Have you ever tried to take a guitar with you on an airplane? When going to Vienna yesterday, I was thinking about it, but finally decided not to due to the fact that the risk of it ending up with the other luggage was too high.
I was planning to take my Washburn Acoustic/Electric guitar with me to Vienna so I can play and practice a bit, but I did not want to check it in with the other luggage. First and foremost because of the low temperatures inside the cargo area of the plane and second because I don’t have a hard case for it.
I flew with Austrian from London to Vienna and called their helpdesk in the morning to check whether having a musical instrument inside the cabin would be okay. Their conditions did not really make it clear, as they were only talking about instruments in general. The helpdesk guy told me that I can only take hand luggage with me that does not exceed 55cm x 40cm x 25cm and, surprise, surprise, a guitar is bigger. That man is a genius, I thought. He also advised me that I would need to book an extra seat if I would want to take it with me. This sounded a bit crazy, but I considered this to be true – cause after 9/11 everything seems to be in favor of more restrictions to increase the security of the passengers. Allegedly.
The thing is, I was also considering taking my guitar with me when I was flying EasyJet at Christmas. I am glad I finally did not, because of the very delayed flight et al. but the thing is: They (kind of) allow you to take a music instrument with you, but the guys at Luton Airport would not allow you to proceed through security, because of the “one bag only as hand luggage” rule. Awesome.
I also did some research on the web where people mostly reported that they had no problem bringing their guitar on board. Some told that they had to do a “gate check” which means that you leave your guitar at the door of the airplane (at the gate), similar to strollers etc., and Airport personnel then puts these things manually in the luggage area of the plane. Still not good, because of the temperature differences which can harm the body of the guitar.
So I finally decided again not to take the guitar with me to Vienna this time, but wanted to check with the staff at the airport if I could have.
First, I checked with the guy at the Austrian check-in counter. Answer: Yes, I can take it with me.
Second, I checked with one of the flight attendants on my flight: Answer: Yes, you can take it with you, if the guy at check in said it is ok.
Third, I checked with another ground staff at Vienna International Airport. He told me that booking an extra seat is nonsense and only applies if you have a really big instrument, like a chello or something comparable in size. A guitar can either fit in one of the overhead compartments or in special compartments that the crew has to store things like that. So yes, no problem at all, he said.
So it seems this checklist should be sensible to go through next time:
- Check with airline web site or helpdesk if they have any special hand luggage restrictions regarding instruments
- If you fly with Austrian Airlines, just take it with you
- Just to be safe, use a hard case for the guitar instead of a regular soft bag
- If you want to be really safe, do it like a pro
- Tips For Traveling Safely With Musical Instruments (US)
- Official letter from the Transport Security Administration
- How to get a guitar on an airplane. (Or any other musical instrument, for that matter.)
- Can I carry a guitar in a plane? (Askville)
- TSA: Transporting Musical Instruments (US)