Do I need a different violin case to carry-on my instrument on a plane?
So, I'm flying to Europe to and from Toronto next summer for a music festival, and I'll be using Air Canada. (if it's relevant, I've never travelled outside of the country with my violin before, so I'm not overly familiar with this)
According to their website, the maximum dimensions of a 'standard' article for carry-on is 21.5 inches/55 cm tall, 9 inches/23 cm wide, and 15.5 inches/40 cm long. While holding my (Bobelock oblong) violin case upright, I measured the length to be 10 inches/~25 cm long, 5.5 inches/~14 cm wide, and 31 inches/~79 cm tall. ( :I)
The length of my case exceeds the guidelines that the airline set, so... what do I do (besides checking my case in (>.<))? Try to find a smaller case? Hope there's a coat closet onboard where I can put it instead? Any other ideas?
Air Canada has a policy that allows violins and violas as carry on. I think you should be able to find this policy in writing. I've traveled on Air Canada many times with a viola and have never had a problem. I believe you are also allowed priority boarding when you carry an instrument to ensure that there is room in the overheads for your instrument.
I purchased a MUSAFIA dart-shaped violin case in preparation for a flight in late 2001. It had the lowest individual and summed dimensions of any case I could find and at that time the price was only about 1.5 times that of a Bobelock oblong that I had. Unfortunately I had my case and tickets before 9/11 and all hell broke loose in commercial aviation. I think the price of the equivalent case has doubled by now.
Air Canada is very violin friendly; try to get in an early boarding group and you shouldn't have trouble.
I've travelled frequently with my violin on Air Canada, both within the country, and overseas to France to visit family. Never had a problem. Once, as I was making my exit at the end of a domestic Canadian flight, the attendant told me with a straight face that he wasn't going to let me off the plane unless I played a tune for the crew. I use a violin-shaped Gewa Air case mostly now, just to prevent the possibility of a challenge. But nobody ever questioned my oblong case, either. Most violin cases exceed those official dimensions for carry-on, even the smaller ones, but they make an exception for musical instruments. It's a courtesy to other passengers to take up as little space as possible in the overhead compartment, so I think a dart or violin-shaped case is the best option.
There are a handful of medium-sized jets where a dart is a much better fit than oblong, just so it will fit in the overhead. Otherwise, it's not so important most of the time. If you're really worried, there are a handful of models that have separate cases for the bow, so the actual violin case is much smaller. There is even a carry-on-sized rolling suitcase that has a violin compartment placed diagonally corner to corner. The bow fits in the handle and is undetectable until you draw it out, a la 3 Musketeers.
I fly JetBlue a lot, and have had no issues bringing a shaped or oblong case as long as I pay for the upgrade that allows me to board first and be seated at the front of the cabin with the seats with extra space.
I fly Air Canada Several times a year with a rectangular Musafia case. It fits in the overhead even on the Dash 8 and Q400 Turbo props. Usually do at least one transatlantic trip a year too. Get up and go forward when they call early boarding to ensure you get to the overheads early. I have never had any problems flying with my violin on Air Canada.
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