The Next Time an Airline Makes You Check Your Guitar, Show Them THIS

Guitar carry on guidelines
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This won’t be a ‘recommendation’ or ‘guideline’ for a guitar carry on much longer.  Effective March 6th, 2015, it’s the law.

As of Monday, January 5th, the US Department of Transportation has issued its Final Rule of Law regarding on-board luggage.  It dictates that all US-based carriers must allow musicians to carry a guitar, violin, or other similarly-sized instrument if room exists.  It allows guitar carry ons in many cases, and clarified rules for airline agents.

§ 251.3 Small musical instruments as carry-on baggage.

Each covered carrier shall permit a passenger to carry a violin, guitar, or other small musical instrument in the aircraft cabin.  This is 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 FAA; and

(b) There is space for such stowage at the time the passenger boards the aircraft.

Turns out its harder to have a guitar carry on that we thought.  And this all started with a bunch of pissed-off musicians, like Deer Tick.  In fact, their nightmarish experience with luggage provoked a major reaction in Congress.  Amazing what one crushed guitar can inspire at the highest levels of government.

There’s also this music video inspired by United Airlines, which will forever remain in infamy.  In it, the airline insists that a guitar could not be carried on board, then goes about destroying it.  It’s all great fun (unless you can related).

Here’s the complete, updated body of law relating to guitar carry on guidelines.  Musicians should feel free to present this to any uncooperative airline agent.

Musical Instruments FR Final Rule

8 Responses

  1. Raven

    “if room exists” is the defect in this plan as always. There is NEVER going to be ENOUGH ROOM for an acoustic instrument in it’s case so why do they even bother!!!

  2. Gonzo

    And you can bet as soon as they see you approaching with that acoustic instrument case there will suddenly not be enough room. And most times that will be accurate. Since airlines have begun charging for even one checked bag, every cheapskate traveler that doesn’t want to spend the 25 bucks is stuffing everything they can into the absolutely biggest roller bag they can drag onboard. Boarding is now a painful nightmare with people frantically trying to stuff piano-sized suitcases into the tiny overhead bins. So, if you really think this law will change anything I have a bridge to sell you, in the desert…..
    My advice, buy a suitable road case that will protect your instrument and check it.

    • The Oger

      I always carry my guitar to the gate, tell them I want to gate check it, then at the aircraft door politely ask the stewardess if they have room for it in the wardrobe. 50% of the time it comes in with me, the other times it is gate checked – but at least I have the knowledge that it doesn’t go through the baggage conveyor system, won’t go on the wrong route, and is waiting for me right at the plane when I get off. And I always wait to board towards the end. That way they know if there is room left in cabin.

      • karl

        same here , i just have a case that can handle a drop.. i have seen the gate check guys throw the guitar on their cart, but thus far i have no complaints. people at the gate will always hassle you to check it in and what not ( i usually carry an electric in a gator case ) but if you can get to the gate with it, your good , like he said ask the flight attendant and they will let you use the closet about 50% of the time. the other half the planes are too small so the overhead does not have enough room so you have to gate check it.

  3. jack

    This is the same as it was. There is never enough room in the cabin AND you don’t know that when you take your guitar into the cabin so they take it away and stow it with the baggage. If you knew it was going to baggage you would have put it in a real case, instead of the soft case you put it in so it would fit on the plane.
    I have not seen an overhead compartment that will hold a guitar in a case.
    This new law will not make any difference at all that I can see.

  4. Kris Orlowski

    If we look beyond the complaints above, ignoring the big “if” in the policy, I see this as a step in the right direction and an actual policy backing up musicians. We are making progress.