Heads up/experience/info regarding carrying guitars on planes -VERY
me at christeneledoux.com
Wed Aug 11 18:56:01 EDT 2004
I'm writing to give ya'll a bit of a warning regarding guitars on planes...
I very recently spoke with the FAA and Transportation Dept. and have
discovered yes, we
can carry on luggage (which includes guitars) so long as it fits in one of
2. Below the seat
3. The closet
However...the problem here is airlines ARE allowed to make their own rules,
which sometimes include
not being allowed to carry on guitars and the FAA will support them.
Their regulation basically means squat if the Airlines says no, you can't
store them in the overhead
or closet because our rules say so....
So far, I have had MAJOR problems with these two airlines:
Okay..so I have been in and out of planes, flying with my guitar in a gig
bag, non-stop since the new year.
And well, always. I think I have checked in it all of twice my entire career.
On this last tour of the U.S, I was supposed to be in my Airstream trailer,
which I live out of but due
to truck problems (that tows it) I ended up booking two five-flight tickets
for my summer shows across the U.S
very last minute (that means 10 flights, not including connections)
And it also meant, to get a good price, I would have lots of those...
connectors I mean as well as fly numerous Airlines.
Here is the deal.
In Europe, I was fine...as in, flying within the European Union.
No one really bothered me...especially Ireland. (except Belfast, which is
considered part of the UK now anyway)
They were always letting me on early with smiles, making sure I was taken
And flying to and from, on British Airways, was a piece of cake, no hassles
in fact, they went out their way also to find a suitable, safe place for it.
The only exception in Europe was flying out of Belfast, Ireland to London,
They were very hard-core and made me buy a 150.00 pound seat. That is just
about $300 U.S dollars!
Now, for the last 10+ flight tour back in America...
No problems for most of my tour...until here...
The date was July 21st.
Salt Lake City, Utah to Albany, New York, with a connecting flight at
Boston Logan airport...flying on DELTA.
On all the earlier flights, I checked in my check-in bag, and breezed
through security with my guitar in gig bag and laptop, no problems...
Utah was an entirely different story.
Upon check-in, I was informed, the FAA made a new rule, NO guitars on
planes, THAT day.... (okay girls, I checked on this and this
is NOT TRUE...but I did not have this information at the time, they were
saying it changed THAT DAY...as in THAT morning...what did I know...)
I was held up with this "issue" the entire hour and a half I was there
before my flight was leaving.
In fact, I was finally, after much struggling, "granted" another
ticket...at the price of $300 for my guitar.
By the time they finally got their shit together, the plane was being held
up for me.
As I boarded, passengers announced nice little comments like, "Hope your
guitar has a nice flight..."
"Don't forget to buckle it in..." Yes folks, operator is played on
airplanes too... word spread fast just who was
holding the plane up.
I found my seats, I buckled in my baby and off we went.
Not even close.
In fact, the stewardess (I just heard the politically correct term is
'flight attendant') came over and announced I would
have to move it to the overhead, where there was plenty of room.
"Yes, I replied... plenty. But I have paid $300 for this seat. Here is the
ticket. It stays. Goodbye..."
And off we went...
We were going nowhere.
So it turns out, if you buy a seat for your guitar, it has to be in the
bulk row (you know, with the border in
front of you) and in the window seat. And that is an airline rule...has
nothing to do with the FAA...they say if it can fit
in the overhead or closet it's fine..they have no rules about guitars in seats.
My seats were somewhere in the middle and not near the window, nor in the
airline approved bulk row.
THEY booked it like that when they made me buy another seat.
The plane continued to get held up and people continued to make comments
and get more annoyed.
Finally, the pilot came out.
"Since when is there a new rule?" He declared.
"And besides...you can't have your guitar in a seat unless it's the bulk
row and by the window...one second sweetie..."
One call later, by the pilot and my credit card was refunded, my guitar was
in the overhead and my butt was in first class.
Oh and did I fail to mention he told me he was a guitarist?
Yeah. That was all very nice but the fact is, it was the pain the arse and
well..you can't count on things working out this well...
especially when it comes to carrying a guitar on the plane.
The connector on the flight from Utah to New York was in
Boston...and...luckily...and lucky is the word because it was a small
flight, they just happened to have a closet with room and they just
happened to be cool..which is not always the case.
So me and my guitar made it on fine.
Unfortunately, the "issue" to follow weeks later in Michigan was not so nice...
Last minute before boarding, you must buy a seat they tell me...
This takes yet another $300 out of my pocket even after while checking in
earlier, I was told I could bring it on no problem.
Fine. Fine. Fine.
I just want to get back to my truck and my Airstream so I don't have to
count on airlines anymore.
At this point, I had enough crap and would pay any amount just to get out
of the skies...
I'm in my seat..in the designated bulk row..with my guitar buckled in to
the window seat...
paid the $300, was complying with the airlines rules....
And here comes "her."
A very and I mean VERY cranky "flight attendant" who decides she is going
to hand out her bad day to each and every person
that is unlucky enough to be in her range.
In this case I am the unlucky recipient.
She started by complaining there was plenty of room for my guitar in the
overhead... I began the task, yet again...of letting
her know I HAD A TICKET and yes, I was in the right row, the bulk row and
the guitar was by the window...etc..etc...
She got nasty and rude and over her shoulder, began telling me, "Well, it's
Federal law you can't carry it on the plane sweeeetie..."
And no folks, she did not say it nicely.
I proceeded to tell her, "Actually, it's the opposite. In fact, the FAA
says you can... their regulation is as long as your carry on baggage
fits in one of the approved spots, which are 1. Overhead 2. Under the seat
or 3. The closet, it is fine and safe and can be there...
and I am within your rules by buying it a seat in the bulk row, by the
And yes folks, this means if your guitar fits in the overhead or closet,
the FAA says you can put it there.... it's THE Airlines that do have the
right to make their own rules...which some are to not carry it on at
all...and well, the FAA does enforce each airlines rules and they are allowed
to say no to carrying on guitars if they want without the FAA doing a thing
about it....and yes, unfortunately, this does cancel out the FAA's regulation
of as long as it fits...
All very confusing but true.
And I did at least find out (from the Utah incident) that the FAA did not
make any new rule about carrying guitars on the plane, the AIRLINES
did...as was the
case in Utah...very different indeed.
So I had this information about no rule saying they can't be on board to
give to her. I was informed at this point since I had gone through it in
Utah weeks before and knew the FAA regulations.
Besides, it was in the damn seat, in the right row etc.. etc.. what did she
This discussion went on a minute or so.
She kept on about moving my guitar.
And unbelievably, at one point, made a comment about not playing it then.
It's my problem...blah..blah..blah...
Finally I was exasperated and thought I'd rather talk to the middle-aged
woman next to me about her knee problems.
I am done listening to the flight attendant dish out her bad day. So... I
am about to give in if you can believe that, just to get her off my ass,
the damn thing in the overhead. I figured, I'd get off the plane at my
connecting flight in Chicago and go directly to their little on-site office
and get a refund for my $300 guitar seat...or worse case scenario, at my
final destination..or on the phone, whatever... I just had enough and wanted
to get moving...
But at this point, the flight attendant was even more bitchy and no, I
wasn't being vulgar or out of hand or loud even.
I was totally minding my own business and merely wanted to stop the talk
before it developed into something that was
out of control. In fact, it seems she took the sign of me trying to put my
guitar overhead as challenging her authority or something...
It makes absolutely NO sense to me... I was doing what she asked, finally,
just to get her off my damn back.
Her power trip continued on and only intensified.
And because of the leeway they give the airlines now since 911 (which yes,
I do understand
but this is ridiculous) she decided to announce I was to leave the plane.
And no, it wasn't as easy as that.
I was totally in shock and couldn't figure out where the hell this came
I described it to my brother like this...
It's like in High School when you would challenge the teacher but you're
not yelling or threatening...just a bit of an annoyance
and she/he would send you out of class or to detention to put you in your
Let you know who is boss...
Abuse of authority my friends.
I started crying and tried to reason with her, "Please don't take me off
It was seriously the last thing you could imagine. I was clearly not a
threat to anyone and honestly, not even an annoyance.
Just informed and at that, holding a damn ticket for the guitar!
Besides, I was moving the damn thing just to avoid any big problems....even
though I paid for the seat and it was within the airlines rules..in the right
seat, by the window... despite being room in the overhead...that wasn't the
(And on a side note, I called the FAA/transport dept. today again and was
told I should have asked to her to produce a rule book because by law, they
have to have one on them and she should have had to produce it and show
me... but come here, I couldn't even breath, let alone get her to produce
any book that I didn't even know about anyway... you really think after she
orders me off the plane I can get her to produce a book on FAA regulations?)
She agreed to let me stay on if I would stop talking about it. But I had
I was MOVING the guitar!!
Ok, whatever...fine. I agreed to be very, very quiet, like a mouse...
About 3 minutes or so later, a Federal Agent came on board and told me to
At this point, I went into a serious shock and began to grab my belonging.
I'm crying now, totally embarrassed and without an ounce of dignity.
I'm walking off the plane and WHAM!!!
I am thrown on the ground, my guitar crashes with me, I am handcuffed.
My belt comes lose, my pants start falling.
They do not help me with my pants even though I am begging for them too.
I have serious case of plumbers butt, they are taking me outside, in front
of the whole plane, to
put me in the police car.
Someone has my guitar, I can see it...
As we drive off, I see they left it outside. Almost ran it over!!
They don't listen as I border hysteria that it's lying down, outside, by
the planes and the carts
and cars on the grounds. It's just there, in the sun, waiting to be run over!!
They still don't talk to me. They ignore me and a joke goes out to the
intercom about having a folk
singer in custody.
At one point, I asked why on earth was a folk singer being arrested.
I wasn't trying to be funny... it was just what came out of my mouth.
They find this most amusing.
Jokes are still being made.
I am crying and de-moralized, pants halfway down as I sit in the back seat now.
Hair in my eyes, wrists are going numb...
We get to the station and I am not to talk but to answer questions.
I am strip-searched by a woman, I am put in a cold metal cell, with a metal
bunk bed, an open urinal
and camera to watch it all.
I have to pee so bad by now but I opt to hold it in and scratch the dead
skin off my arm instead.
A few hours later, and $100 bail bond later, I am released to the front of
the station and told to be on my way.
When I asked for ride to the terminal they just laughed and said, "You've
just been arrested and now you want a
Turns out, I am at least a mile or so from the terminal.
By now, I have my guitar back and my laptop/CD carry-on bag.
I lug them and myself back to the terminal.
There are no more flights out, my checked in bag is nowhere to be found and
they have literally taken
the last of my cash.
Fine. There are probably ATM's and I have credit cards.
And honestly, that crap doesn't worry me. I am sooo used to being on my own
and handling this sort
of thing, I've got a very level head and credit cards, I'll figure it out
in no time I'm thinking.
The main problem here was I was emotionally on empty and still in shock
from what just happened.
My wrists were already bruising from the handcuffs and my face looked like
it got run over by a truck from
all the crying.
And if you've never been arrested in this manor, I can hardly describe how
traumatizing it is.
It sounds lame but it really is, was..is...
I found a nice lady at another Airline, closing up...who gave me a hotel
So I took the shuttle and made my way to the Marriott.
And here is one nice snippet about the ordeal....
I encountered a receptionist who saw the state I was in and asked about my
day which I was happy to tell her
because at this point I needed someone, in a bad way, to talk to.
I couldn't reach anyone by phone.
So I get to my room, strip to my undergarments since I have no luggage.
Someone knocks on my door... I grab a towel and peer through the peep hole.
It's the receptionist...
I open the door and whoa, she has personally went to the store and brought
a little bottle of wine and dinner!
I hugged and thanked her and went about the task of getting a new flight.
Eating my dinner and drinking my wine, I got on my laptop and booked a very
last minute and very expensive flight with United...
half freaked out about how the guitar would go down the following day...
As it turned out...FYI... United was very cool about the guitar and said as
long as it fits... pretty much staying
true to what the FAA says. No major rules banning them on United...at least
So...I finally located my check-in luggage the following day but was
informed I would not be refunded for both my seat and my guitars...
that since I was taken off the plane, there was no recourse for me.
I was also given a lecture on how the entire flight was held up so long
most people on board missed their connectors...
So here I am now...
Over a $1000 and a day later and emotionally a wreck, I finally made it
back to my truck and trailer.
I have never been so happy to call a trailer, a house on wheels, my home.
It's been good for me all this time... flying with my guitar in a gig bag,
as carry on... I'd never had any real problems til now.
But times, unfortunately are still changing...and really fast.
Not only for what they call safety but they are also trying to make a buck
anywhere they possibly can.
Most airlines, wait..is it all now?...(aside from flights to Europe..at
least for now) charge for food...(not snacks/drinks) but lunch/dinner
sort of thing...
I'm sure ya'll are still getting on no problems, slipping by..breezing by
even... that's all great. Really great actually.
But if any of you are new to this carrying guitars on board thing or even
not new to it but wondering what the state is these days,
at least the state of one musicians experiences...here you have it.
Any maybe you do it all the time...carry it on I mean..like I used to and
are still not having any problems.
That's awesome of course!
Just be aware is all...
I can't give you any one advice...but for me, I am going to not only get a
custom made Carlton for my guitar (one of the strongest
cases for flying..but I'm sure there are others and please do send
suggestions to everyone) but when I do fly, I am going to do my hardest
to book only one-way and like most already do and know, have it gate-checked.
Yes, it still runs the risk of being demolished somehow in handling or
lost...etc... but as long as I've got it in a good, solid case and have done
all I can do minimize problems, it's 100% better than dealing with the
issues that seem to be arising more often than not these days.
At least for now anyway...because I do plan to try and make a change here.
It turns out I will write a Senator and whomever else I can to try and get
some damn rights for us...all across the board..and not just
occasionally when airlines feel like being nice or is one of the very few
that don't even hassle you... they are dwindling folks.
I've definitely had enough and am happy to spear-head some changes that we
can actually count on!
And well, on a side note, I will be talking to a lawyer about this one.
I was totally de-moralized and wronged and am not only financially strapped
because of it but am feeling seriously emotionally
messed up. This shouldn't have happened to me and should never happen to me
or anyone else again.
And all for what?
A f***** guitar.
love to you all...
follow your dream...follow your dream...follow your dream..
hugs from the road (road!) xxx
full-time living/touring in an Airstream, SEE dates & more @:
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