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Travelling With a Musical Instrument

What you need to know

  • Airline policies on instruments and luggage
  • Tips for how to prepare your instrument
  • Precautions for rare materials
  • Instrument passports and permits

Each airline and airport will have a different policy regarding the size and shape of an instrument that can be stored in the overhead bin of an aeroplane or under the seat.

Airlines may also have their own rules about the number of bags you are allowed to take on the aircraft. Seats may have to be purchased for larger instruments, and some airlines have restrictions about the weight/baggage allowance for checked-in hold luggage.

The MU strongly recommends that you check with your airline that they will allow your instrument in the cabin before you book your tickets.

It is also highly recommended that passengers contact the airline to enquire whether the musical instrument is in addition to, or in place of, the hand baggage allowance.

To check the policy for each airline, use the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) Airline ‘traffic light’ tool. You can also leave feedback to document your experience with each airline. Good news stories as well as bad news stories are welcome.

Dave Webster, Musicians’ Union (MU) National Organiser for Live Performance, says: “We know that on some occasions, ground staff and cabin crew have been less aware of their employers’ policies than they should be. This will hopefully incentivise airlines to up their game and give musicians some peace of mind when booking to travel with their instruments.”

Benoît Machuel, FIM General Secretary says: “We hope that FIM’s ranking tool will help professional musicians to select the companies that best answer their needs when they travel by air to perform abroad. We are grateful to the MU for its contribution to the development of this tool.”

In 2017, Air Canada received the inaugural FIM Airline Award for its favourable policy towards musicians and their instruments.

Please note that:

  • No other item other than the instrument and its accessories should be in the case.
  • No liquids should be placed in the cabin baggage.
  • Musical instruments will need to be screened.

Other tips:

  • Ensure that there are plenty of “Fragile” stickers on the case and that it is clearly labelled with your contact details.
  • Be sure to take oversized instruments to the oversize/fragile baggage area at the airport — do not check it in and allow it to go on the conveyor belt with cases etc. Items deposited at the former will be taken into the hold of the aircraft by hand thereby negating any rough handling. Ask them to bind the case with tape too.
  • If you have an instrument with strings, loosen them a tone or two to allow for change of temperature!

The Union is working hard at European level to bring about some clear, consistent and transparent policies that all airlines can adopt. Please sign the petition that calls on the EU council to take action.