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Fly with your instrument anywhere in the US



Airlines are now required by Federal Law to let your Axe on the Plane
Date posted: 1/19/18

Thank the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), for lobbying Congress (for many years) to get legislation that protects musicians who travel by air with their instruments. On February 14, 2012, President Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 into law. Airlines had to fully comply with the law within two years after its signing. Section 403 of the Act requires US air carriers to accept musical instruments on passenger flights either carry-on baggage, provided that certain conditions are met.


The part of the law that describes musicians' rights to carry instruments on board begins on pages 74: "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 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 there is space for such stowage at the time the passenger boards the aircraft."


The law also addresses requirements for airlines to accommodate larger instruments. Musicians may buy a ticket (without any additional fee for an instrument is too large for the overhead compartment, but weighs less than 165 pounds and is in a case.

In accordance with the law, the US Department of Transportation to (US DoT) met with musicians and representatives from the airline industry to ensure that enforcement of the law would work for both parties in the real world. That ruling was published on page 161 of the Federal Register, Vol. 80, No. 2 on Monday, January 5, 2015.

The language, "...if there is space for such stowage at the time the passenger boards the aircraft," means that musicians should board as early as possible to ensure that there's space. Musicians must know the early boarding policies of the airlines they use to guarrantee that there's space for their instruments. On some airlined, passengers may pay a small fee for priority boarding. On other airlines, boarding order is set by check-in time and musicians should check in online as soon as possible -- 24 hours in advance of a flight.


Some musicians continue to encounter difficulty travelling with their instruments -- even when they pay for or check in early for priority boarding or have a ticket for a large instrument -- even with the law and final ruling in full effect. To help eliminate difficulty, musicians should print the relevant pages of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and 2015 US DoT Final Ruling and carry them when they travel. If an airline representative tries to prevent boarding with an instrument, the musician should present the copies of the law/ruling (and/or ticket for a large instrument), politely insist that the airline comply with Federal law. 

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