Flying With A Violin

Flying with a violin can sometimes be a little stressful.  Within a couple of years after 911, the airlines got really insane about carry-on luggage to the point they were requiring violinists to 'check' their violins underneath the plane with the rest of the suitcases and luggage.  Never, ever do this!  The likelihood for damage to your violin, is actually greater than not.  That's worse odds than flipping a coin! 

These days most all airlines allow violins to be carried into the plane.  IT is your carry-on item!  So my advice to both men and women....get a good sized 'purse' to use in conjunction.  The purse is always allowed as well and not considered a carry on suitcase.  If you take a back pack AND your violin, you might get stopped for that.  At least, you can try to bring that back pack with you, but tell yourself that the agent might require you to check your backpack so pack your stuff in it accordingly.  In other words, don't pack anything fragile (laptop) in your backpack when you also carry a violin because your laptop might then be flying underneath the plane.

Be nice. Use common sense and always, polite to the airline people.  Being polite is not only the Golden Rule, it will also keep your violin with you.  Musicians are often stressed when flying.  First, there is the typical stress of going to the airport madhouse, just like anyone else.  Then, there is the performance in your mind, (well it IS there) and whether it is an audition somewhere albeit a school or professional symphony audition, adds to the stress. nice.  Don't mouth off or be a smartalec to either the counter people or especially the flight attendants.  The attendants can have your case removed from the plane immediately for whatever reason they deem!

Board early with your violin.  This you would think is obvious, but when you get on a plane and everyone has taken every space remotely close to your overhead compartment, you will appreciate getting on early and staking out your bin.  Also, (still being polite), when others come on board, tell them about your fragile violin and that if they don't mind, you can arrange their bag(s) on and around your violin.  Don't be afraid!!  People are shy and some afraid to say anything and while you don't know these people, fellow passengers, they are clueless about what a violin is, or how fragile or anything at all about what can happen to them.  They don't care and they will re-arrange your violin.  Pushing it, cramming it and putting it configurations that you would NEVER do.  I saw one fall out after the passenger re-arranged someone's violin case and when the plane landed, while people were off loading, the violin case fell out.  Put it in the back of the overhead and you might even want to put it in the opposite side from where you are sitting so that you can keep your eyes on it until that hatch is closed for take off.  Passengers actually like that you are a violinist.  They can imagine that you are some famous player, off playing a concerto with some big orchestra (yes they fly coach these days too!)  So, don't be shy, and keep your eyes on your violin.

Next, get one of the small BAM violin cases if you can afford it.  They are very protective (carbon fiber) and small.  There are some other Chinese brands out there too that copy the BAM (one is GEWA) which is actually a German company, but made in China. Be careful with the small violin form shape, super lightweight cases (with black cordura) and styrofoam.  These may be cheap, but if you have a good violin, not safe enough really.  Carbon fiber or fiberglass is the minimum because they will not flex or crush.  The most popular BAM case is their Hightech Contour case.  (You can see this case on our String Emporium, BAM Violin case page.  These are great cases and while most use these all the time, whether they are flying or not, some actually just get this one and use it only when they fly. 

We haven't heard too much or anything too bad about any individual airlines these days (for violin travel) but calling them in advance and inquiring is not a bad idea.  When they tell you something that confirms allowing your violin on, then you can ask them ("please") to put the information that they were telling or reading to you, into your record locator (with your ticket reservation).  So, if there is any doubt, they will see that at the ticket counter.  Also, printing out any pages from the airline website to take with you is great too!

So, if you are a traveling violinist and worried about them allowing your violin on a plane, remember to simply review the rules with that airline (before you buy that ticket is best), board the plane early, get a smaller case and nice!


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