I’ve seen them; you’ve seen them—those gut-wrenching photos or videos of someone’s precious vintage guitar being crushed in the baggage carousel or launched across the tarmac by a malicious or careless baggage handler.
You’ve argued with airline personnel at the ticket counter about your right to carry your guitar onto the plane, no extra baggage fee required.
You’ve been told you have to buy an extra seat in order to bring your instrument aboard.
You’ve pleaded with attendants at the gate, begging them to let you carry your guitar onto the plane, only to be told that it must be “gate checked” (a term, I’m sure, designed to have us believe that these items are somehow safer under the plane than other items. True? I’m leery).
You have also seen, I hope, Dave Carroll’s hilarious song and video “United Breaks Guitars,” and if not, check it out here.
And you’re terrified every time you have to fly, because some airlines let you, some don’t, and you’re never sure which will, which won’t, and when.
WELL, WONDER AND WORRY NO MORE!! I was tipped off to this by a blogpost by a guy named Ari, and here it is:
In 2012,President Obama signed into law the ‘‘FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012,’’ which, along with provisions for enhancing runway safety and easing restrictions on transporting lithium batteries, contains the following text:
SEC. 403. MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS.
(a) IN GENERAL—Subchapter I of chapter 417 is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘‘§ 41724. Musical instruments
‘‘(a) IN GENERAL—
‘‘(1) SMALL INSTRUMENTS AS CARRY-ON BAGGAGE.—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—
‘‘(A) 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
‘‘(B) there is space for such stowage at the time the passenger boards the aircraft.
For instruments too large to fit in an overhead or under your seat, you can bring them aboard but you do have to buy another ticket:
‘‘(2) LARGER INSTRUMENTS AS CARRY-ON BAGGAGE.—An air carrier providing air transportation shall permit a passenger to carry a musical instrument that is too large to meet the requirements of paragraph (1) in the aircraft cabin, without charging the passenger a fee in addition to the cost of the additional ticket described in subparagraph (E), if—
‘‘(A) the instrument is contained in a case or covered so as to avoid injury to other passengers;
‘‘(B) the weight of the instrument, including the case or covering, does not exceed 165 pounds or the applicable weight restrictions for the aircraft;
‘‘(C) the instrument can be stowed in accordance with the requirements for carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the Administrator;
‘‘(D) neither the instrument nor the case contains any object not otherwise permitted to be carried in an aircraft cabin because of a law or regulation of the United States; and
‘‘(E) the passenger wishing to carry the instrument in the aircraft cabin has purchased an additional seat to accommodate the instrument.
Wooooo-hoooo!!! And did you notice that the time to determine whether there’s sufficient space for your guitar is at the time you board the aircraft??!?!?!
So, no more deciding as the plane fills up that your guitar takes up too much room and they’ll have to gate check it fit more suitcases in.
Does everyone in the aviation industry know about this law? Well, probably not. Will you still have to argue with those who don’t, well, probably. Best practice? Carry the text of the law with you, inside your guitar case so you’ll have it if you need it.
And then? Celebrate, guitar players around the globe!!! When you fly in the U.S, anyway, you may rest assured: your rights are secure, as is your beloved guitar.
For those of you who need to read the complete text of the Act, here you go. Read it before bedtime. It’ll put you right out. Sweet dreams.
Singer-songwriter Laura Zucker wins audiences over with a hard-won perspective and a positive spin. The powerful imagery of her songs and stories ring so true you might think she’s read your diary – and you’ll find yourself humming her infectious melodies for days to come. She’s a two-time finalist in the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk competition in Texas, 2013 West Coast Songwriters Association Best Song of the Year, and has received numerous accolades and awards from the organizations around the world. She has released three CDs of original songs and is poised to release the 4th, "Life Wide Open," early this fall. More at LauraZucker.com