Musician Alert: The New Law That Affects You

In 2005, I flew from Little Rock to Atlanta, from Atlanta to London, and from London to Munich.  Much to my horror, upon arrival in Munich, my prized and very expensive Jose Ramirez guitar didn’t arrive with me! After about a week without my guitar, it was delivered by the airline to my apartment in Munich (with a damaged case, of course).

In 2006, I flew from New Orleans to Dallas with a guitar as a carry on.  A few days later I flew from Dallas back to New Orleans but this time was not allowed to carry the guitar on the plane.  I instead opted to leave the guitar with family in Dallas due to the previously mentioned incident, and had to use a different guitar while on tour.

If you’ve had an experience like mine you can agree with me that Congress finally did something right!  Musicians everywhere can breathe easy now that a law written two years ago has finally gone into effect. The 112th Congress passed The FAA Modernization and Reform Act in January of 2012, but the law went into effect just this week. What does this mean for musicians?  In short, U.S. airlines are now legally required to allow you to carry small instruments onto the plane as a carry on with no additional fee.  It says so on PDF pages 74-75 linked above.  I’ve copied the appropriate section from the law below, which is really pretty self-explanatory.

Here’s a few pointers for flying with an instrument:

  • Know The Law – Chances are not everyone who works for the airline will be familiar with this new law, so my suggestion to you is to print these two pages of the law and carry it with you.
  • Call Ahead – It’s also always a good idea to call ahead to let the airline know you are traveling with a fragile and valuable instrument. They will often give you their check-in and boarding procedures. These procedures do vary between the different airlines, so check with them first.
  • Arrive and Check In Early – The law requires airlines to allow you to carry on your instrument only if it can be stored in the overhead safely.  The earlier you get on the plane, the more room you’ll have to stow your instrument.  Get an early boarding number so this isn’t an issue.
  • Protect Your Instrument Remove any loose items from your case and store them in your checked luggage.  Be sure that your instrument is in a proper case that doesn’t allow it to move.  If you are traveling with a stringed instrument it is always a good idea to loosen your strings a little to relieve a little of the pressure on the bridge.  Also be sure to attach as many “Fragile” stickers to your case as possible.
  • Make It Easy To Spot A case tag with your contact information is helpful in the event you are separated from your instrument. Also some bright-colored electrical tape on the handle will make your instrument easy to spot in the overhead bin.  And if you unfortunately have to check your instrument, it will be easier to spot coming off of the conveyor.
  • When Checking, Do So Carefully If you are required to check your instrument on the plane, insist that you carry it to the gate yourself. At the gate your instrument can be handed to the baggage crew and loaded under the plane. Doing it this way prevents anyone from playing frisbee with your instrument, or using their coffee break as an opportunity to see how well it plays.  It also insures that your instrument will be one of the last items loaded on the plane. This will place it on top of the pile instead of buried under hundreds of pounds of luggage. You can also request that the instrument be brought to the gate when you arrive instead of traveling on the conveyor, but I’ve found this doesn’t always work.

You should have an easier time when flying with an instrument, thanks to the new two-year-old law.  With a little planning on your part, and some good fortune from the airline, you and your instrument can have a safe and enjoyable flight.

Discussion Question: What’s the worst thing that’s happened to your instrument/luggage while traveling?

SEC. 403. MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Subchapter I of chapter 417 is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘‘§ 41724. Musical instruments
‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—
 ‘‘(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.
 ‘‘(2) LARGER INSTRUMENTS AS CARRY-ON BAGGAGE.—An air
carrier providing air transportation shall permit a passenger to carry a musical instrument that is too large to meet the requirements of paragraph (1) in the aircraft cabin, without
H. R. 658—75
charging the passenger a fee in addition to the cost of the additional ticket described in subparagraph (E), if—
‘‘(A) the instrument is contained in a case or covered so as to avoid injury to other passengers;
‘‘(B) the weight of the instrument, including the case or covering, does not exceed 165 pounds or the applicable weight restrictions for the aircraft;
‘‘(C) the instrument can be stowed in accordance with the requirements for carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the Administrator;
‘‘(D) neither the instrument nor the case contains any object not otherwise permitted to be carried in an aircraft cabin because of a law or regulation of the United States; and
‘‘(E) the passenger wishing to carry the instrument in the aircraft cabin has purchased an additional seat to accommodate the instrument.
 ‘‘(3) LARGE INSTRUMENTS AS CHECKED BAGGAGE.—An air
carrier shall transport as baggage a musical instrument that is the property of a passenger traveling in air transportation that may not be carried in the aircraft cabin if—
‘‘(A) the sum of the length, width, and height measured in inches of the outside linear dimensions of the instrument (including the case) does not exceed 150 inches or the applicable size restrictions for the aircraft;
‘‘(B) the weight of the instrument does not exceed 165 pounds or the applicable weight restrictions for the aircraft; and
‘‘(C) the instrument can be stowed in accordance with the requirements for carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the Administrator.
‘‘(b) REGULATIONS.—Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this section, the Secretary shall issue final regulations to carry out subsection (a).
‘‘(c) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The requirements of this section shall become effective on the date of issuance of the final regulations under subsection (b).’’.
(b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT.—The analysis for such sub- chapter is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘‘41724. Musical instruments.’’.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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3 thoughts on “Musician Alert: The New Law That Affects You

  1. Bear in mind this means you can bring a guitar or other instrument as a carry-on in lieu of your one carry-on bag, but you couldn’t bring a guitar and a separate carry-on as this puts you over the limit. The instrument becomes your sole carry-on (although you could have a small personal item like a briefcase, small backpack, etc.).

  2. Thanks for the very useful post. We’re wondering what is going ot be the response of the European companies. This subject has been on of discussion since the 60’s when travel was a lot easier and airline people less afraid to be understanding…….

  3. Pingback: Musician Alert: The New Law That Affects You | Idea Me Us

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