Bringing Your Guitar on an Airplane.
If you're reading this right now, no doubt you're a lot like me. You want to take your guitar on an airplane, but you don't really know how to do it without stressing out that your guitar will make it to your destination in one piece, so now your scouring the internet looking for answers.
I figured i'd blog about this because i recently just successfully flew with my guitar, and i hope this entry will help others who wish to do that same.
First ill lead off telling you that its never going to be an easy decision to take your guitar with you. I have a Taylor 420ce limited Koa, and so this isnt some cheap guitar that i could care less about... whenever you're flying with your guitar, at some level you have to prepare yourself that there is a chance something will happen, but if you remain calm and take the actions i describe below you should be alright.
1. Hardshell Case. i suspect you'll find a lot of people telling you a soft gig bag is best, but i never would want to take that risk.... i know my guitar is protected in a hardshell case, so thats where it will stay.
2. Don't overload on carry-ons. If you walk on to the plane, with a huge carry on, plus your guitar you're pushing your luck... if you can swing it... don't bring anything else on BUT your guitar... i only had my small backpack with me, so it wasn't a big deal.
3. Know the plane you're flying in. My hardshell case is pretty big, but it fits in the overhead compartments of Boeing 7x7 jets (i flew in both 737 and 757 this trip) without any problem at all. There are also garment closets in the front of the aircraft that can fit guitars, but its much more difficult to get large items in there, as they fill up very quickly.
4. Confidence. Seriously... act like it is no problem at all, and no big deal that you are carrying on your guitar. OF COURSE you are carrying it on... why wouldn't you? Confidently hand them your ticket... and dont look like your trying to sneak anything by them. Though i didnt try it, i wouldnt advice walking up to the gate early to speak with the attendant to even tell them you have a guitar, because they will most likely try to tell you that you shouldn't bring it into the cabin.
5. Board Early. Look at your seating number, and be ready to be the 1st person to walk on the plane with your number is called. You want to get a completely free overhead compartment and if you get on the plane towards the end, you are never going to find one. Literally stand near the gate so when your section is called, you are first to hand them your ticket.
6. Smile. Be extra friendly with the flight attendants, smile and be agreeable... if you are miserable or mean to them, they aren't going to care about your problem. If anyone questions you, dont hesitate to tell them your instrument is your way you make your living, there is actually a law that says professional musicians must be allowed to carry on their instruments.
7. Make sure your strings are de-tuned, and your case is padded. You may want to stuff some t-shirts into your case to better support the neck of your guitar, and make sure you tune down all your strings so they don't pop, or warp the neck under the pressure change.
8. If all else fails, gate check it. If you absolutely have struck out, and cant have your guitar in the cabin, you will have to gate check it. This isnt the worst thing in the world, particularly if your flight is short. This means that they will carry your instrument down the stairs, put it in cargo, and then when the plane lands, bring it back up and it will be waiting for you as you step off the plane. This happened to me once on one of my flights as our jet was small. If this happens, calmly and in a friendly way, explain to the attendant that your guitar is worth a lot of money, and its your livelihood, this goes a long way to making sure its carefully handled when its put below. When you get off the plane, the first thing you should do is open up your case, and check for any condensation that may have formed so you can wipe it off... this didn't happen to me, but just in case.
Also be aware, lots of people carry on their instruments, so this won't be a foreign to the flight staff as you might think. As long as your are calm and keep a level head, you should have no problem. Hope this helps some people out there!