polite word goes a long way, so instead of force, consider a gentler approach when trying to advocate for your instrument’s presence on board.


Sometimes a kind word is not enough. The airline representative needs to check with their superiors whether an instrument could be permitted on board. This is typically another source of anxiety, and can stir some emotions. In situation like this, patience is key. Oblige and be cooperative, smile and nod, while understanding your rights as a passenger taking care of your personal item. Things typically work out, so just go with the flow.

As we reach the counter, we take our stance and the duel begins.


Sometimes the size is an excuse for an airline to not permit your instrument on board. Needless to say with instruments as large as cellos and double basses this goes without saying, but guitars, violas and violins can easily fit on board most planes. If you carry another bag along with your instrument, be ready to check in your carry-on in lieu of letting your instrument be taken from you and checked in with the rest of the luggage. Cooperation and compromise is often met in a positive way by airlines representative.


It shouldn’t be but it is: the more miles you accumulate, the more crucial and valuable you become to an airline as a passenger. Focus on having at least one airline as being your go-to airline, where you become a frequent flyer with status. Often times such status assures that you are a well-traveled person and that you know your way around the airport. Be diligent about this, and sign up for all the possible mileage programs, as this can benefit your status in the long run.


While uncommon, disasters do happen, and sometimes you just cannot do anything but let your instrument be checked in. It is highly unlikely that in a situation like this something will happen to the instrument. With fragile stickers on your case, it is assuring to know that instrument damage in air transport is actually rare. So, don’t panic, and try to assume a calm disposition, should you have to check in your instrument. This will make your travels much more pleasant.

While this article cannot guarantee the safety of our instruments on board an aircraft, it is our hope that some of these tips could provide an easy way of navigating some of the typical musicians’ troubles at the airport. Don’t stress, and enjoy your flight!