Keep Calm & Carry It On

We all know that guitar cases won’t fit in the carry-on box thing that measures your bag at the airport.  But the need is over to carefully find a perfectly nice, well meaning airline person at the counter to beg and plead your case (pun intended) so as to not require checking your beloved instrument as luggage.


This is not necessary!

A law that was passed in 2012 now clarifies the rules regarding taking an instrument on a plane with you.  As we all know, just about the riskiest thing you can do with your guitar is check it as luggage and let those yahoos throw it around under the airplane.  There is even evidence suggesting these guys spitefully mistreat anything that looks like an instrument case– intentionally tossing it around in hopes of creating an unhappy musician upon arriving at a final destination… so it seems sometimes, anyhow.

But not to worry, because the “2012 FAA Modernization Act” makes it painfully clear that the airline must allow you to carry-on your reasonably sized instrument if there is room for it in the cabin.  So, get to your gate early, notify the airline that you intend to take your guitar on board with you, and if possible request early seating to get to those overhead bins before anyone else– or better yet, just make sure to tell them you need to put your instrument in the coat closet at the front of the plane.

It’s probably a good idea to print out the relevant page from the law and point it out to any ornery airline staff.  Here it is– scroll down to page 74.  Just make sure you keep calm, but stay firm with your intention of not letting those buffoons make you check that beautiful instrument as luggage.

Here’s the relevant language:

From page 74 of the “FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.”


(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.

The rub:  This law was enacted by congress in 2012 and it essentially works as a mandate to the FAA.  For the FAA to officially be implementing this new law, it has to issue and publish its own updated official regulations which will fill in the details as to how the law is actually carried out by the FAA.  It was supposed to do so by February 6, 2014.  It still hasn’t done so yet.  Does this really surprise you?  But still, most airport and airline officials know this law as the new official rulebook to follow.  Good luck, and happy travels.

Update: If you’re concerned about the Lacey Act and international travel with old guitars made of Brazilian Rosewood or other related headaches, check out this article. It covers some new info regarding traveling with instruments made with exotic woods.