Even though there is a legislation that allows you to fly with a guitar, air personnel are not required to enable you to fly with a guitar. They can force you to gate-check your carry-on luggage immediately before you fly with a guitar, and they can force you to gate-check your instrument if they think it’s essential.
Since you already know you have to check stuff, we won’t waste your time discussing carry-on strategies like gig bags, jacket closets, boarding the plane first, and so on. Instead, We’ll discuss how to give your instrument a fighting chance when it’s treated like luggage.
Can You Fly With a Guitar?
1. select the appropriate type of case
A delicate mix of durability and low weight is required here. The wooden manufacturer hard shell case that came with your guitar will not suffice. These are adequate for ordinary use, but they are not built to withstand the abuses of fly with a guitar:
Of course, the best protection when fly with a guitar is a heavy-duty road case, such as those used by touring riders. However, they are quite hefty and impractical to transport through an airport by yourself:
A moulded ABS plastic guitar box with high-quality latches and a TSA lock is everything you need. Sometimes you’ll notice “ATA” (Air Transport Association) in the description, or phrases like “ATA authorised”, “ATA flight case”, and so on (but not always). The majority of flight cases look like this:
Flight Cases We Recommend To Fly With a Guitar
We’ve mentioned a few flight cases that you can use to Fly With a Guitar? we know are excellent. Because guitar forms vary, there are several in each category, thus we’ve chosen a case for the majority of the key guitar shapes. We cannot guarantee that these will work with your guitar. Do your homework to ensure that your guitar will fit, and if it doesn’t, swiftly return it for an exchange/refund. Do all of this well in advance of your departure date so that you have enough time to get everything correctly to fly with a guitar.
Good Electric Guitar Flight Cases:
- SKB 66PRO Hardshell Strat/Tele Style Electric Guitar Case
- Gator GTSA Electric Guitar Case for Strat/Tele Style Guitars
- Hardshell SKB Flying V Case
- Gator GTSA SG Electric Guitar Case
- Gator GTSA Les Paul Electric Guitar Case
Good Acoustic Guitar Flight Cases:
- Acoustic Dreadnought Guitar Case Gator GTSA
- Case for Crossrock Acoustic Dreadnought Guitar
Good Classical Guitar Flight Cases:
- Classical Guitar Case by Crossrock
- Classical Gator GTSA Guitar Case
Yes, there are more guitar flight cases that can help you to fly with a guitar than the ones we’ve included here. However, our goal is not to overload you with options, but rather to show you what type of case you should be looking for (should you need to look for something different than those we’ve listed here).
2. Safeguard the guitar INSIDE the case
It’s time to get down to business now that you’ve obtained a suitable flight case for you to fly with a guitar. We’ve seen how badly guitars may get damaged during ground shipping. Being treated like baggage with your instrument is even worse, therefore pack the inside of the guitar case as if you were preparing to ship it overseas (this is precisely how I pack guitars that I mail to people):
Fill all air pockets surrounding the instrument with something soft before flying with it. You can stuff it with bubble wrap, balled-up newspaper, or soft, buttonless apparel like t-shirts, socks, and so on. Fill up the areas surrounding the head-stock and the strap button on the back of the instrument with careful care. When you’re finished stuffing the inside of the case, the guitar should not slide or move in any way.
3. Keep the frets, fretboard, and pickups safe
We were going to add this with #2 above, but we wanted to highlight it individually because it is frequently neglected.
If the guitar is thrown (and believe us, it will be) by a reckless baggage handler, put something soft under the strings to protect the frets, fretboard, and pickups. Cloth, folded up paper towels, or anything fits between the strings and the frets can be used. Just make sure it doesn’t interfere with the lid shutting naturally. 1/8in. PE foam wrap, cut to be slightly wider than the fretboard and long enough to cover the fretboard and pickups, if it’s an electric, is my preferred method.
We use PE foam when we fly with a guitar, so we keep a roll on hand at all times. Whatever you use, make sure it stretches the entire length of the fingerboard and hangs a little over each side of the fretboard:. Secure or remove any accessories from the case.
4. Keep other accessories out of the case
When you fly with a guitar, keep miniature wrenches, whammy bars, and other such accessories out of the case if the accessory compartment(s) inside your case are open and without covers. Instead, place them in your checked or carry-on luggage. Larger goods, such as guitar cords, straps, string packages, and so on, are acceptable, but tiny items can be jostled out of the compartment and could damage the finish of your instrument.
If you must store these small objects in your case’s open compartment(s), wrap them in something soft (bandanna, paper towel, bubble wrap, etc). Then, close up your mini soft accessory burrito in a plastic bag. That will bulk things up enough to keep them from escaping the accessory compartment.
Remember that your guitar case must pass through security, so keep all liquids, like as guitar polish, fretboard oil, and so on, as well as any sharp objects, such as string cutters, screw drivers, and so on, out of the case. Use your common sense and you’ll save yourself some trouble.
5. Untie Your Knots… A little bit
Don’t let them go entirely loose, but tune the guitar down 1-2 whole steps. This will also make getting your fretboard guard (see #3 above) beneath the strings easier. Because your guitar will be in the plane’s luggage compartment and will most likely experience variations in air pressure, having the strings a little looser when flying with a guitar can help it adapt. Many luggage bays are pressure and climate controlled, but not all. Don’t take that chance.
If your guitar has a floating tremolo, lay something soft but sturdy under it to prevent it from tilting back too far as you relax the strings. This is referred to as “blocking” the tremolo.
6. Acoustic guitars should have a soundhole humidifier or dehumidifier
If you want fly with a guitar, specially with an acoustic guitar, I recommend installing the D’Addario/Planet Waves 2-way humidification system in the soundhole. This clever little mechanism protects against both excessively dry and rainy circumstances, so your instrument is safe in either case:
7. Have your guitar checked at the gate, not at the luggage counter
In other words, bring your guitar with you all the way to the airport, just like you would any other carry-on bag. Do not check it at the main baggage/check-in area. If you need to go to the luggage-check counter (for example, to check other luggage), bring your airline’s musical instrument policy with you–just in case. They can try to persuade you to check your guitar as luggage before you fly with a guitar.
If this occurs, respectfully inform them that the instrument is pricey and fragile. If that does not work, present them with their own policy. I cannot express enough how important it is to be modest and polite during this process.
The longer your instrument is not in your hands and out of sight, the more likely it will be stolen, damaged, or lost. Miles and miles of mechanical baggage conveyors will thrash your instrument. It’s preferable to keep it as close to your body as possible.
When you gate check your guitar, you normally collect it from the plane’s luggage compartment after you deplane. If your flight is not direct (you have one or more connections), they may gate-check your suitcase all the way to your final destination.
Unfortunately, this means that your guitar will be at the mercy of the luggage system for an extended period of time, and you will have to retrieve it at your destination’s baggage claim. In that scenario, when you get at your final location, get your butt to the luggage claim carousel as soon as possible. Keep a close eye on where the bags are exiting the conveyor. Thieves recognise a guitar case when they see one, and yours isn’t the only guitar to be taken right off a luggage carousel.
Final Thoughts on Flying with a Guitar
Even if you follow all of these guidelines, there is still some risk involved. To be honest, if at all possible, you should avoid to fly with a guitar, especially if it’s an expensive one. If you don’t have a pressing need for your guitar at your destination (for example, a concert), please consider leaving it at home. You can also do what I do and take a less expensive guitar that you can afford to lose.
You could also consider buying one of the several high-quality travel-sized guitars that are currently available. In reality, we decided to do just that, and we wrote about the electric travel guitar we chose, as well as the other candidates we were really considering.