Flying With A Guitar: 9 Essential Tips You Must Know

flying with a guitar

If you intend to fly with a guitar, your top priority is to protect your guitar anyhow. You might think buying a hard case would be sufficient for safeguarding the guitar. But that’s not enough; it can still be damaged. There are tips and hacks that can minimize the risks as much as possible. So, to help you with it, we have written this article to get you acquainted with what you should do and what you need to know on boarding a musical instrument on an airplane. This article also includes a section regarding the regulations on flying with musical instruments as reference. 

9 Essential Tips for Carrying a Guitar in Flights

Use Flight Guitar Case instead of Gig Bag 

Gig bags work well if you want to save space and pack more accessories. But hard cases will provide the overall best protection. Hard cases are usually made of ABS plastics, Polyethylene, premium aluminum, etc. Their rigid frame is essential for protection from minor bumps and drops that you may experience in airport environments. These cases will also offer better protection during the airplane’s pressure changes.

flight guitar case

Pack the Guitar Securely Inside the Case 

Cases don’t entirely lock the guitar in place. It will have space for it to move around. During the flight, this becomes a concern when the place goes through air turbulence. Everything will start shaking, including your guitar case. The unpredictable movement can cause damage to the guitar.  

As a safety measure, always put some clothes around the guitar to stop it from any sort of movement. To be more specific, you can use t-shirts, soft towels, packing materials like bubble wrap, or anything else that can help provide soft cushioning for the fragile points. Also, keep in mind that the neck and headstock are the most fragile parts of a guitar. So, it is a good idea to give some extra padding in those areas.  

Know the Airline’s Musical Instrument Policy 

Airlines have their own policy when it comes to carrying musical instruments. Some are very friendly, and some may make the process of carrying instruments more difficult. They also have weight and size limitations for carry-on items. So, check their rules and talk to them beforehand to ensure they are aware of your situation. Also, airlines usually offer smaller planes for short-distance travel. Carrying items on those is difficult, as there isn’t enough room for storage. So also see which plane you will be flying on. 

Loosen the Guitar Strings

Temperatures and pressure changes are quite common in flights. The changing pressure will put unnecessary stress on your guitar. So, the best practice is to loosen the strings before boarding the plane. You don’t need to loosen the strings entirely. It needs to be loose enough to release pressure from the neck.

Try to Board as Quick as Possible

All airlines’ law for carrying musical instruments is based on a “First come, first served” basis. Meaning, you have to be prompt to onboard so that you can secure space for your guitar before anyone. If you can find space, rules suggest that no one can ask you to remove them.

Take Photos of Your Guitar Case Before Boarding 

Before boarding make sure to take pictures of your guitar from multiple angles. In case it gets damaged, you can show the before-after photos to the airline and ask for damage refund. The process will be much easier this way as you have actual proof of damage.  

Get a Non-stop Flight if Possible 

A non-stop flight will reduce the chances of losing your guitar. If the plane has to stop at another destination to take more passengers, items will probably be repositioned to compensate for other people’s belongings. During this process, items can be mistakenly left out. But in a non-stop flight, the plane will take off once and will land at the final destination. So there are no chances of missing luggage issues.  

Put Your Details on the Guitar Case 

It is recommended that you put your name, address, and contact details on the case. Regardless of whether you have taken your guitar as a carry-on or not, having your name and address will increase your chances of finding the guitar if it gets lost.  

Check Your Gear After Landing 

Soon after landing, receive your guitar from the baggage reclaim area and do a thorough check. See if there are any sort of dents or damages made to your guitar. If you find any damages, then report immediately to the airline. Also, ask them to fill out a form and give you a copy as proof. Consider talking to them directly instead of talking over the phone. The process will be much easier this way. For domestic flights, you will have 24 hours to report, and for international flights, the report can be made within seven days.  

U.S. Regulations on Flying with Musical Instruments 

The final ruling on Section 403 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 was issued in 2015. We have summarized the main rules you need to know from that law. If you want to read the official documents, read the Federal Register.  

  • Airlines must allow passengers to take musical instruments as a carry-on item as long as there is enough space in the overhead cabin storage or under the seat.  
  • If you have already stored your items on board (as a carry-on), the airline cannot ask you to remove your items to make place for other passenger’s baggage.   
  • The airline cannot charge an additional fee for storing a carry-on item on board, other than any standard fee charged for carry-on baggage.  
  • If the musical instrument is too large to fit inside the overhead bin or under-seat storage, then you can purchase another seat and take it as “seat baggage.” But this rule is not mandated by the FAA Safety Regulations. You will need to talk to the airline to see if they allow you to stow large musical instruments as a carry-on.  

Final Thoughts 

Guitars aren’t the strongest musical equipment, so the idea of flying with them is a concern for many musicians. But if you have taken all the precautions, we have mentioned above, your guitar should be well-protected during flights. Also, you can look into the federal rules to know your rights for carrying musical instruments onboard. Take my list of tips as checklist and to do beforehand as prep so you don’t face any issues flying with your guitar. 

Leave a Comment