Anyone who travels regularly with their guitar would have read – with mild horror – the experiences of Dave Davies (he of Kinks fame) last December. This is a man who has very successfully made his living playing the guitar.
Millions of people know his name. Millions more know his music. And yet in December ’17, BA insisted that he stow his guitar in the hold. Oh, horror of horrors. It’s the thing that every guitar player dreads when booking a flight, and few of us mortal folk are in the position to purchase an additional seat for our beloved instruments – even should the airline allow this. It’s a cause of so much angst. So, you might be surprised to know that airlines are actually obliged to allow musicians to carry their instruments as hand luggage.
Uh, what now?
Well, exactly. According to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 that’s the case. Read it for yourself.
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.
Doesn’t that make life happier?
Unfortunately, not always. There's still much confusion and some airlines are intractable because that “if–“ allows for a huge number of caveats. Which is why dozens of people less famous than Mr Davies are forced to endure sphincter-clenching flights, in dread of carousel crushing, on a daily basis.
Travelling safely with a guitar is possible. There are things that you can do to better protect your instrument. But there’s no denying that hold storage is a bad idea for your guitar, and is best avoided if possible. Quite aside from the fact that it could easily be smashed to smithereens en route, the air pressure and temperature fluctuations do terrible things to body and strings. That’s one of the reasons we’ve put such a lot of effort into creating folding guitars.
If you’ve not used a folding guitar (AKA travel guitar), it’s easy to be sceptical. How could a guitar that folds in half hope to have the integrity of a solid instrument? How can the neck not move around under pressure? Well, if you really want to know, it’s because we’re very, very clever.
Need more info than that? Tch! Alright then.
Essentially, it all comes down to a cleverly placed screw, which allows the neck to be straightened or bent. With the strings tucked safely inside the body and the neck bent forward, the travel guitar becomes small enough to fit in a hand-luggage sized backpack. When you’re ready to play, it takes just 30 seconds to unpack and restore the neck to its rightful position, tighten the screw and check the tuning – as you would before any session. In most cases, the strings are as tuneful as you left them. Tonally excellent, the guitar feels as solid and sturdy as anything you’ve ever played.
Quick, simple, problem solved.
If you fly with your instrument on a regular basis, a travel guitar is seriously worth considering. It saves stress, logistical nightmares, and an abundance of luggage…
Or, you could just keep on begging, pleading, bribing, picking fights with flight attendants, and developing ulcers every time you fly. Both are worthy options.