Traveling with a violin
There are so many nasty threads and stories out in the www about what happened to people who brought their instrument with them on an airplane. And while most frequent fliers are soothing, telling us that they never ever had any problems, it is still impossible to foresee what might happen, and not even on cheap airlines. There isn't any single airline as far as I know who officialy allow you to bring something of an average violin cases size to the cabin.
There are smaller cases (not suitable for a bow which has to be stored separately in a bow tube somewhere in the luggage) which claim to meet the permissible measures.
There are some cases suggesting their air plane compatibility by their model names, like " slim flight" or "safe flight", but offer storage for a bow and being moreless ordinary size cases. Models I've found which might really work (if placed diagonally) are only two, namely the
- BAM hightech overhead (obviously the same as the BAM 2003 cabin case series), a CF case of decent quality and appearance but definitely not on the cheap side.
- ROKKOMANN SuperLight in flight, a hard foam case of rather basic impression which doesn't give lots of reason for excessive enthusiasm.
None of them contains plywood, and I don't know how one could buffer the rapid changes of humidity caused by the temperature changes during a longer flight. Why aren't there more models around?
What are your strategies to travel with a violin? How do you cope with the uncertainty? I suppose no one would stay relaxed if the boarding staff would insist on your giving your precious away to the conveyor belt...?!
My experience is only relevant to U.S. readers.
I'm about to do this again and am nervous as hell. You really are at the mercy of the flight crew and they know it.
I think people are overly stressed about it. Be nice and smile even when they're being impossible, and even pretend to be confused about it and keep nudging.
1st find out as much possible about the official policy regsrding musical instruments on board; print it and have it ready - as other mentioned, flight attendants and personal at check-in have a discretion to decide about carry-on luggage, but you can use the document to negotiate.
We have 5 professional string players in the family, flying from NYC (LGA), San Fran, St Louis, Tulsa, Miami, and Nashville/Memphis. It wasn't that long ago--1 month in fact-- when someone in the family experienced an issue. TSA agents have become a REAL issue in some locations, and they love to have one agent disappear with your instrument while another is "dealing" with you personally. And remember, when trying to board with an instrument, regardless of whatever papers you might be carrying from Ray Hair of the AF of M (worth the paper it is printed on) or if you even have the specific Airlines own policy printed out, the flight crew (and it's probably the first crew member that meets you at the hatch door) decides what comes on board and happens on the aircraft. The laws you expect are no longer in force on an airplane. While you can appeal a crew decision to the Captain, they probably won't over rule a crew member who they have to work with. Bottom line is the earlier you can board, and the more you can have your instrument riding low on your back and not visible when you walk by the gate agent board, the better. NOTHING you do before hand to assure you can board with your instrument carries any weight, including buying a seat for your cello (numerous instances of cellos with purchased seats being denied on board) this summer If you are forced to check your instrument at the gate or on board, i suggest using David Burgess' advice (I think it was David on another site). Remove your instrument from the case, check the case, and ask for multiple blankets to wrap your instrument in, and stow it under the seat in front of you. One family member did that not too long ago. And the crew doesn't care how valuable you say your instrument is. It's baggage.
Excellent point about not bringing on another large carry-on along with your violin. Nothing bigger than a purse or a computer bag--that's your personal item, and the violin is your carry-on.
I travel with a flight case just for the violin body, with the bow detached. (pic below). It was a cheap chinese case and has served me very well in many flights.
Something that has helped me immensely in this situation is realizing that if there is not enough bin space left, or even if one of the flight crew is just worried about bin space, a violin case can actually be slipped behind the last row of seats on the plane. I've done this many times. Even just telling the crew that this can be done usually gets them to relax and let me on the plane with it.
Good points, all of you.
I use a shaped BAM case when flying, to reduce the case footprint.
Nuuska: I bought the violin flight case in Aliexpress. https://tinyurl.com/yaxo5glv
Don't draw attention to yourself. I use a low-profile case (Bam Hightech), wear it as a backpack, preferably underneath another backpack while boarding the plane. It's small enough that it can usually fit in the overhead; in a crisis situation, it can be put under the seat. But my main strategy is stealth. They tend not to question bags worn on the back. Also, make sure you get to the front of whatever boarding group you're in.
I travel to Japan with violins quite often. I carry the smallest shaped case that i can find, and have a couple that fit only a violin, no bow. I put the bow in a tube and pack it in my checked luggage. I wear a black jacket when i fly and have a black case that doesn't stick up over my head. I put the violin on my back and try not to draw attention to myself.
I also travel to the US or Europe with violins quite often. I use a double-violin case. I had few problems sometimes with specific airlines like Norwegian and EasyJet. They wanted to put my violins in the hold, I said NO, we discussed a long time and finally they let my violins in the cabin.
Mary, I second the crumple-the-tag-when-out-of-sight strategy.... done that a few times and never had problems. I do think not drawing attention to yourself and being nice are key here. While I understand the suggestion to board early, my strategy is actually to board later... I've mostly been using Ryanair as I've been flying around Europe. I get near the back of the line because when boarding starts, they meticulously check the size of everyone's bag to make sure it fits requirements... they really WANT to catch you at this stage and make extra money on penalties...but as it gets later in the process, they have spent so long harrassing the early boarders that they start to get worried about the flight taking off late, so they pretty much just wave everyone through at the end. It has always worked for me. On Ryanair there is actually an option to pay more and be allowed to take an instrument on board, but I've never done it as it is often more expensive than the cost of the ticket itself! Only once someone gave me a hard time that I hadn't bought that, I played dumb pretending I hadn't noticed that option, said I was sorry and that I'd do it next time. They let me through.