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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Have you had trouble traveling by plane with your violin in the last year?

June 28, 2008 at 3:08 AM

This week I traveled with my family all the way across the United States, from Los Angeles to Orlando, to see grandparents and family and visit some theme parks.

All I can say about the plane trip is: Whatta pain!

First of all, we traveled on United Airlines. As we were checking our luggage, the person in front of us was assessed an extra $100 for having an overweight bag. In fact, everyone is now being charged even for a first bag on United. If people have to pay $15 each way to check even just one bag (and $25 for a second bag), I'm guessing that more people will opt to carry at least one bag on the plane. That will make for less room in those overhead compartments, and what does this mean for someone carrying a violin?

It can't be good news.

This time I wasn't flying with a fiddle, but the last time I flew, just a few months ago, I was. That time, I was flying from LA to Cincinnati on Delta, and I was flying with my good violin. Considering all the bad stories about Delta not allowing musicians carry their instruments on the plane, I was worried enough to carry a copy of the agreement that the American Federation of Musicians worked out with Delta a year ago, when it lifted the union's boycott of the airline. To my pleasant surprise, I had no problems carrying the violin on board, and there was plenty of room in the overhead bins for my violin.

Despite that, I was still quite worried about people shoving their heavy, clunky-wheeled suitcases up against my violin case. And this was several months ago, before this new business about charging for each and every bag. My guess is that there will be less carry-on space on planes with these new charges.

What has been your experience, in the last year, flying with your violin? Did you fly with no problems? Were your detained by security over your violin, was your violin refused aboard the plane? I'm wondering, what is the current state of affairs on this issue? Tell us your personal experiences below.

From Hannah Wright
Posted on June 28, 2008 at 3:21 AM
hehe, I feel stupid admitting this, but I've never been on a plane... :O
From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on June 28, 2008 at 4:01 AM
Haha, its okay Hannah, I've only flown once so far, and then without my violin. :)

Not for long, however. I'm flying to Aspen in a couple weeks, so I'd better double check my airline's policies, eek.

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on June 28, 2008 at 4:04 AM
You should. People with that last name fly for free. It's the law.
From Eric Godfrey
Posted on June 28, 2008 at 5:29 AM
I'm left out so I can't answer. Yes, I have traveled quite a few times with my violin in the last year. No, I haven't had a single problem, nor was any expected. All my trips (include 2 roundtrips from Chicago area to the west coast) have been on Amtrak (rail for you non-US readers). There are some of us who manage to get places without taking the plane. Yes, I know it isn't practical for many people, but it sure makes traveling with an instrument easy. :)
From janet griffiths
Posted on June 28, 2008 at 5:31 AM
After hearing of everyones problems and since I'm flying on Monday I went with a list of measurements provided by the travel company which were 30x117x38 and looked at the new range of lightweight fibreclass cases.Bam have now produced the smallest case in the world but problem is there is no room for a bow.I settled on an ugly red chinese produced case which is well within the measurements listed above.
From Emmanuel Borowsky
Posted on June 28, 2008 at 5:44 AM
You forgot this option:
I've taken my cello on the plane and had no problems.

Not for me...but that's what my younger sister would be voting.

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on June 28, 2008 at 6:17 AM
I brought a violin back from China last February via the Chinese Eastern Airline. A couple of days before departure, I had phoned the airline to find out their policy for boarding a violin. The girl answered the phone had to check with her boss first and then told me that I had to pay another ticket because it could occupy an extra seat. I thought this was so off the way that I simply ignored it.

On the day of departure, I asked airline worker if I could have back seat so I could get on board first. The answer was no problem. I asked if I could put my violin in the overhead luggage compartment – not a problem either. No one asked me to pay extra, and the extreme politeness I received from the airline workers made me feel as though brining a violin on board is something to be honoured!

I didn’t have any problem with the domestic flight from Vancouver to Victoria via Air Canada either. The plan was small but the overhead bin was sufficiently roomy. No one touched my violin.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on June 28, 2008 at 1:03 PM
Last time I flew, I didn't take my violin. That was a vacation trip, so it wasn't needed. Also, my host let me practice on his lovely violin, so that worked out great.

I did opt to fly on a weekend that featured a popular sporting event that is famous for scintillating intermission entertainment, and witty advertisements. My flight was routed through Vegas, on Southwest (AKA "Steerage"). It seems that Vegas is a popular destination for partying on this sporting weekend. This flight was special. The plane was packed with loud drunks, at 9:00 am. 9:00 am! An hour into the flight, they actually sold out of all the beer. Bleh.

Next vacation trip, I plan to drive. With violin, and water.

From Aasheeta Dimick
Posted on June 28, 2008 at 2:13 PM
I also keep a copy of the AFM guidelines, just in case, as well as an article (with picture of a destroyed viola) from strings magazine showing what happens to a checked instrument. Thanks for the heads up about United, though. I won't be flying them if they are charging for even one piece of luggage.
From Sister Mary Elizabeth
Posted on June 28, 2008 at 9:27 PM
While I was in line to board, an announcement came that the overhead bins were full and anyone carrying luggage that would not go under the seat would have to check it. I was not about to check my violin, and boldly marched onto the plane unchallenged. I had a window seat, and was wearing full religious habit with scapular. I propped the violin against the side of the plane, draped my scapular over it, opened up a large copy of Order of the Phoenix, which concealed the violin nicely, and proceeded to look as innocent as I could. If anybody noticed, they didn't give me away.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on June 29, 2008 at 12:12 AM
Sister Mary Elizabeth, I love the way you concealed your violin. Maybe you were responding to an Authority higher than the airline.

One of my adult students travels to Japan frequently for his work, and he takes his violin with him. He uses the lightweight fiberglass case sold by Bam and described by Janet in her comment. He detaches the case containing the bow and has it shipped. I've seen the bow case and the violin case, and they're quite impressive. He has never had any trouble with the violin or bow.

From Wiebke Nazareth
Posted on June 29, 2008 at 6:13 AM
Hi, since my daughter travels quite a lot with her violin (and so far never had a problem) it would be very interesting to hear from those who had trouble travelling with the violin. What kind of problems did you have? I mean, knowing about we probably could prepare better. I just couldn't imagine having to check in that instrument. Not only that it might get squashed and so on - isn't it also much too cold in the freight department? For my son's cello we always have to buy an extra seat...
From Louise Pallet
Posted on June 29, 2008 at 7:03 AM
I travel often with my violin and have never had any problems, apart from two questions. 1 is it a piano? 2 Is it a guncase. I do live in Africa though.I am regarded a bit odd though.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on June 29, 2008 at 3:05 PM
No one should ever check a violin. But I was curious about whether people have actually done so! It seems like a recipe for disaster, though, it's way too cold down in the cargo hold.

I'd also be curious about what kinds of problems people did have.

From Berengere Farras
Posted on June 30, 2008 at 12:45 AM
The worst problem i ever had was while travelling in Europe (from Paris to Stockholm) a couple of years ago, when that security awareness started to become madness... on that airline (Ryanair) violinists have to buy another seat for the violin if you don't want to check it in. Fair enough, it's written in their fares conditions. But once at the airport, the girl over the counter told me i had to check in the spare strings i had for security reasons... fair enough so far... then the security came over and told me i had to take the strings off the violin out for the same security reasons??!!! well... after a couple of hours of arguing, i managed to find the one music-lover security guy in the airport and my fiddle got happily in its entire shape on board of the aircraft...
From Mendy Smith
Posted on June 30, 2008 at 1:31 AM
The only "problem" I've ever had was traveling through HK. You need to get an oversized luggage tag before getting into immigration (leaving HK). Once in, I never had an issue.

I have had to check in my laptop once for having more than 2 carry-ons: purse, laptop case and viola on a few occasions. Since then, I use a backback and put my "purse" items in it along with my laptop and assorted sheet music.

From Bonny Buckley
Posted on June 30, 2008 at 3:51 PM
I have nothing good to say about United. The only comment I will make about that airline is that I used to fly United. Air Canada, on the other hand, still lets travellers check two 50 lb. bags free for international. I also carried on my violin with no questions asked.
From David Wilson
Posted on July 1, 2008 at 4:16 PM
With many, many flights over the many, many years, I have never had a problem either with security or finding space in an overhead bin.

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