Recent videos have been made by a few guitarists that have suffered the heartbreak of doing what they believed was the right thing and checking their guitar when flying a commercial airline.


Of course, it is heartbreaking when the instrument comes down the luggage chute it is not in the same condition it was when it was checked in.  Or, perhaps even worse, it does not come down the chute at all.


Now (or soon depending upon when you read this), you guitarists can all take heart.


By February 14, 2014 commercial airlines must allow guitars to be carried on.  Well, there are a few caveats:  It must be able to fit in the overhead compartment (or under the seat, but we know that isn’t going to happen), and they must have room available in those overheads at the time you board.


(for information on flying with a larger instrument, such as a bass, click here)


A couple of years ago, Pubic Law 122-95 was signed into law.  This lengthy document (145 pages) is the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, and it regulates the airlines.


Thanks to the lobbying efforts of the American Federation of Musician and others on our behalf, Section 403 deals with musical instruments. And this law applies to all who are traveling with an instrument, not just professional musicians.  All the mandates in the law must be in effect the second year anniversary of its signing: February 14, 2014.


Basically, this puts into law what is generally agreed to be common sense.  Well, common sense to most musicians and the public, but maybe not so much to the TSA or Airlines:  If a musical instrument fits, you should be able to carry it on and stow it with no additional fee; if it doesn’t fit in the overhead, you should be able to purchase a seat for it if it would fit in a seat.


Of course, all of this is written in legalize, but its heart is in the right place.


It is worth a read before you put it in practice (again here’s a link to the law), and don’t assume those assisting you at security and the ticket counter are going to be aware of the law.


In fact, you may want to print out Pages 1, 74 and 75 (the title page and the pages that deal with musical instrument) and keep them either in your instrument case or your personal carry-on, so you have them on hand when you need them the most – checking in.


Remember, that this applies when they have the room.  If you’re one of those guys that runs for the gate just before it closes, or didn’t (or was not willing) to spend the extra fee for priority/first boarding…well, you might be out of luck.


– Jake Kelly