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U.S. Transportation Dept. Officially Approves Rules Requiring Airlines to Allow Musical Instruments on Airplanes

Laurie Niles

Written by
Published: January 2, 2015 at 8:46 PM [UTC]

Good news: Air travel with a musical instrument should be a lot easier this year in the United States after a final rule issued earlier this week.

unbanned

On Tuesday the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a final administrative rule that fully implements section 403 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2012 – the law authorizing musical instruments as carry-on baggage onboard US air carriers.

In other words, law now requires that airlines allow passengers to carry musical instruments on board. And this is no longer just a "proposed law" or law waiting to be implemented; it's now official FAA policy regarding musical instrument transportation.

Here are some of the most important points in the rule, according to Ray Hair, International President of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada:

  • Airlines are required to allow small musical instruments, such as a violin or guitar, to be carried into the cabin and stowed in approved stowage spaces, if available, and/or under the seat.
  • Once safely stowed, airlines cannot require passengers to remove their instruments, even if space taken by their instrument could accommodate one or more other carry-on items.
  • Airlines cannot charge an additional fee for instruments as carry-on or checked baggage other than any standard fee imposed by the carrier.
  • Airlines are now required to train air crews, gate agents, counter agents and baggage personnel concerning appropriate procedures necessary to comply with all FAA musical instrument transportation policies.

Read the announcement from the FAA here and read the entire final rule here: Final Rule on Carriage of Musical Instruments. I would personally recommend printing out this ruling and carrying it in your instrument case (or with you somewhere) when traveling. Alternatively, you could just wear the rule -- get a T-shirt from Time for Three with section 403 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2012 printed on the back! (In their typical good humor, the musicians of Time for Three came up with the shirts after the unpleasant experience of being denied on a plane with their violins and being left on the tarmac in Charlotte last spring.)

The Department of Transportation also created a webpage with tips and information for consumers on how to prepare for air travel with musical instruments.

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From 24.230.44.13
Posted on January 2, 2015 at 9:07 PM
Based on this...

"Airlines are required to allow small musical instruments, such as a violin or guitar, to be carried into the cabin and stowed in approved stowage spaces, if available, and/or under the seat.
Once safely stowed, airlines cannot require passengers to remove their instruments, even if space taken by their instrument could accommodate one or more other carry-on items."

...while there might be a more generally informed air crew staff, there's still no guarantee that a violin-carrying passenger will know with certainty in advance that boarding with the instrument will occur.

It all depends on available in-cabin stowage space, which of course is never reserved, just taken on a first come, first served basis.

Board early if you must fly.


From Kate Little
Posted on January 2, 2015 at 9:19 PM
An important aspect of the ruling should not be overlooked. Quoted below from the DOT briefing:

Under the rule, musical instruments as carry-on items are treated no differently from other carry-on items and the stowage space should be made available for all carry-on items on a “first come, first served” basis. Carriers are not required to give musical instruments priority over other carry-on baggage, therefore passengers traveling with musical instruments may want to buy the pre-boarding option offered by many carriers to ensure that space will be available for them to safely stow their instruments in the cabin.

(http://www.dot.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-issues-final-rule-regarding-air-travel-musical)

This means that if you are among the last to board the airplane and all in-cabin luggage space has already been taken by other passengers, your instrument is out-of-luck and you must fly with the checked luggage. Be aware and take care!

From marjory lange
Posted on January 2, 2015 at 9:22 PM
It's a step...no guarantees...and (cynical me) I'll believe it works when I hear/see how people and their instruments are now treated.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on January 3, 2015 at 5:06 AM
I don't blame anyone for being skeptical!
From Mark Roberts
Posted on January 3, 2015 at 2:13 PM
Is there a nice sheet of paper that I can carry along with the insurance policy saying that instrument is not insured for aircraft holds?
From Tom Holzman
Posted on January 3, 2015 at 10:07 PM
Does a viola qualify as a "small musical instrument"? I would think so since guitars are included.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on January 4, 2015 at 2:09 AM
You can carry this document and highlight section 713. Or get the Time for Three shirt described above!

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