Stringed instrument on the plane question

Discussion in 'Transportation' started by acebatonfan, Mar 2, 2012.

  1. acebatonfan

    acebatonfan VMKer at heart

    Jul 14, 2011
    I will be going to Disney later on this month, and it is mandated that my instrument, a 16.5 inch viola, comes onto the plane with me as my carry-on. Is there anything I can do before hand to "prep" my instrument for the air pressure changes, like loosening or tightening the strings, and by how much, or should I leave it tuned and hope it doesn't break? The director will have spare strings and a few bridges if something does happen.

    If everything goes as planned, I will be storing my instrument in the overhead compartments, if that has any importance to what I need to do.
  2. chartle

    chartle DIS Veteran

    Jul 10, 2008
  3. seashoreCM

    seashoreCM All around nice guy.

    Aug 25, 2001
    Loosen the strings a little.

    THe biggest problem with flying with musical instruments is that space in the passenger cabin might not be available. It should be in a hard case to withstand jostling by other passengers. You should at least contact your airline regarding items that are unfit for checked baggage to see what suggestions they have.

    Although there are no guarantees, it is reasonable that the airline should be able to accommodate you if you show up at the airport at their suggestion really early (for the purpose of doing paperwork to get special dispensation to board earlier than others) and/or are willing to take the next flight (at no extra charge) if there is no space for your instrument.
  4. lost*in*cyberspace

    lost*in*cyberspace DIS Veteran

    Dec 30, 2005
    Check the dimensions of your case to make sure that it will fit in the overhead compartment. I checked United's website; they recommend loosening the strings. Check your airline's website; they probably have recommendations there:

    Musical instruments

    Musical instruments can be carried on board or checked as baggage. If necessary, a seat can also be purchased for an instrument.

    Carried on board

    A small musical instrument can be carried on as a personal item. If the musical instrument appears too large or irregularly shaped to fit under the seat or in the overhead compartment, it will not be accepted for in cabin stowage.

    Checked as baggage

    Instrument should be in a hard shell case to protect it during normal handling.
    Excess charges apply if checking more than the baggage allowance.
    Oversize charges apply to musical instruments that measure 90 - 115 linear inches.
    Overweight charges apply to musical instruments that are over 50 pounds.
    Musical instruments over 70 pounds will not be accepted.
    If the instrument is over 115 linear inches, contact United Reservations.

    In addition to the above polices, stringed instruments should have the strings loosened to protect the neck from damage due to expansion and contraction which result from temperature variations.

    Cabin-seat baggage

    United will allow a customer to purchase a ticket for a musical instrument which is too fragile or bulky to be handled as checked baggage. Upright basses and will not be accepted as cabin-seat baggage.

    Excess Valuation may not be purchased for musical instruments.

    I was once on a United flight from IAD to London. The person seated in front of me had purchased a seat for her cello (yes, a seatbelt extender was used to buckle it in). It was a good flight; no annoying passenger in front of me reclining the seat!

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