Regional airlines and violins

September 14, 2019, 9:11 AM · A relative wants us to fly to a rather rural area. The airport only supports the smaller regional jets that have tiny overhead bins. You can't fit a violin in one of them. What do people do in this circumstance? Can you buy an extra seat for two violins?

Replies (24)

September 14, 2019, 10:16 AM · Is there a first class coat closet?
Edited: September 14, 2019, 11:50 AM · If it's a standard 2/1 regional airplane like an ERJ-135, a violin does fit easily in those overheads. If the plane has no overheads at all, a BAM shaped case will usually fit in the footspace (2 seats, no divider), but if your case is bigger your best bet would probably be to buy an extra seat. Not sure if the flight attendants have closets on the tiny tiny planes.
September 14, 2019, 11:15 AM · Here's a solution:

September 14, 2019, 2:55 PM · If there's any chance that a leg of my flight will be on one of those smaller jets, I don't bring my violin. Most of my travel is to and from Richmond, VA, where I have family, and I use my sister's VSO there that is available for my use.
September 14, 2019, 4:57 PM · I've been able to fit a viola case in the overhead bins on at least some regional jets, and it's always gone into the closet when there wasn't enough space.

I even remember once bringing my viola on a 19-seat prop plane. No flight attendants (the whole reason for 19-seat planes is that US regulations mandate a flight attendant on any plane with 20 or more seats) but there was still a closet for the flight crew.

September 14, 2019, 5:55 PM · If you're bringing two violins, I'd do it in a double case and buy an extra seat. Be sure that you've got some way to secure the case in the seat, as you can't leave it unsecured in the cabin (the seatbelt is insufficient).

But really, the suggestion to leave the violin behind is a good one. Or I'd tote a VSO if need be. Honestly, it's probably cheaper to buy a violin from someone like Fiddlershop and send it where you're going than to buy the violin a ticket.

Edited: September 14, 2019, 6:25 PM · This is Lara St. John's somewhat tongue in cheek advice:

She travels with a JB Guadagnini and can't really take a VSO instead to perform.
Like her I have ignored the insistance of the people at the check-in counter to have the violin checked in when boarding. There is just no way that that is going to happen. Most times I can pre-board, or line up early. But that's because I rarely have to take transfer flights.
Small planes usually have a closet. I haven't tried but would now consider phoning the company beforehand to see if they would allow the violin in a closet, if it was a small plane like a Dash 8.

Elise, your URL is not working. Is it one of those tiny cases that just fit the violin? And then put the bow in a thin PVC tube that can fit almost anywhere.

September 14, 2019, 6:44 PM · Thanks for the advice. A double case is out of the question since one of the violins would be a 1/2 size and the other a full. My guess is the half might fit overhead but the full would not based on what the airline said (it's an Oblong Bam). I'm leaning toward just saying no to the trip. It's crazy that you can buy a VSO for cheaper than buying a seat, but it is totally true!
Edited: September 14, 2019, 7:41 PM · Mary Ellen, Richmond isn't a farm town. I'm surprised you can't get decent jet service there. For example United 6178 from IAH will be on an EMB-175. You should be able to bring a violin on that plane. But hey, if you've got a picnic violin already there, why sweat it?

Next time you're in Richmond go check in with Jane Kapeller. She is a very interesting person to talk to, and she has some nice violins in her store.

Edited: September 14, 2019, 7:55 PM · The other option if it's only a week's trip or such would be to just give the kids a break from their violin practicing. Now, my kids were never career-bound musicians, but we found that whenever their instrument came along on trips, it caused problems because grandparents would want to plan various adventures -- hikes, trips into the city center to see shows, ball games, museums, etc., and violin practicing did not fit well into those plans. Perhaps y'all have figured out how to manage your vacation schedules closely enough to make it work.
Edited: September 15, 2019, 5:48 PM · Paul, it depends on the airline. Southwest (my preferred airline when flying with my violin) flies in and out of Richmond, but without a violin I am free to avoid checking a bag entirely (computer bag and small roller bag; the violin requires the roller bag to be checked). Other airlines will on occasion use a commuter jet for one leg; flying to Richmond always involves changing planes in Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, or Charlotte (once I changed in Detroit, which was crazy). Worse, other airlines jack the price up beyond my reach if I want to be in an early boarding group, essential for securing bin space for my violin. It isn't worth the risk.

In the past I have rented a double bass from Jane Kapeller for my son's use at the post-Christmas family concert at my mother's facility. Jane's great and the bass was very playable. But her shop is in no way convenient to where my sister lives or to where my mother is. Distance and family obligations combine to make that not very workable.

Edited: September 15, 2019, 6:09 PM · It might be more cost effective to just buy a small, fitted case.
You could use it for future flights and not worry about purchasing any extra seats.
September 15, 2019, 8:31 PM · A week's break from practicing isn't going to be killer. Listening to a recording with a score, with mental practice, will be pretty useful if a week's break is really unacceptable.

September 15, 2019, 10:08 PM · It would be for a family celebration that they would be playing at, so they would need the violins. Plus, my kids got hooked on those 100 day practice challenges early on and neither has missed a day of practice in something like 2000 and 3000 days, respectively, and I think they would be devastated to kill their records.
September 16, 2019, 6:54 AM · There should be really no problem, especially if you can get a compact shaped violin case. Just check in your luggage and bring on the violin. A small shaped violin case is not that big and fits in overhead bins even in regional propeller jets (in my experience). Just check in your luggage so it is the only thing (apart from perhaps a purse or a tiny backpack) that you bring on the plane. Mary Ellen specified she wants to bring her typical carry-on bag on the plane, agreed, then bringing in additionally a violin would be stretching it. But normally you should really be fine.
September 16, 2019, 10:39 AM · After about 70 years of commercial passenger Airline business, some front counter people are still surprised when you show up with an instrument, even suggest checking it in to regular baggage. What might help would be to find the airline's instrument policy on-line, print it, take it with you ---sigh--

Edited: September 16, 2019, 11:13 AM · To clarify, if you are bringing your violin on board an airplane, your second carry-on must be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you. Violin plus purse, computer bag, or diaper bag – OK. Violin plus roller bag (two items requiring bin space) is foolishly risky as well as inconsiderate.

The TSA letter, which I do recommend printing out and carrying with you, is not the magic talisman that some people seem to think it is. All it says is that the airline has to permit you to bring your musical instrument on board *if there is bin space.* If the bins are full by the time you board, you are out of luck.

September 16, 2019, 11:49 AM · I think your most reasonable solution is to bring the half-size as a carry-on -- it will fit in the bin, especially if your group has no additional carry-ons that require bin space -- and then purchase a cheap full-size violin mail-order that is less than the cost of an airline seat. Fiddlershop, Shar, etc. will ship instruments that have been properly set up. It's probably time for your son to have a spare violin anyway. (If you already have a spare violin, a local shop can help you ship it safely to your relatives.)
September 16, 2019, 12:15 PM · Is driving out of the question?
Edited: September 16, 2019, 2:16 PM · I like the idea of shipping a picnic violin to the location. How's this for an idea: Call Shar and tell them you want to do a trial of a full-sized student violin. Give them your vacation address as the location. LOL!! I can't believe I just uncorked that scam. Totaly dishonest, of course. You wouldn't ever do such a thing.
September 16, 2019, 8:29 PM · Paul you're on the right track - do a one month rental guilt-free, have something like a Jay Haide shipped to your destination.
September 16, 2019, 8:30 PM · Yes! A rental! I knew someone would rescue my retarded idea.
September 16, 2019, 10:32 PM · Sometimes the overhead bins are closed when they are too "full" for further roller bags but there may still be space for something thin like a violin case. The last time I flew with mine was 2.5 years ago and after pleading desperately with a flight attendant to check some of the closed bins, one was found that wasn't completely full.

I met a violinist this summer who travels with a very small case that fits the violin only and the bow is in a separate attachment. The case part of that might even be smaller than a typical 1/2 size case. Unfortunately, I forgot the name/brand.

September 17, 2019, 7:39 AM · Rentals usually have a three-month minimum. Cheaper than a purchase, but not as economical as one might assume.

The problem with regional jets is that they are often too small to accommodate a violin case. The width and depth of the bin is significantly reduced, so that all standard rollaboards have to be checked and the only thing that will fit are small backpacks, purses, coats and such.

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