Air Travel with Violin (Smallest Setup & Maximum Storage)

May 1, 2023, 12:26 PM · I often get asked by my violinist friends who do a lot of air travel for violin concerts for any advice/suggestions to avoid difficulties given by gate agents when boarding airlines (domestically and internationally). Personally, I will try this option for my next travel (with an instrument). Carrying a separate laptop case is not possible for me, since I have to travel with a small service dog (in a bag) that goes under the seat in front of me. Therefore, I am substituting a backpack system (Joey Carrier) to comply with most airline regulations to have 1 carry-on and 1 personal item.

Other possibilities that could work well for air travel include:
• BAM Trekking (Compact) Violin
• Gewa Spacebag Rucksack for Violin
• BAM Hightech Slim
• Carlisle Alliance Pro
• Trinity Violin Case

For my daily use (locally), I usually like to use one of the following:
• Musafia Enigma Violin Case (shape: oblong) with Moordian case cover + laptop bag
• BAM L’Etoile Hightech Violin Case (shape: oblong) with Tonarelli case cover + Joey backpack attachment.

Hope these ideas are helpful. When in doubt, please continue to monitor the changing regulations (airline policies and FAA regulations). Good luck! Happy Traveling.

P.S. If you encounter any major difficulties, there are 2 emergency options to consider:
• Option #1: Kindly ask flight attendant if your valuable (small musical instrument) can be stored in their flight crew closet (instead of being checked in cargo).
• Option #2: Check the violin case, but keep the violin (in a silk bag) on your lap for the duration of the flight.

This is a link to a photo of my violin setup for air travel

Replies (8)

Edited: May 1, 2023, 1:07 PM · In 2001 I was making plans to fly across the US to play violin at my nephew's wedding. All my violin cases were oblong (thus fairly large) and I wanted something more compact. I went to a nearby violin shop to find the most compact case they had (I brought a tape measure!). The smallest I could find, in every dimension, was a Musafia Dart. Its price at that time was not that much higher than the competition. I still have it, virtually new!

I purchased it late in the summer of 2001, the wedding was scheduled for a few weeks after 9/11. The wedding proceeded without violin music or me. The case has rarely been used (been out of the house only once). (No, I don't want to sell it.)

Edited: May 1, 2023, 1:13 PM · Andrew, yes the Musafia dart is small BUT doesn’t have much storage space. I like how some models of BAM have lots of hidden storage compartments. Most people can get away with the smallest case plus laptop bag. But because I travel with a service dog, I am extra mindful to not draw attention to myself. I’ve had my shares of difficulty with gate attendants. Literally, I spend alot of time on researching airline policies and new cases for air travel with Violin. I am always ready to provide documentation / policies to anyone who gives difficulty at the gate. For me, I’ve had more difficulty with gate attendants than flight attendants. Most of the in-flight crew and captain have been super kind to me.
May 1, 2023, 2:24 PM · Someone designed a case which is standard airline size, takes a violin (but not bow) in a hard shell, the bow stored within the handle for wheeling it (has to be detached not telescoped down, but airlines don't notice), and still has reasonable room for some clothes etc.

According to my daughter's teacher who has one, it works well.

Edited: May 1, 2023, 2:35 PM · Jonathan, yes, Trinity cases. I listed that one above as a possible alternative option. One thing I personally don’t like about Trinity is that the bow case doesn’t seem to go all the way down. It partially sticks up (when walking/rolling wheels), but before putting it in the overhead compartment, I think that you have to pull it out before putting it in the overhead cabin. It’s really a creative design though. With my suggestion, the wife of a famous concert violinist gave that to her husband for a Hanukkah gift few years ago. But everyone has different needs and preferences, so that’s why there are options out there. :)
May 1, 2023, 2:37 PM · Option 3:
Approach the gate attendant desk well before boarding, and ask the attendant politely if you can have permission to board with an earlier boarding group, to assure that there will be space for your violin. So far, I have never been denied.

Then during boarding, use a shoulder strap (typically included with a case) to hang the case over your back in such a way that it is hardly more conspicuous than an ordinary backpack.

Cases which hold bows are longer than the published carry-on maximum dimension guidelines for most airlines, and different airlines have differing exceptions for musical instruments, so I like to "play it safe" this way.

May 1, 2023, 2:41 PM · David, thank you for your reply/suggestion. This is why I prefer shaped/contoured cases over the oblong ones. I am usually allowed to pre-board due to a medical disability - as verified by medical documentation, (but I also make sure and proactively buy a ticket that allows me an earlier boarding). I do use the backpack over the back technique.
May 1, 2023, 6:31 PM · I have never had to fly with a violin internationally.

Within the USA, I always fly Southwest and pay extra for the early bird boarding. That way there is always bin space available when I get on. I have a shaped Gewa case which is very compact and which I use when I have to fly on a different airline, but I’ve never had trouble with my oblong Bobelock on Southwest.

I am leery of calling attention to myself by speaking with a gate agent in advance.

May 2, 2023, 4:34 AM · It helps that I am 6'1" with broad shoulders, but hanging off the back of my shoulder makes even a double case pretty unobtrusive. The real issue is getting early access-- or finding a premium seat where there is less competition for storage.

One thing that can help is putting it in the bin horizontally, standing on its edge. That won't help you with the standard carry-on spinners, but will allow plenty of shopping bags, etc., to go in front of it.

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