HALLELUJAH! Finally musicians no longer have to have their livelihoods literally endangered when they travel. Congress has passed within the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Bill the right for musicians to carry their instruments on the plane with them. Can I get an AMEN from the band?! How many times have I been on the road with my musicians and have to fight with everyone from the person at the ticket counter to the airline stewardess to allow my musicians and I to carry our keyboards, guitars, electric basses, and horns onto the plane so they don't get destroyed?! How much money do we have to spend to get cases that are sturdy enough to withstand burly men hurling our delicate electronics and handmade instruments over and under copious amounts of heavy luggage? Afterwards, they hurtle through the air in sub zero temperatures. This is literally our livelihoods. We make our money through our instruments. If those instruments are destroyed…it's a terrifying thought. It's about time that we get the respect that our profession deserves from the airline industry.
Under the new rules, travelers who want to avoid having their Stratocaster wind up under a pile of Samsonite will now get their wish. Guitar-sized instruments or smaller will be allowed on board at no extra charge, as long as the instrument can be safely stowed in a baggage compartment or under the passenger’s seat (hence, Strat carriers may want to consider using a gig bag rather than a Fender-sized hard case). Instruments that are too large to be safely stored overhead/under a seat but do not weigh in excess of 165 pounds (including case) may still be carried on board; however, the owner will have to purchase a separate seat in order to accommodate the instrument. Owners that want to transport larger instruments as checked baggage will be allowed to do so assuming the instrument weighs 165 pounds or less and the circumference of the instrument (with case) does not exceed 150 inches.
Professional music organizations including BMI and the AFM have been pressing lawmakers to adopt a single standard for air carriers in order to better serve musicians traveling with large, valuable and or sensitive vintage instruments. To date, airlines have maintained divergent policies governing in-flight instrument storage, and rule enforcement has often been inconsistent and arbitrary. Passengers report being denied carry-on privileges by the same carrier that had previously granted such access. These issues have sometimes resulted in missed flights and canceled engagements, according to musicians’ rights advocates.