Can You Take Your Guitar On A Plane?

Certainly. You Just Have To Cut It Into Two Pieces.

Have you ever thought what instrument players have the easiest and hardest time when traveling by air? We have certainly heard a lot about broken guitars. Some have even wrote songs and books on that topic. So is it the guitarists' loud voice or is a more general problem and how should you as a musician solve it for you?

I have traveled with my instruments now for 20 years, and first 16 years it was a classical guitar. In the beginning, I would just take it onboard an aircraft and hardly ever heard any objections. The case fit perfectly to the luggage compartment, and that was it. Some years later when we were already flying with a guitar quartet, then it was kind of uncomfortable to be the fourth one in the row who entered the aircraft and had to tolerate the look of the cabin crew. But still, we never paid extra nor had any major problems. It was only when the low-cost airlines made it to the market when things started to get ugly

For last four years I've been flying with a theorbo. Sometimes I have both theorbo and the guitar. And usually, I often don't pay anything extra nor have I fear of my instruments getting hit or dropped down. Here's a photo gallery that explains it.

So it's a theorbo in its playing position. It is like a guitar but has a neck extension for the bass strings. Large theorbos are up to 2 m in length:

While it's not very heavy, I sometimes roll it around on a kick bike:

Getting ready for airplane, Step 1: Install a hinge:

Now it folds like this:

...and fits into a 1/2 cello gigbag:

Did some measuring to order a flight case:

My theorbo only weighs a 1.6 kg so the flight case can be pretty heavy and still fit into the 20 kg policy:

The case has arrived from Trifibre:

It fits very well:

Final step, order a life-size sticker to leave no doubt at the airport of what's inside that suspicious case (black cases make airport staff nervous and I've been using blue guitar case for years. It really works!):

What about the guitar? My luthier Viljar Kuusk built me one that has a detachable neck:

Got to be careful to check what's in the suitcase before heading to the airport!

When I'm traveling with just the theorbo, then I don't use the flight case but take it inside with its gigbag. Then I get the organizer to buy me two seats. When it's just the guitar then nobody even knows there is guitar in my suitcase. I just take it as a regular piece of luggage. When I have two instruments at the same time then the theorbo goes down with the flight case. On most airlines it fits to regular baggage so no extra charges.

So which instrumentalists don't have problems like that? Flautists, singers, conductors? Not exactly. Their problems are just different. The answer actually comes from where you would not expect it - in my experience, the luckiest traveling instrumentalists by far are the orchestra contrabass players. That is because they almost never need to take their instrument on a plane. Their orchestra rents the instruments at the destination so the players often just find the instrument at the orchestra pit.

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