Carrying a guitar on a plane as a checked in baggage (USA to Europe)

#1
I bought aneck-through-body guitar and it's currently in the USA with my brother, and I live in Europe. I'll be going on a trip to the USA soon. So the dilemma is: do I ship it to Europe via UPS or other services or do I take it on a plane with me as a checked baggage in an SKB case.

I know there are lots of discussions about local US flights and how they take their guitars with them as hand luggage and so on, but this is an international flight with two transfers. So can I trust the airline with my guitar in an SKB case? The airline in question is Lufthansa (by the way, there will be one transfer in the USA and one in Germany). What are the chances my guitar will break in an SKB case, especially since it's a neck-though-body? And what are the chances Lufthansa will misplace my package and send it on an other plane?

Shipping it to Europe is not as painless as it might seem, because I reckon it might cost around 500 just for shipping and then taxes (something like 23 percent). So while this guitar is not expensive, it is valuable to me (and it cannot be easily replaced because that model is not in production anymore), but on the other hand, paying half the price of it just to get it where I live, doesn't seem fair to me... That's why I am considering carrying it on the plane.
#2
Took a flight from Colorado to Amsterdam with my Les Paul, no worries with my SKB case. You take it with you as hand luggage and leave it at the door of the plane (like baby carriages).
#4
Quote by sam b
What are the dimensions and weight of it?


I don't know yet, but it's going to be in a rectangular hardshell case. From what they told me on the phone, I don't think they'll allow me to take it with me as as hand baggage in a soft case.
#5
You'll need a hard shell case, just to be sure. If you put your guitar in an overhead compartment (if they even allow you to), somebody can place their heavy bag on top of it and maybe damage your guitar.
#6
I've seen acoustic guitars in hard cases go in the overhead lockers, but don't take that as a guarantee of anything...
#7
I think it could go with checking it as luggage if you just pack it really well inside with old towels, rags or any packing material. Be sure to loosen the strings completely so there is no neck tension. As far as I know luggage compartments on planes are not pressurized so you don't want any problems that could occur at 30,000 feet or while being tossed around by the ground crew. Not all SKB case are the same so be sure yours is road worthy. Think of something like a heavy 50 pound suitcase sitting on the SKB case that you are using. I would also suggest you put some serious duct tape around the case so it will be more difficult to open. The more it doesn't resemble a guitar the better chances it won't get "lost" with other luggage. I have done some international travel very recently (Hong Kong, South Korea, Beijing) and the airlines seem to be much more restrictive than I have experienced in years past in regard to carry on stuff. If it's carry on be prepared for a thorough search of the case and don’t put a tuner inside of the case. My friend did that and they actually took the tuner apart and broke it putting it back together. As far as carry on in general, I think an SKB case will be too long for most carry-on luggage compartments. I didn't know about the area for things like baby strollers but that sounds like an excellent option if the airline has a place for that. You might just want to contact the airline. Good luck.
#8
I'm not sure if they take it as hand baggage.

Even with flights within Europe I sometimes have to hand it over to a steward who safeguards it at the front off the plane, and can't carry it overhead. The steward shown me the place where he puts it and it seems safe enough. This is with KLM Airline though, and they are considered to have fairly responsible and good service, but is not the cheapest of airlines.

There are options to carry it as extra baggage, but expect 50+ perhaps even 100+ fee.

Anecdotally, when waiting for a plane, from my observation it's about 50/50 whether the baggage guys (lightly) toss them or handle with care.
Last edited by xxdarrenxx at Nov 12, 2014,
#9
Whether or not you can take the guitar as hand luggage completely depends on the airline's policy. I think there are special rules governing the transportation of musical instruments on aircraft because of their fragile nature. But you'll need to look that up yourself.
Quote by Rickholly74
As far as I know luggage compartments on planes are not pressurized

I don't think this is true. just from the fact that in the cases of cargo doors opening unintentionally mid-flight always causes explosive decompression. That would never happen if the cargo hold wasn't pressurised.

Not to mention that people take their pets on cargo holds on planes all the time. They'd all die if it wasn't pressurised.
Last edited by T00DEEPBLUE at Nov 12, 2014,
#10
Quote by xxdarrenxx
I'm not sure if they take it as hand baggage.

Even with flights within Europe I sometimes have to hand it over to a steward who safeguards it at the front off the plane.

There are options to carry it as extra baggage, but expect 50+ perhaps even 100+ fee.

Anecdotally, when waiting for a plane, from my observation it's about 50/50 whether the baggage guys (lightly) toss them or handle with care.

I spent some time watching those guys when I took a flight to Spain in the summer. At one point a bag got stuck on the conveyor belt (it was jammed against a rail or something). Instead of gently lifting the bag, I saw a guy kicking it repeatedly until it was no longer jammed. Not gentle kicks either. I was glad I didn't have anything important in my bags.
#11
I would just ship it. There's a higher chance it will arrive undamaged.

If you bring it on a plane, then don't check it. I worked as a ramp agent for almost a year at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, and we're the guys who actually load your bags from the bag cart to the plane. Most ramp agents don't treat bags gently at all.
#14
Officially, with Lufthansa, one can bring a hand baggage that's under a certain total length of height, length and width. The dimensions are too small for a guitar. So if they are strict Germans, I don't think it would be possible to sneak a guitar inside. Plus I have to worry about there being transfers, which means if I manage to sneak it inside the first time, I may not succeed the second or the third one, and then I wouldn't have whom to leave the guitar with (because it would be too late to check it in).

Quote by captainsnazz
buy it a seat
it's the only way

gonna get smashed in hold

Too late, because I already have non-refundable tickets and they won't sell me the seat - they only sell seats at the moment of purchase of the ticket.
Last edited by andriusd at Nov 12, 2014,
#15
Quote by Arby911
I'd trust Lufthansa before I'd trust UPS...


Why?

I am also afraid of them misplacing the package so that it gets on an other plane. I flown to the USA once and one bag got lost (I don't remember the company), never found.
#16
The problem is that UPS charges $600 for a 4-day shipping (that's the slower one) from California to where I live (Lithuania, European Union). That's insane.
#17
Quote by andriusd
Why?

I am also afraid of them misplacing the package so that it gets on an other plane. I flown to the USA once and one bag got lost (I don't remember the company), never found.


Because in several decades of travel, I've only had 1 problem with my luggage, and it was resolved without incident. I've flown internationally on Lufthansa many times and never experienced a single problem.

Due to the sheer volume of air travel, luggage failures do occur, but as a percentage of luggage carried the concern is vanishingly small. (IMO, YMMV)

I simply no longer worry about it, and I often fly with items that are several times the value of most guitars.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/baggage-claim-airlines-are-winning-the-war-on-lost-luggage-1401922595

Note that "mishandled" doesn't mean lost or stolen. In fact the article goes on to say that of that small percentage, only 3% of it ends up as lost or stolen.

Now this is only for Major US carriers, but taking those numbers as a guideline, it appears that you have about a 0.14% chance of having your bag/item lost or damaged, pretty good odds in your favor.

In contrast I've seen claims based on parcel insurance rates that UPS numbers may be as high as 0.88%, over 6 times higher.

#18
Quote by Arby911

In contrast I've seen claims based on parcel insurance rates that UPS numbers may be as high as 0.88%, over 6 times higher.



Nice. What about USPS, how do you think?
#19
Quote by andriusd
Nice. What about USPS, how do you think?


I wouldn't send a rock via USPS, but that's mostly because they have problems getting things "there" on time. For cost and if you're not in a hurry, they are hard to beat.

Not a lot of data to be found, but what I did see puts the failure rate around 1%, similar to or slightly worse than UPS. It does seem however that it's region dependent, with wealthier delivery zip codes have significantly less problems.
Last edited by Arby911 at Nov 12, 2014,
#20
Quote by Arby911
I wouldn't send a rock via USPS, but that's mostly because they have problems getting things "there" on time. For cost and if you're not in a hurry, they are hard to beat.

Not a lot of data to be found, but what I did see puts the failure rate around 1%, similar to or slightly worse than UPS. It does seem however that it's region dependent, with wealthier delivery zip codes have significantly less problems.


That means it kind of depends on the employess at the destination post office?
#21
Take it as carry on
US law dictates that guitars are carry on luggage
They cannot tell you no or make you pay a separate fee for it because it's an instrument
Obama passed it into law in 2012 Iirc

Don't quote me on this, since it's been a while since I've read the law, but I think it carries over for international flights originating in the US until you reach your destination
Last edited by darkwolf291 at Nov 12, 2014,
#22
Quote by xxdarrenxx
I'm not sure if they take it as hand baggage.


Even with flights within Europe I sometimes have to hand it over to a steward who safeguards it at the front off the plane, and can't carry it overhead.
The steward shown me the place where he puts it and it seems safe enough. This is with KLM Airline though, and they are considered to have fairly responsible and good service, but is not the cheapest of airlines.

There are options to carry it as extra baggage, but expect 50+ perhaps even 100+ fee.

Anecdotally, when waiting for a plane, from my observation it's about 50/50 whether the baggage guys (lightly) toss them or handle with care.

This applies to Asia and South America, too, and the best way is to always call the airlines to let them know.
#23
Quote by Ippon
This applies to Asia and South America, too, and the best way is to always call the airlines to let them know.

They're allowed in the overhead

From the 2012 FAA modernization and reform act

1. SMALL INSTRUMENTS AS CARRY-ON BAGGAGE — An air carrier providing air transportation shall permit a passenger to carry a violin, guitar, or other musical instrument in the aircraft cabin, without charging the passenger a fee in addition to any standard fee that carrier may require for comparable carry-on baggage, if …

(A) the instrument can be stowed safely in a suitable baggage compartment in the aircraft cabin or under a passenger seat, in accordance with the requirements for carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the administrator; and

(B) there is space for such stowage at the time the passenger boards the aircraft.

So not only are they allowed on US originating flights
If you're first in line, they can't look at you and say
Sorry there won't be enough room after everyone boards
Last edited by darkwolf291 at Nov 12, 2014,
#24
^ Nice. I suppose they take the case so that the overhead bins can hold more carry-on bags.

#25
Quote by Ippon
^ Nice. I suppose they take the case so that the overhead bins can hold more carry-on bags.


I had a hard case when I bought my lp
They let it stay
They can't take the case from them
#26
Quote by darkwolf291
I had a hard case when I bought my lp
They let it stay
They can't take the case from them



I meant they stowed the guitar case with the guitar in the front ... not take the case for you to stow the guitar in the overhead bin.
#28
I've never shipped a guitar overseas from the US but I have had four shipped from outside the US to me and delivered by UPS. I'm not a huge fan of UPS only because they will leave it on my doorstep if I'm not home (twice while it was raining) but they did put it in a large plastic bag and I do live in a rural town in farm country with not much chance of getting it stolen. Outside of that they all arrived with no damage or major time dely. That's just my experience.
#30
Does anyone know exactly where to find the original text of this law regarding carriage of musical instruments on board of a plane? I mean, the official source that I could show at the airport, as opposed to a post on a message board or a blog? I can't seem to find it online.
#32
Quote by icanhasgodmode


Thanks, but it's posted not on a governmental website. I believe there must be an official governmental website that has the sources of the laws with all the updates listed. I don't know these things as I don't live in the USA, but even the useless stupid country in Eastern Europe where I live has a website like that, so I assume there must be one in the USA too.
Last edited by andriusd at Nov 17, 2014,