Seems that many people responded (positively) to the post on JAL’s treatment of guitars on internal flights, so as a way of jumping on the luggage carousel, I thought that I would add some positive recommendations.
For me, the most stressful part of taking a guitar on a flight is the uncertainty that it will be allowed as cabin baggage or not, or that it will be well taken care of in transit in the hold, so here is a list of positive experiences I have had with ground staff and flight crew.
As I mentioned previously, in the past 10 years, British Airways have always been guitar friendly on every flight I have had with them. I have also had good experiences with Cathay Pacific (I had to have the guitar cleared with check in staff, but this has never been a problem on over 10 flights to Hong Kong), American Airlines transatlantic flights where recently I was told to get to the front of the queue to find a space in the overhead locker for the instrument, and Swissair, who although they had limited space, allowed me to take an instrument on board.
Perhaps a constructive approach would be for a Musicians’ Union to compile a list of instrument friendly airlines and recommend flying with those.
A start would be some stories of good experiences with airlines rather than the all too common tales of horror!
Of course, less friendly airlines are legion and they seem to pay no heed to the fact that there is now an act of congress allowing instruments on board (or at least to be dealt with in a humane way – S.223, The FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, if you are interested )neither do they admit fault if an instrument is broken on a flight.
I have found that it is not so often the crew and attendants who are hostile but the ground staff, who do seem to like wielding what little power they have over cowering passengers.
As far as carrying a guitar on board, airline policies differ, so be sure and check with your particular airline before travelling, even though that still doesn’t guarantee a smooth passage.
Also, be aware that many instruments have been stolen on flights – keep an eye on guitars which you carry on.
A good flight case is essential in the event you are forced to check in the instrument-
Accord – lightweight but expensive
Karura – still light, but a better price than the Accord
Calton – have always been strong, but heavy – new developments mean a lighter case
Hiscox – a lower cost alternative – make sure to get the flight case
Pegasus – the slim version might get your guitar on the plane, but padding is minimal
A canvas or cloth cover can make the case appear to be a soft one, which might increase your chances of getting it on board (paradoxically).
And some horror stories
And one which really hurt as I know the instrument and the musician (Wu Man) involved-
And the video which we are all familiar with (or should be)
Dave Carroll’s take at Columbia Business School
Happy Travels, Gute Reise, Bon Voyage, and keep those good stories coming in!