From Laurie Niles
Posted February 9, 2012 at 03:33 AM
The AFM applauds the passage of the FAA Bill that sets a consistent national policy allowing musical instruments on airplanes
After five years and 23 short-term extensions, Congress has passed legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the next four years. Included in the bill are provisions that create a uniform national policy regarding musical instruments on airplanes. Any instrument that can be safely stored in the overhead compartment or underneath the seat may be brought on board as carry-on luggage. Additionally, the bill sets standard weight and size requirements for checked instruments, and permits musicians to purchase a seat for oversized instruments, such as cellos, that are too delicate to be checked. Existing law allowed each airline to set their own policy regarding musical instruments, and size requirements varied widely for both carry-on and checked baggage. The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) has been lobbying Congress to enact such a policy for nearly a decade.
"This is great news for professional musicians throughout the U.S. and Canada who carry the tools of our trade – our instruments – aboard commercial aircraft," said AFM President Ray Hair. "Ending the confusion over musical instruments as carry-on baggage has been a top legislative priority for nearly a decade. I am proud of our Government Relations Director, Hal Ponder and his assistant Laura Brigandi in our Washington legislative office for seeing the effort through. Musicians can now fly in friendlier skies."
The FAA reauthorization was passed by the House of Representatives on Friday, February 3 by a 248-169 vote. It subsequently passed the Senate on Monday, February 6, 75-20. The President is expected to sign the bill into law.
As such, I am glad Congress passed this bill......finally, they did something for once.
As previously mentioned, I don't fly anymore and haven't since well before 9/11. But I remember how blessed it was to fly with an instrument on board in my safekeeping, no hassles. Although I doubt we'll ever return to pre-9/11 security, which took about 10 seconds as I recall -- passengers walking through an archway, picking up carry-ons from the conveyor belt -- this bill shows that we, the consumers, can make a positive difference by speaking out.
Paul - you're right, a standard violin case is longer than that frame that they show. But so are many of the duffle bags that many bring on board. They are often bigger and heavier than any double (let alone single) violin case or oblong viola case, which do fit in the overhead compartment. This is why there are specially designed shorter flight cases that don't have room for a bow - just to avoid a hassle. But then you need a separate bow case which, while quite thin, is also officially too long, and if they want to be stinkers, I suppose they can disallow that, too.
I've never had a serious problem, but I'm always concerned. When queuing up to get on board, I usually hold my case vertically by the subway strap, so that its width is not so obvious. Until the law goes into effect, if we get hassled, I wonder if asking that we can put our case in the pets section might be a livable compromise.
Laurie - the next time you interview a famous player, maybe you could ask if they ever had a problem of this kind, or with customs - and if so, how they dealt with it, and what advice they would offer. Thanks!
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