Airlines’ policies on instruments

So last week, the International Federation of Musicians published a table of airlines and their musical instrument policy, all rated with a traffic light system. Air travel with instruments is super stressful for a number of reasons. First off because people are becoming more and more outrageous with their hand luggage to avoid having to pay to check a bag. I’m pretty certain we all have a similar strategy – check in online, to early enough to be at the front of the queue (unless you have priority), place instrument in overhead bin ASAP and hold your breath until the plane takes off in case someone tries to jam an enormous bag in top of your horn repeatedly.

Aside from the space issue, the main problem is that airlines are notoriously vague with their instrument policies and it really does come down to the discretion of the people you interact with on your way to the plane. So, you also learn to toe the fine line between sycophant and assertive professional just in case someone questions your instrument.

I’m pretty lucky because a trumpet just scrapes in under the regular cabin luggage dimensions. I have a Torpedo case which is great for protection but a little too wide if the bins are extra small but I also have a very small soft case that basically guarantees it will fit under the seat in front without anyone even knowing it’s there.

Anyway…

All this meant I was very excited to see this list having been published and rushed to check it out. I have to say the results confused me a little bit. Some of the ratings seem strange to me but I think it’s because they are rated in terms of the clarity of their policy (correct me if I’m wrong?) rather than the actual real world experience. For example, Aer Lingus is one of my favourite low cost airlines to fly because they have always been so great with instruments – not only can you bring the horn in addition to your regular hand luggage but there have been occasions where a stewardess has approached R having recognised that he is carrying a tenor saxophone and offered to store it in a special place to avoid him having to use the overhead bins. But on this list, Aer Lingus are given a red rating. EasyJet on the other hand are awarded amber, but the wording on their policy seems less accomodating and seems to suggest buying an extra seat as the way forward. Are they given amber because they are kind enough offer us the option of buying another seat for our instrument? I don’t really get it…

That said, it’s useful to have this kind of resource and perhaps we just need to be able to add notes to give first hand experience to provide a fuller picture.

I am still waiting for the day that professional musicians are guaranteed to be able to bring their instruments on-board hassle-free which seems a pretty reasonable request…

Here’s the full list.

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