In the Summer 2003 edition of Wood&Steel, globetrotting Taylor tradeshow manager David Kaye addressed the hazards commercial airlines pose to traveling with a guitar (read PDF). While the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) came to an agreement to allow guitars to be considered as carry-on luggage in 2003, thousands of musicians can relate a personal tale of instrument mistreatment at the hands of any number of airlines.
Some tips to keep your guitar safe, courtesy of the AFM:
Know the pertinent policies of the airline on which you are traveling. There are links to many of them on the AFM website, so print them out and take them with you. Many flight attendants do not know their own airline’s policy regarding carry-on guitars, so if you can calmly explain that your instrument is within their mandated guidelines, and actually show them those guidelines, you will be way ahead of the game.
Know your instrument’s size in linear inches, which is the sum of your case’s dimensions. If, for example, your case measures 20 inches long by 20 inches wide by 10 inches high, it would be 50 linear inches. Almost all airline maximum size dimensions use either Length-by-Width-by-Height, or linear inches. In many cases, even though your instrument case does not fit in the “size wise” metal contraption at the gate, it might well be within the linear-inch maximum. Again, know the linear inch measurement of your case beforehand.
Carry a “fabric” tape measure with you. Even if you never use it, sewing-type tape measure takes up almost no space and weighs almost nothing. And it might just come in handy if you’re challenged about your case dimensions.
If you are a member of the AFM and would like to download a copy of the TSA’s instrument policy and tips to keep your instrument safe, please visit: http://www.afm.org/departments/legislative-office/instruments-as-carry-on.
To learn more about the TSA’s policies regarding musical instruments, please visit: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/assistant/editorial_1235.shtm