Enough is enough! I have had it with these mf'ing guitars on this mf'ing plane!"
June 30, 2008 11:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm going on vacation and I'd love to take my guitar with me on the flights. What experiences have you had since the last question (October 2005) on this problem? Experiences involving United Airlines and U.S. Airways especially relevant.

I'm going through one of those real fertile times, writing a song every few days. I'd love to keep this up during my week long vacation. I'm not going to take the good accoustic, but I'd love to take the 'minor axe' with me. I'm paranoid as hell, however.
posted by Ironmouth to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
I've looked over the relevant polices and they are quite confusing. I'm also worried about "gate-checking" my instrument.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:51 AM on June 30, 2008

My bf took his guitar with him on our last three trips together (in the last 18 months). He had absolutely no trouble taking in through security and onto the plane. Once was on Jet Blue, and the other two times were US Air. I think we were on 737's/ Airbus. On our last trip about 3 weeks ago, our connecting flight to the tiny airport in my hometown was on a Dehaveland Dash. This is a smaller prop plane with very limited overhead compartments. He did have to gate check the guitar at that point, but it was no big deal. He handed the guitar to flight personnel as he boarded the plane (we were on the tarmac... no jetways for these little planes). And it was waiting for him on the tarmac as soon as we got off.
posted by kimdog at 12:00 PM on June 30, 2008

I take my ukulele in such instances. Seriously.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:02 PM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

i have checked my guitar on planes before. just make sure you have a good solid case that will tolerate being knocked around with other luggage. if it's your 'minor axe' then there shouldn't be to much to fret about.
posted by gnutron at 12:05 PM on June 30, 2008

I don't think you'll be able to take your guitar as a carry-on; you'll have to check it. I've done this a couple of times, and it's always nerve-racking. I don't trust the throwers, and I get nervous that someone's going to get to the conveyor belt before I do and I'll never see the thing again. Statistics are probably on my side, but my non-rational brain doesn't really care.

So, tips:

- Hard case only. If you don't have one, don't bother.
- Pad the everloving shit out of the empty areas between the guitar and the inside of the case. Towels, shirts, foam, whatever.
- Make sure any compartments you have inside won't fly open and throw stuff around that will scratch the guitar.
- Detune all of the strings so there's no tension on the neck. This is REALLY IMPORTANT to remember.
- Don't take your time getting to the conveyor belt when the plane lands. You can go to the bathroom after you have your baby.
- The TSA will open your guitar case. Don't put a lock it, or they'll break the lock. Don't leave your song notes or notebook in your case. It's not that I think the TSA workers are dishonest, I just don't trust them to pay perfect attention to everything that is inside the shit they're rummaging through. Last thing you want is some security theater lackey accidentally knocking your songs onto the floor and not noticing it.
posted by Mikey-San at 12:09 PM on June 30, 2008

You can potentially buy an extra seat for the guitar if you're really worried about it, and willing to pay the cash.
posted by grouse at 12:30 PM on June 30, 2008

All of Mikey-San's advice is excellent. Invest in a kickass hard-shelled case if you don't already have one. I like Gator Cases. A bit pricey, but I've used them for my guitars & giant Korg keyboard and they've always managed to get from Point A to Point B in one piece.
posted by krisken at 12:35 PM on June 30, 2008

I gate-check my electric guitar in a soft-shell case and haven't had problems with it. I pad it with soft, durable, inexpensive clothes, e.g. socks and t-shirts. You can wrap t-shirts around the neck. If this involves packing more clothes than you would have otherwise, go ahead and do it.

If I were checking it at the counter, I'd make sure to use a hard-shell case. Aside from that, I'd be interested to see some substantiation for Mikey-San's claim that soft-shell cases are out of the question.

Lastly, realize there's inevitably some risk your instrument will get broken. Only bring it along if you accept this cost-benefit balance.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:45 PM on June 30, 2008

I've taken my electric guitar on a plane as carry on in a gig bag. I've never tried with a hard case. It was fine -- although I'm sure I would have had a heart attack if I'd had to check it.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:58 PM on June 30, 2008

pazazygeek, a friend of mine had to check a soft-shell case (he couldn't carry it past security) and was rewarded with a smashed guitar upon arriving at his destination.

After that experience I wouldn't travel at all without a heavy-duty travel case but I really love my guitar more than I should.
posted by PFL at 1:29 PM on June 30, 2008

I've taken acoustic and electric guitars in hard cases as carry-ons many times in the past few years. If it's a decent-sized plane you shouldn't have trouble. But you won't be able to take a bunch of other carry-on stuff as well. I can't speak to whether or not anything has changed in the past six months though.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:01 PM on June 30, 2008

mikey-san's advice is good.

my friend was flying with his les paul and i offered the use of my calzone ata case. those style cases are absolutely the only ones i would fly with, but they're COMPLETE overkill for standard use. unfortunately it needs to have the interior foam redone before it can be used, and it wouldn't have gotten back to us in time. so he went to the gate with his les paul in a normal hardcase. they let him check it in the closet area where they put strollers and wheelchairs and stuff.

personally, he lucked out big time. i've heard of people being allowed to do it, but if they say no, you're checking it and playing the odds. personally i'd err on the side of over-protective, but that's just me.

same guy also checked a cheap bass guitar in a _gig bag_ as luggage and that came back fine too. i looked like a total asshole cause i was warning him of all the potential horrors he was risking and of course it worked out fine.
posted by tremspeed at 12:37 AM on July 3, 2008

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