Flying with Musical Instruments: A Comprehensive Guide for a Harmonious Journey

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Don't leave your musical instrument behind!

Are you a musician planning to take a flight with your precious instruments? Fear not! We’ve compiled a thorough guide to help you navigate the world of flying with musical instruments, ensuring a stress-free and safe trip.

TL;DR: Key Takeaways

  • 33% of musicians reported experiencing damage to their instruments while traveling by air
  • Violinist Sarah Whitney emphasizes the importance of research and knowing your rights when flying with instruments
  • In 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation received 1,784 complaints related to mishandling of musical instruments by airlines

Striking the Right Note: How to Travel with Musical Instruments

Flying with a musical instrument can be a nerve-wracking experience, as a survey conducted by the American Federation of Musicians revealed that 33% of musicians experienced damage to their instruments while traveling by air. However, with proper preparation and knowledge, you can ensure a safe and harmonious journey.

Know Your Rights and Regulations

As Sarah Whitney, violinist and founder of the nonprofit organization Beyond the Notes, says, “Flying with a musical instrument can be a nerve-wracking experience for any musician. It’s important to do your research and know your rights to ensure a safe and stress-free journey.” Be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of the airlines you’ll be flying with, as well as the TSA guidelines for traveling with musical instruments.

Preparing Your Instrument for Air Travel

To minimize the risk of damage to your instrument during your flight, follow these essential steps:

  • Invest in a high-quality case: A durable, hard-shell case designed specifically for your instrument will provide the best protection against potential damage.
  • Loosen strings and bows: Changes in temperature and humidity during air travel can cause strings and bows to expand or contract. Loosening them can prevent damage to your instrument.
  • Properly pack your instrument: Use bubble wrap or soft padding to fill any empty spaces within the case, ensuring that your instrument is secure and won’t shift during transit.
  • Label your instrument case: Attach a luggage tag with your contact information on it, so your instrument can be easily identified and returned to you if misplaced.

Checking vs. Carrying-On: What’s the Best Option?

When flying with musical instruments, the decision to check or carry-on your instrument depends on its size and your airline’s policies. For smaller instruments, carrying them on as a personal item is often the safest option. However, for larger instruments, you may need to check them or purchase an additional seat. Always consult with your airline beforehand to determine the best course of action.

Handling Mishaps: What to Do If Things Go Wrong

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation received 1,784 complaints related to mishandling of musical instruments by airlines. If you experience any issues with your instrument during your travels, here are some steps to take:

  • Document any damage: If you discover damage to your instrument, take photographs and document the issue immediately.
  • File a claim: Contact your airline’s customer service department as soon as possible to report the damage and initiate the claims process.
  • Know your rights: Familiarize yourself with the airline’s policies regarding damaged baggage, as well as any consumer protection laws that may apply in your situation.
  • Be persistent: If you encounter resistance from the airline, don’t give up. Remain calm and professional, but continue to advocate for yourself and your instrument.

Additional Tips for a Smooth Musical Voyage

Here are some extra insider tips from experienced travel journalist Kevin Erickson to ensure a pleasant flying experience with your musical instruments:

  • Arrive early: Give yourself plenty of time at the airport, as additional security checks and discussions with airline staff may be required when traveling with an instrument.
  • Carry essential accessories: Bring any necessary accessories, such as spare strings or reeds, in your carry-on luggage to avoid being left without them in case of checked baggage delays or loss.
  • Network with fellow musicians: Connecting with other musicians who have experience flying with instruments can provide invaluable advice and support.
  • Consider insurance: If your instrument is valuable, consider purchasing specialized musical instrument insurance to cover potential damages during air travel.


While flying with musical instruments can be challenging, with proper preparation, knowledge, and persistence, you can ensure a safe and harmonious journey for both you and your instrument. Remember to do your research, know your rights, and follow our comprehensive guide to make your next musical voyage a success!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I bring my guitar as a carry-on?

Most airlines allow guitars as carry-on items, provided they fit in the overhead compartments or under the seat. Check your airline’s specific policies before your flight.

Are there any special TSA guidelines for musical instruments?

While the TSA does not have specific guidelines for musical instruments, they do recommend arriving early to allow for additional security screenings and contacting your airline to discuss any size or weight restrictions.

How do I pack my violin for air travel?

Use a high-quality, hard-shell case designed for your violin, loosen the strings and bow, and fill any empty spaces within the case with bubble wrap or soft padding to prevent movement during transit.

Can I purchase a seat for my instrument?

Yes, many airlines allow musicians to purchase an additional seat for their instrument, particularly if it is too large for carry-on storage or too valuable to be checked. Contact your airline for specific policies and pricing.

Should I insure my instrument for air travel?

If your instrument is valuable or has sentimental importance, it may be worthwhile to consider purchasing specialized musical instrument insurance to cover potential damages during air travel.


  1. American Federation of Musicians
  2. Beyond the Notes – Sarah Whitney
  3. U.S. Department of Transportation – Air Consumer Protection
  4. Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  5. Kevin Erickson – Travel Journalist

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