Air Travel with Violin & Viola Double Case (Within the USA)

Edited: April 7, 2018, 3:29 PM · Question: Has anyone on travelled by airline within the USA with BOTH a violin and viola in BAM violin/viola double case (dimensions: L: 31”, W: 16”, H: 7.5”. Total linear dimensions (L+W+H) = 54.5 inches)? Usually, most airlines allow a carry on luggage to NOT EXCEED 45 linear inches. Exceptions seem to be made for smaller instruments on larger aircrafts (except maybe for CRJ style aircrafts — where they ask passengers to curb check). In addition, i do know that cellists typically purchase another seat (since total linear dimensions exceed 62 inches). I plan on only taking my double case strapped to my back like a backpack and one small personal item to put under the seat in front of me. I noticed other violinists/violists such as Julian Rachlin, Yura Lee, Christian Kim and Fumiaki Miura travel with this BAM double violin/viola case. Do you know if this specific case will fit into the overhead space? Do you think I will be given difficulty with the size of the case by the airline crew? Any tips/advice and experiences (positive or negative) is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much (in advance).

Supplementary Information:
1. Airline : American Airlines in May 2018 (Direct, Round Trip flight from Hartford to Los Angeles).
2. Aircraft model : Boeing 737-800
3. Ticket Class : Economy Plus (includes access to overhead bin). I paid extra to upgrade from Economy Basic (no overhead bin access) to Economy Plus.
4. American Airlines Musical Instrument Policy (stated on their website):
A small musical instrument such as Violin or guitar may be taken onboard as your one carry-on bag, regardless of its size, as long as it can be safely stowed in an approved carry-on stowage location and space is available when you board.
5. Priority Boarding: I do have a medical circumstance (all documented and verifiable with my physician). As a result, most airlines have given me permission for priority boarding in the past.
6. Pre-departure preparation & authorization: I have contacted the airline company to notify and clarify my situation. I have even asked them to please make a note in my passenger files.
7. Supplementary Documents: (Printed hard copies) -- I will carry these with me at all times.
- American Airlines Musical Instrument Policies
- FAA Modernization Act of 2012
- AFM Agreement Letter with TSA
- Documentation of phone call with airline company with date/time/employee name/id.
- Medical documentation
- Also will carry a tape measure (just in case)

Disclaimer: I have already made an effort to extensively research the internet and to try finding answers to my question before posting it here.

Replies (7)

April 5, 2018, 10:12 AM · If I were you, to be doubly safe, I would forego the small personal item. Put what you need to carry into your case's sheet-music pocket, or into the pockets of your jacket.
April 5, 2018, 10:19 AM · Lydia: Thank you for your response.
Edited: April 5, 2018, 1:41 PM · While I haven't flown with a double case, a couple general points:
-the flight attendants, not the gate agents, have the final say on what goes in the overhead bins. Similarly, the gate agents do not have the authority to physically take an item from you; you have to hand it to them. Personally, I've found that in cases where they insist on handing me a gate check tag even after I've explained that it goes on board, it's often simplest just to stick the tag in my pocket when going down the jet bridge and carry my violin on anyway. Generally, though, if you're pleasant and explain that it's a musical instrument, they're not pushy.
-Obviously, don't start out in a confrontational manner, and I would let the gate agent raise an issue instead of trying to justify it preemptively - drawing unnecessary attention to the size of the case raises the chances of it ending unsatisfactorily. Same thing with the flight attendants - just put it in the overhead without drawing attention to it.
-In the rare case where you're already on the plane and they're insisting that the case can't go in the overhead, know ahead of time whether you'd ok them gate checking or whether you'd refuse to fly. If you'd refuse to fly, it is much more of a hassle to remove a passenger from a flight if they have checked baggage, because the bags have to be searched out and taken off the plane too, which takes time and can cause delays. Sometimes, not always, this extra hassle can mean that they miraculously find space.
April 7, 2018, 2:02 PM · "A small musical instrument such as violins or guitar may be taken onboard as your one carry-on bag, regardless of its size, as long as it can be safely stowed in an approved carry-on stowage location and space is available when you board."
The law specified that multiple small instruments may be brought. It says, violins, and most government agents would not be able to distinguish a violin from a viola if they tried, so you're safe. Good luck on your travels!
April 7, 2018, 3:29 PM · Irene & Nina: thank you. I have traveled with either a violin or viola, but not with both. So I have high anxiety over this. Normally, I wouldn’t torture myself with such issue but I do need both instruments for this trip. Sigh....
April 7, 2018, 3:55 PM · If the case is solid enough, can it not constitute an article of clothing when it's on your back. Couldn't you, if the worst came to the worst, have it on your back the whole journey.
Edited: April 7, 2018, 5:23 PM · John, it is solid but a little bulky. Thank you for your creative idea.

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