Air Travel

Ho-Yeol Ryu, Airport, 2005

The Skies Are as Friendly as Ever:
9/11, Al Qaeda Obscure Statistics on Airline Safety

Air Travel With Instruments

Air Canada Regulations

United Breaks Guitars

Dave Carroll
In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to Nebraska
for a one-week tour, and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being
thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago.
I discovered later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged.
They didn’t deny the experience occurred, but for nine months
the various people I communicated with put the responsibility
 for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves
and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss.
So I promised the last person to finally say “no” to compensation (Ms. Irlweg)
that I would write and produce three songs about my experience
with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed
online by anyone in the world.
United: Song 1 is the first of those songs. United: Song 2 has been written
and video production is underway. United: Song 3 is coming. I promise.

"United Breaks Guitars"

United Break Guitars Broken Taylor Guitar
New Book
United Breaks Guitars: The power of one voice in the age of social media

 NEW YORK REGION   | October 10, 2006

A Trumpet, a Struggle, and a Musician’s Broken Arm
A jazz musician's struggle over his prized trumpet got him a broken arm,
 a lesson on how airport rules are subject to whim.


Musicians have won a major victory over airlines

Musicians win victory over right to carry instruments on aircraft

Flying With Musical Instruments: Know Your Rights

Top 4 Tips for Flying With Your Guitar

Flying with your Guitar

Ottawa man may sue Air Canada after viola smashed

Paul Casey with destroyed viola

Last Updated Fri, 01 Sep 2006 18:01:31 EDT

A 20-year-old Ottawa man says he might sue Air Canada for damages after his $14,000 viola arrived in pieces. Paul Casey, a music student at University of Ottawa, was returning from performing with the Youth Orchestra of the Americas in Europe when Air Canada insisted he check his viola as baggage.

He was told the airline has a strict policy against taking carry-on items weighing more than 10 kilograms. Although the instrument case bore fragile stickers, it arrived with a snapped neck, a broken back and about 12 cracks on its front.

"We just figured it would last. We figured we would have it forever," he said of the custom-made instrument. Air Canada sent him a cheque for $1,600 compensation. That's not nearly enough to replace it, he said. Casey returned the cheque because he's thinking about getting lawyers involved.

Guy Harrison, the Ottawa violin maker who made Casey's instrument, says it can't be repaired. It has sentimental value for Harrison, because it's the first instrument he made in Canada. "It's the first instrument that I know of that's been destroyed," he said in an interview with CBC Television.

©Photos by Lois Siegel
 Guy Harrison, Luthier

Casey wonders why he was allowed to take the instrument on board in the past, but cannot now.
But the Air Transport Association of Canada warns musicians they shouldn't expect any special treatment and says the new rules about cabin baggage will be more consistently enforced.

Other Ottawa area musicians say they fear they will have the same experience when they travel. Joan Harrison, an NAC cellist, said she buys a separate ticket for her cello, so it can sit on a seat beside her, but now the airline is preventing that. "Air Canada three times this year has not let me take my cello on board even though I've had a ticket," she said, "because you don't know what kind of airplane you're getting and they happen to be small flights." 

Instruments such her cello are very valuable, as well as a means of making a living, she said.
"I could sell my instruments and could buy another house. You spend years saving up. You have mortgages on your instruments."

David Goldblatt, a performer with the NAC and representative of the American Federation of Musicians, said performers are worried. Many won't check their instruments and that may mean
they can't travel.

"We have a tour coming up in November and, honestly, I don't know what we're going to do.
I believe it's a charter flight, but the same rules apply to charter flights as far as I know," he said.

Ottawa Citizen: Airline destroys $13,800 viola

 Air travel returning to normal as carriers clear backlogs

By Thomas Crampton International Herald Tribune

Published: August 11, 2006
PARIS   World flight schedules approached normal for most passengers Friday, but for Luigi Minonzio it will be quite some time until people like him fly again.
Minonzio, a tour organizer for Cose di Musica, one of Italy's largest music management companies, said the tighter measures for carry-on luggage would badly affect the ability for his company and others to bring in musicians to Italy who cannot bear to be separated from their instruments.

"British bands, for example, almost always bring everything with them when they travel," Minonzio said. "I guess they'll start moving things by truck."
Michele Neri, director of a Milan photo agency, expressed a similar concern, while the director of the Moscow's celebrated Bolshoi theater told Agence France-Presse that his musicians would leave London for France by train rather than check in their instruments as baggage.
Renwick McLean contributed reporting from Madrid, Elisabetta Povoledo from Milan and Thomas Fuller from Bangkok.


Tighter Security Is Jeopardizing Orchestra Tours

August 15, 2006
Air travel for classical musicians has never been easy.

Those husky cellos need an extra ticket. Hey, security! Watch that priceless Stradivarius. Double-reed players? They have long given up on carrying aboard those valuable knives and shaping tools used to mold the cane that transforms their breath into lyrical sounds.

And now, with new concerns about carry-on baggage in the wake of Britain’s reported terrorist plot, it has gotten tougher.

Strict regulations imposed last week forced the New York-based Orchestra of St. Luke’s to cancel a long-awaited tour of Britain over the weekend and sent other ensembles with imminent trips, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra, scrambling to cope with the new rules.

“I’m heartbroken,” Marianne C. Lockwood, the president and executive director of the St. Luke’s orchestra, said yesterday. “I don’t think I’ve been through 72 more anguished hours in my life.” The orchestra was to have left last Thursday for concerts at the Edinburgh International Festival and the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London, one of the major summer music festivals.

All travelers in Britain had to adapt to the ban on carry-on items, which was relaxed yesterday to allow one small carry-on. But not all travelers ply their trade with highly personal artifacts made of centuries-old wood, horsehair and precious metals that many musicians are loath to put in the hold.

Its rules are of course in flux. The United States Transportation Security Administration says on its Web site that musical instruments are generally allowed in the cabin in addition to a carry-on bag and a personal item, but it leaves size requirements and permission for the carry-on to the airlines. In addition, it promises that security personnel will handle instruments carefully.

That is of little comfort to musicians, particularly string players, who suffer constant anxiety over the threat of damage and fears that their instruments will arbitrarily not be allowed in the cabin, even though violins fit into most overhead bins.

The violin virtuoso and conductor Pinchas Zukerman said security officials had even asked him to remove the strings of his 1742 Guarneri del Gèsu. “I’ve had unbelievable discussions at certain airports,” he said by telephone while waiting at the Atlanta airport for a flight with his wife, the cellist Amanda Forsyth. “They want to stick their hands in my instruments, and they say, ‘It’s my job.’ ”

Cellists have it the worst, Ms. Forsyth said. “We buy the seat with a cello, and they treat us like second-class criminals.”

The new regulations have, for now, increased the complications.

The Bolshoi opera and ballet, which have been performing at the Royal Opera House in London, will send their orchestra’s instruments back to Moscow by ferry and truck at the end of the week if the restrictions are not relaxed, said Faith Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Bolshoi’s promoter at the house, Victor Hochhauser Presents. The Bolshoi orchestra’s chief conductor, Alexander Vedernikov, had been quoted as saying that the musicians’ contract requires them to keep their instruments with them.

“Clearly this is a very unusual situation,” Ms. Wilson said. “I’m sure there are insurance issues, but I don’t think anybody’s ever had to cope with the security restrictions that we’re up against.”

The Minnesota Orchestra is due to leave on Sunday for a European tour that also includes stops in Edinburgh and at the Proms. Like many major orchestras, it packs its instruments in specially designed and padded crates.

The biggest ones, which hold harps and double basses, are six and a half feet high and four feet wide. About 20 players in the 95-member ensemble like to take their instruments or precious bows on board, but they will stow them this time around, said a spokeswoman, Gwen Pappas. The trunks are delivered straight to concert halls, so the instruments will not be immediately available for players who want to practice at their hotels.

The Philadelphia Orchestra plays the Proms in early September. Its trunks also have space for all the members’ instruments, but it is working on backup plans for about a dozen musicians who are going on to other jobs or on vacation and not returning with the orchestra, said a spokeswoman, Katherine Blodgett.

Those concerts, coming later, give the orchestras time to prepare. And these are large, experienced touring groups that own the crates.

Not so the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, a highly regarded ensemble that nevertheless tours infrequently and saw the trip as a boost for its image. It spent two years planning the trip and many months carefully polishing the programs, which were to have been broadcast in the United States.

The trip had special significance for the orchestra’s principal conductor, Donald Runnicles, who is Scottish, and for its president, Ms. Lockwood, who was born in England.

Ms. Lockwood described three days of phone calls, fueled by takeout Chinese food, to find alternatives. The musicians had planned to carry their smaller instruments by hand.

Charter planes were too expensive: about $300,000, which would have doubled the cost of the tour. The orchestra scoured larger orchestras from Philadelphia to Boston to borrow trunks. All were in use. St. Luke’s considered flying the musicians to Paris, having them take a train to London and having the instruments trucked in, but there would not have been time to make a Tuesday rehearsal.

Then someone from Edinburgh called Saturday to offer the loan of instruments.

In the end, none of the efforts mattered. British Airways cancelled the flight that day at 5 p.m.


September 6, 2006

Heightened security measures at U.S. airports have impacted the ability of musicians to carry their instruments in-cabin. Below is information to help you and your instrument travel safely.


1. Know TSA policy. U.S. and international security restrictions may change at any time. Find the latest news on the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

2. Know airline policy. Each airline may adopt unique restrictions regarding carry-on items. When selecting an air carrier, call to confirm whether the dimensions of your instrument meet the airline’s requirements for carry-on items, and note the name of the agent you have called. If an airline makes its policy available online, carry a copy.

3. When making your reservation, request a seat assignment at the back of the plane. During the boarding process, passengers seated in the rear of the aircraft are boarded immediately after first class and special needs passengers. As one of the first on-board, you will have more time to stow your instrument, and more space options.

4. Notify reservation agents of oversized items. Many airlines have limits on the number of oversized items allowed in-cabin. Even if you paid an additional fee or booked a seat for your instrument, ask the reservation agent to record that you are traveling with an oversized musical instrument.

Tips made possible in collaboration with the American Federation of Musicians and the 2001 Coalition in Support of Musical Instruments as Carry-On Baggage.


1. Remove all extraneous items from the case. All tools and other items should be checked or carried separately to simplify the screening process. What are completely familiar items to you - cleaning fluids and tools, valve oil, end pins, reed knives, mutes, tuners, metronomes - may seem mysterious to screening personnel.

2. Limit the number of carry-on items. For domestic flights, in addition to your instrument, you may have one carry-on and one, small personal item.

3. Arrive early. You may hear that check-in and screening takes only minutes –
THIS MAY NOT BE TRUE FOR MUSICIANS. Arriving early will allow for the time you may need to work with security and flight crews to make sure your instrument gets safely on board. Bear in mind that problems may take some time to correct. Therefore, it is imperative that you arrive AT THE GATE at least one hour before boarding time.



It is crucial that as a traveling musician you recognize several important facts.

1. The most important responsibility of airport and transportation officials is security.

2. The most important responsibility of gate attendants and flight attendants is safety.

3. The most important responsibility of the captain is safety AND security. Your instrument represents an unusual item that could very well be unexpected. Gate and flight crews that have a very short period of time to seat passengers in an aircraft try their best to deal with the unexpected concisely and quickly. You (and your instrument) are only one of many passengers that will likely have special needs. Therefore, don’t take it personally when a gate agent or flight crew member seem indifferent to your concerns. Their time is limited.

However, you have the backing of the airline to travel with your instrument onboard if the airline permits it. Therefore, it is recommended that you remain calm and polite. In many cases, the problem may be resolved. Consider this:

1. If you are stopped by a flight attendant, calmly and quickly explain the precautions you have taken to prepare your instrument to safely travel in-cabin.

2. Be accommodating by suggesting placing the instrument in the rear of the aircraft, or securing the instrument with cords or ties (bring your own).

3. If necessary, immediately ask to deplane so that you can resolve this matter with airline supervisors. Remember, you have fifteen minutes at most to resolve this issue before the plane backs away from the gate.

4. DO NOT block the way of boarding passengers. Finally, prepare yourself for the possibility that you may not be able to travel with your instrument in-cabin – even if you have followed all possible procedures. What will you do? Are you willing to send your instrument by air courier? Is it packed well enough to withstand transportation in the cargo hold? Should you, or can you, travel by train or car?


The national music community, led by the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), has petitioned Congress, the TSA, and major airlines to address this issue. Section 135 of S. 1447, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001 expresses the support of the United States House of Representatives for a remedy to inconsistent treatment of musicians and their instruments. This important provision of the act reads as follows: S. 1447 Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001, Relating to Public Law 107-71, Page 41, Section 135


It is a sense of the House of Representatives that (1) the Under Secretary of Transportation for Security should develop security procedures to allow passengers transporting a musical instrument on a flight of an air carrier to transport the instrument in the passenger cabin of the aircraft, notwithstanding any size or other restriction on carry-on baggage but subject to such other reasonable terms and conditions as may be established by the Under Secretary or the air carrier, including imposing additional charges by the air carrier. Though this language does not give musicians the specific right to carry any musical instrument onboard, it encouraged the TSA to adopt supportive policies.

In 2002, the AFM secured a commitment from the TSA to facilitate musicians traveling with their instruments. According to a letter from the TSA to the AFM, these steps are in place: On December 20, 2002, TSA instructed aircraft operators that effective immediately, they are to allow musical instruments as carry-on baggage in addition to the limit of one bag and one personal item per person as carry-on baggage on an aircraft.

Additionally, these revised procedures were communicated to our TSA screeners at the passenger screening checkpoints throughout the country. Should your membership experience problems at the security screening checkpoints, please advise them to request to speak to a screening supervisor for resolution.

In August of 2006, the TSA adopted new procedures that permit passengers to be present for and assist with the screening of large musical instruments as checked baggage. According to the TSA: The screening will be conducted by the TSA in a designated area near the ticket counter and the instrument will then be returned by TSA to the aircraft operator for processing as checked baggage.

Passengers may request this service at the ticket counter as they are checking in. Please be advised that individual airlines have the last word on what is allowed in-cabin and on the plane! It is still best to check in advance with your air carrier to determine the policy for allowable carry-on items, and to plan for plenty of time to communicate with your flight crew in advance of boarding the plane.

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