Flying coast to coast without celebrity treatment

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“Is that an instrument?” asked the US Airways employee.
“Yes,” I answered softly with sleepy eyes.
“And you want to check it with your suitcase?”
“Yes.”
“I don’t know if I would do that…”
“And why not?”

Perhaps there is more advice on the internet nowadays but when I began flying from California to North Carolina regularly, the concept of traveling with a guitar was daunting.  Reading google search results stating, “it depends on the airlines” and the inevitable horror stories did not help with my anxiety of allowing mysterious airport employees handle my pride and joy… I mean, has any passenger actually seen these people?

I am very fortunate that three Christmases ago, my Dad got me an extremely nice Gator case.  It is heavy and a pain to lug around, especially while running through the airport to catch a connecting flight before the terminal door closes… Oof! Bad memories…  But man, oh man, is that case sturdy.

Typically, I travel with my guitar as a carry on and put it in the overhead compartment or underneath the plane with the other fragile instruments and baby strollers.  However, one day I found myself boarding a plane that was so full, there was no room in the overhead compartment.  That’s when one of fears came to life…

“Miss, this flight is full.  But you can check your baggage at no cost.”
“There’s no space underneath the plane for fragile items?” I asked suspiciously.
“No.  Check in your instrument and it’ll arrive at your final destination.”

I asked the poor woman several questions after that.  I simply could not understand how the plane did not have any compartments underneath the plane for passengers–Thanks for looking out, United Airlines.

After sensing her frustration, I surrendered my guitar and sat on two planes as I anxiously awaited the fate of my beloved Breedlove, acoustic guitar. And you know what?  It was completely okay!

I mean, the buckles that close the case were loose but thankfully, I locked it which disabled its ability to open without a key.  Was there any damage?  Not at all.  There wasn’t a single crack, scratch or dent on my guitar.  Now that I think about it, my Gator case was in better shape than my suitcase.

I’m not going to lie, as nerve wrecking as it was, it was nice to not lug my guitar around an airport.  Because the Gator case is the weight of a small child, I fear setting it down to rest my arm then absentmindedly leaving it to get stolen.  So, this past Tuesday I checked my guitar, regardless of what the US Airways employee warned me.  And you know what?

Again, it was fine!

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Traveling Tips:

  • Invest in a hardshell guitar case.  Yeah, it’s expensive but it’s like health insurance:  better safe than sorry.
  • Carry your guitar onto the plane.  You can check it in when you initially arrive at the airport but it will be FREE at the terminal.
  • Avoid United Airlines.  But that’s my unbiased opinion because I had a bad experience and they don’t tag your guitar as “fragile” like US Airways/American Airlines.
  • Tune down all your strings to prevent them from breaking due to the high elevation.
  • Examine your guitar while in the baggage claim area.  I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to call the airport about damages found on your guitar.
  • Lock your case!

6 thoughts on “Flying coast to coast without celebrity treatment

  1. I’ve got a Gator too, but it’s just a gig bag. I would never have the nerve to fly with my guitar anymore, having had such nightmare experiences as being bumped twice on a flight. I have NO faith in the airlines anymore. Give me a road trip any day. But you’re right, I should have a hard case with a lock.

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