How To Carry Musical Instruments on Airplanes

By Subodh / March 31, 2015

Musicians have to travel for their shows all over the world and it is important for them to carry their instruments along. Security reasons have made travelling with instruments difficult, especially across international borders. But the recent regulatory acts have brought some respite to musicians.

Federal Laws for Travelling With Special Items

Passengers travelling with special items, such as musical instruments, are governed by various federal agencies, like Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Thus, for convenience of the passenger, the Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 has been made mandatory and standard for every airline to follow. Under this act, following three regulations are highlighted:

Carry Musical Instruments on Airplanes

  1. Passengers have the right to carry guitar, violin and other such instruments in cabin baggage without any kind of additional fee. However, the instrument should fit in the overhead bins.
  2. In case the instrument does not fit in the overhead bins, it can be carried along with the passenger on the purchase of an extra ticket.
  3. Larger instruments can be transported as checked baggage.

Airlines & Instrument Policy

All airlines want their passengers to be able to carry their valued belongings safely and enjoy their flight. To ensure the same, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has come up with a regulation act regarding the carriage of musical instruments.

Here is a list of prominent airlines and their take on carrying musical instruments.

Alaska Airlines

  • Carry-On Baggage: Standard Policies Apply
  • Cabin Seat Baggage: On purchase of an adult ticket, large musical instruments are allowed as cabin baggage.
  • Checked Baggage: Standard Policies Apply

American Airlines

  • Carry-On Baggage: Musical instrument can accompany the passenger in place of one carry-on bag. The size does not matter, but it should be able to safely fit in the location provided on board.
  • Cabin Seat Baggage: On purchase of an adult ticket, large musical instruments are allowed in cabin baggage. However, the instrument can only be carried on the window seat to avoid discomfort to other passengers.
  • Checked Baggage: Standard Policies Apply

Delta Airlines

  • Carry-On Baggage: Only smaller string musical instruments, such as guitar and violin, can be carried by the passenger in place of one carry-on bag. The instrument should fit into the space provided in the plane.
  • Cabin Seat Baggage: Only fragile instruments can be checked in as cabin seat baggage.
  • Checked Baggage: Standard Policies Apply

Hawaiian Airlines

  • Carry-On Baggage: Standard Policies Apply
  • Cabin Seat Baggage: On purchase of an adult ticket, large musical instruments are allowed as cabin baggage.
  • Checked Baggage: Any instrument can be checked in if the instrument meets the requirements laid down by airlines.

JetBlue Airways

  • Carry-On Baggage: Musical instrument can be carried by the passenger in place of one carry-on bag, if it can be stowed easily.
  • Cabin Seat Baggage: Instrument can be transported only if its size does not allow it to be handled as a normal carry-on baggage.
  • Checked Baggage: An instrument would be taken as one checked baggage.

Southwest Airlines

  • Carry-On Baggage: Musical instrument can be accompanied by passenger free of cost, if it can be safely stowed in the location provided on board.
  • Cabin Seat Baggage: On purchase of an adult ticket, large musical instruments or fragile instruments are allowed in as cabin seat baggage.
  • Checked Baggage: Standard Policies Apply

United Airlines

  • Carry-On Baggage: Musical instrument can be checked in by the passenger in place of one carry-on bag. Space is the consideration.
  • Cabin Seat Baggage: On purchase of an adult ticket, large musical instruments are allowed as cabin baggage. Guitars and upright basses are not allowed.
  • Checked Baggage: Standard Policies Apply

Quick Tips for Traveling with Musical Instruments:

  • Reach airport a little earlier than check in time to ensure that your instrument meets the airlines’ requirements.
  • All brass instruments should go as checked baggage.
  • String instruments within size limitations can be carried as carry-on items.
  • Instruments too need to go through screening checkpoints.
  • Instruments can be taken in checked baggage, if they fit the weight and size consideration of airlines.
  • It is always better to go through additional information from the Department of Transportation as well as the airlines you are flying by.