#1
I hope you guys can help me out? So here's my situation: I'm moving in a few weeks, and I'll need to take my guitar on a plane from China to the United States. The flight will be about 16 or so hours, and the ideal situation is for me to have the guitar with me in the cabin of the plane either in the overhead bins or in a coat closet. Buying another seat for my guitar is not an option because the tickets cost around $1000usd, which would be more than my guitar cost in the first place. By the way, my guitar's not anything fancy or expensive but it's special to me and I'm quite fond of it so I'd love for it to arrive in the US in one piece.
I guess to make this clear, I'll outline my main questions:

1. How can I get my guitar in the cabin with me for the flight? Do I need to call before hand or talk to anyone special? Is there any way at all to ensure my guitar a safe spot for the flight? I've seen so many people carry instruments with them into the airplane cabins that I believe there HAS to be a way for me to be one of those lucky people.

2. hard case or gig bag?

3. What are the real chances of my guitar getting damaged if I send it thru check in with a hard case (not made for airplanes) that's padded on the inside with old t-shirts and teddy bear fluff and whatever soft stuff I can find around the house?

4. share any personal experiences with taking your guitars on airplanes whether good or bad

If you can't tell this'll be my first time flying with a guitar (though I have a memory of my violin neck that snapped after checking it in for an international flight) and I'm kind of freaked out. Any advice would be much appreciated. Sorry that was so long!
#2
Carry on. I prefer a gig bag and they can store it with the crew luggage. -50F for 16 hours cant be good for an instrument.
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/41724

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Jun 30, 2014,
#3
I had traveled a lot with guitars. I prefer using hard cases and I always take them with me to the cabin. Taking the guitars to the cabin isn't a problem, they just let you board with your instruments like if it was a carryon bag. Also when you enter the plane ask the stewards if they can place your guitar in the coat closet (they usually do it with no problem) if not place the guitar in the over head bin.
#4
Is it an acoustic or an electric?

I've done a fair bit of international travelling with guitars.

Many airlines won't let you take a guitar as cabin baggage, and it will also depend on how full the flight is and the mood of the cabin staff and check-in desk. If you have to change flights and carriers, you might find that the first leg will let you take it as cabin baggage and the second leg won't. I've never assumed that I would be able to take one as cabin baggage, and always packed it/them in a good case, detuned and with the headstock padded against shock. I've never had one damaged as hold baggage, but I have had to go looking for them a couple of times when some thoughtful baggage handler has put on the fragile elevator instead of the regular carousel.

If you do check it in, make sure the desk puts a fragile sticker on it.

You could take a chance and put an acoustic in a gig bag in hope that they will let you on with it, but I wouldn't.

Your travel agent or the airline(s) might be able to advise.

Better safe than sorry.

Addendum - If it was and electric with a bolt-on neck I would just take it apart and stick in my suitcase.
Last edited by Tony Done at Jun 30, 2014,
#5
I don't know guys... I haven't flown in a while now, but from what I'm hearing the airlines are going 'banzai' now on 'carry on' luggage. Acting all crazy and charging all sorts of big fees for it or disallowing it. If it was me, I'd try to get some real Intel from the horses' mouth...i.e. the officials at the air carrier I was going to use.

This is a good topic, btw, and one any of us might (sooner or later) have to be involved in.
#6
First off, thanks for all the responses. It's encouraging to know that putting it as a carry on is possible. To Tony Done, I have a full size acoustic dreadnought, if that helps any. Also, there is somewhat of a language barrier in my case. I can speak chinese only semi-fluently, so I have not the first clue how to say gate-check or overhead bin or coat closet (okay maybe I can say coat closet), but you get my point. It's harder to ummm sweet talk people. And china's customer service is notoriously rude and uncooperative. I'm going to try my dang hardest to get it in the cabin of the airplane, but I think I'm going to pack it up good in a hard case just in case. (no pun intended)
#7
Quote by Beowolff
I don't know guys... I haven't flown in a while now, but from what I'm hearing the airlines are going 'banzai' now on 'carry on' luggage. Acting all crazy and charging all sorts of big fees for it or disallowing it. If it was me, I'd try to get some real Intel from the horses' mouth...i.e. the officials at the air carrier I was going to use.

This is a good topic, btw, and one any of us might (sooner or later) have to be involved in.


It's the law in the USA. An air carrier "must" allow carry-on of instruments within certain dimensions including guitars at no extra charge.

http://www.guitarworld.com/acoustic-nation-alert-you-can-carry-your-guitar-it-s-law
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/41724

Not sure about Air China but I have flown from Hawaii, the Caribbean, Brazil, and several countries in Europe and always carried on my guitar without a flinch from the flight crew. I travel light so I only bring the guitar and a small laptop case on board. Everything else gets checked. Inquire directly with your carrier in advance and get their policy in writing. Carry the airline policy and the legal US ruling with you as supporting documents in case a surly flight crew member isn't up to speed. Be friendly and courteous but firm. My instruments don't ride at -50F unpressurized in the cargo hold.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Jul 1, 2014,
#9
This was all very reassuring.... until I saw this:
http://www.fretboardjournal.com/blog/skies-are-now-guitar-friendly-congress-orders-airlines-let-you-carry-your-musical-instrument

Mainly this part:
" The new law goes into effect as soon as the FAA issues regulations to fill in the details. And, by when must the FAA do that? “Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of” the Act. So, the FAA has until February 6, 2014.

Update: April 7, 2014

Alas, we’ve fallen into a black hole in American jurisprudence. Recall that the law was to go into effect when the FAA promulgated the corresponding regulations. Recall also that Congress commanded the FAA to promulgate those regulations by February 6, 2014. Well, that date has come and gone and the FAA has not even begun the process of drafting the regulations. And, that black hole? There is no legal mechanism by which Congress can force an agency to do its job. As a result, members of Congress have been reduced to pleading, threatening, stamping their feet, and holding their breath until the FAA acts. So far, the FAA has not been impressed. "

The FAA is the Federal Aviation Administration I'm pretty sure.
I'm going to print out the law code and my airline's policy for instruments anyways but if a flight attendant happens to point out that the law is unenforceable, as is the case currently, I don't think I can say much in my defense. Am I over-thinking this?
Last edited by yamahaducky8910 at Jul 1, 2014,
#10
i assume you've seen "united breaks guitars"? that taylor that song was about was in a hard case.
Quote by Skeet UK
I just looked in my Oxford English Dictionary and under "Acoustic Guitar", there was your Avatar and an email address!
#11
Yes I've seen united breaks guitars........ guess which airline I'm flying? Checking my guitar in is my last ditch option. I'm pretty sure if I use United's airline policy for instruments, and the U.S. law code, I should be able to get my guitar in the cabin. Thanks for all the advice everyone.
#12
You should be alright. I've flown with my guitar a couple times, and it's never been an issue bringing it in the cabin. If there's room, they'll put it in the coat closet, and just hand it back to you on your way out. If they make you check it... It obviously works out alright most of the time, but there certainly are horror stories. But you mentioned that the $1000 plane ticket cost more than the guitar, so if something happens it won't be THAT bad. Would definitely suck, but it's not like you're risking a beautiful custom Taylor or Martin or something. If it was, I would absolutely refuse to fly if they wanted to make me check it in the cargo hold. **** that noise.
#13
Awhile back I was basically commuting from Michigan to North Carolina on a monthly basis so I bought me a Voyage Air folding guitar. These instruments when folded just barely fit in the overhead, and wont fit in that little test box at the check in. I never got turned away but was a bit nervous during check in and boarding.
The best solution Ive heard for your case would be to take your cased guitar to one of those package stores or Fedex and have them ship it to your new address. None of the flights I was on would consider coat closet, or any alternative to the overhead. If it wouldnt fit, or they were all full you had to check it in to be caried with the rest of the baggage.
#14
I've travelled guitar a lot with my guitar, I always just bring it in a gig bag, and onboard the plane? They never seem to have a problem with it. Either store it where the hand luggage goes, or on a free seat.
#15
I have traveled many times with a guitar. First of all your airline will not give you any issues bringing your guitar but you might get charged extra because of weight/additional bag. You need to get in touch with the airline and ask them the baggage limit ( how many carry ons and how many checked luggage ) are you allowed to take with you. Also make sure to ask them the weight limit and go from there.

I always take my electric with me on the plane in a gig bag because it's free. If I bring my acoustic I put it in a hard shell case and put chains around it with locks and check it in with my other bags.