U.S. Congress says instruments will be allowed as airplane carry-ons!

February 9, 2012 at 03:33 AM · The new FAA Bill of Rights just passed by the U.S. Congress allows instruments as carry-on luggage. Before, airlines could impose their own rules.

Here is the AFM press release:

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.

Replies (9)

February 9, 2012 at 09:30 AM · Go USA! A rare victory for common-sense. Now we need to push for similar legislation in the EC.

February 9, 2012 at 01:06 PM · You beat me to it, Laurie - I was about to post this myself! It is, indeed, wonderful news, and like Geoff, I hope that the international community will soon follow suit.

February 9, 2012 at 01:55 PM · Yay! Great news!

February 9, 2012 at 02:17 PM · Yea lets hope the Airlines know the Bill passed. I can picture someone showing up with their instrument only to be told,"What Bill?" Best to keep a copy of the article with you.

---Ann Marie

February 9, 2012 at 02:53 PM · Has anyone checked the uniform size requirements to see if a violin case will actually fit? At some airports I've seen a thing that says "your bag has to fit inside this box to be a carry-on" and a violin case would be too long for that. Maybe that is only for the smaller commuter aircraft but many of us who live in more rural areas rely on such flights to get us to hubs.

February 9, 2012 at 03:20 PM · My best friend was just flying to an audition, and the airline attendants gave her hell for her cello, although she had purchased a seat for it. They refused to allow her to put it in the seat, and thus put it in a closet (after she pleaded with them not to put it into storage). However, they refused to give a full refund for the seat.

As such, I am glad Congress passed this bill......finally, they did something for once.

February 9, 2012 at 09:56 PM · This is welcome news. I kept an eye on this issue for some time and added my voice to the fight as time allowed. I like the bill's other provisions, too.

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.

February 9, 2012 at 11:05 PM · Brian - what airline was that? Good to know what to avoid, as it may take some time for the new bill to sink in. And indeed, as Ann Marie says, it would be a good idea to keep a copy of the bill info with us. I recently flew to and from Florida on JetBlue, and have done so many times, and never had a problem. Not long before that I flew internationally on Delta, which used to have a terrible reputation with musicians, but had no problem

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!

June 13, 2012 at 03:52 PM · Greetings!

Now that the US Congress has voted in favour of fair policies, please help the European musicians' unions achieve the same kind of success. There's a link to a petition on the STRAD newspage:


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