Carrying Instruments On Airplanes Might Get Easier
The United Federation of Musicians (AFM) has muscled language into a new FAA reauthorization bill to help make traveling with precious musical instruments by air a less terrifying prospect. This from their website:
Musicians constantly face difficulty traveling with their instrument. Although AFM won a commitment from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to allow instruments through security checkpoints, policies for carrying instruments on to airplanes still vary wildly from airline to airline.
The inconsistencies in airline policies make it extremely difficult for musicians to plan their travel and earn a living. Thus AFM fought for language to be included in the Senate version of the FAA Reauthorization Bill (S.1451) that will streamline the airlines’ carry-on policies regarding musical instruments. If this bill passes musicians will be able to carry most musical instruments on board and place them in the overhead compartment or in a seat (if a ticket is purchased).
This bill is currently being debated in Congress and it is critical that all musicians weigh-in to demand that the Senate version (S.1451) of this language be included in the final bill. Please sign our petition below to support streamlining airline carry-on policies, so that travelling with an instrument is safer and more reliable.
My Two Bits
Almost all professional musicians have faced the prospect of traveling with their instruments aboard commercial airliners. Many semi-pro players have as well, as have many recreational players who just happen to own nice instruments and desire to travel with them safely. Safety is the operative word here, as commercial air carriers are notoriously unsympathetic to the unique value (financial and emotional) of musical instruments to their owners. We have all heard horror stories of instruments being roughly handled, at best, or if damaged or destroyed in transit, the owners being disallowed any compensation from the carriers.
A few years ago a guitar player named Dave Carroll experienced the horror of seeing for himself his Taylor guitar destroyed by baggage handlers, and 9 months of haggling with United Airlines resulting in no settlement. Dave took the high road… not by accepting defeat and loss, but by writing and producing a series of videos detailing the experience, much to the chagrin of United Airlines. The full story is available on his website, and here’s the first of the famous videos:
Personally, I’ve been lucky over the years. Not only have I flown with a guitar on numerous occasions (and experienced no damage), but I once had to fly from Los Angeles to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, fully laden with not only two guitars but all my gigging gear, including guitar synths and other electronics, mixers, amps and speaker cabinets, plus clothing and supplies for a three-month engagement. Another time I had a similar load to get to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to do a three-month cruise boat gig. Both of these mega-transports went via Alaska Airline, which was known at the time (perhaps still is) for not flinching at larger-then-normal baggage needs on the part of their customers. I’ve usually been able to sweet-talk my way into carrying my instrument on-board with me, or at least have it hand-checked at the gate instead of going into the cargo hold through the hands of the baggage apes. I’ve only flown with a guitar once since 9-11, and again was able to carry it on-board with me. But overall, I don’t fly much at all. As I said… I’ve been lucky when it comes to dealing with guitars and airlines.
But my heart aches for all the more mobile musicians who have suffered great loss at the hands of disaffected corporate transportation companies. So I signed the petition, and I would encourage anyone who plays, or knows someone who plays… or who just likes to give a little push-back to greedy corporations at any opportunity… to sign the petition, as well.