Are Guitars Allowed on Planes?

A 30-second google search tells you that the answer to this is yes, of course they are. Whereabouts on the ‘plane they go is an entirely different matter.

If your acoustic guitar is your pride and joy, your baby, or was just very expensive, you certainly do not want a baggage handler, who might be having a particularly bad day, getting his grubby little paws on it and launching it into the hold!

I have taken some time researching different airline’s policies about how to travel with your guitar and have compiled my findings for you to check out.

You have the choice out of three courses of action;

  • Buy a seat for your guitar. You read that correctly, all airlines will allow you to, where available, purchase a full price seat for your instrument.
  • Package your, well insured, guitar exceptionally well and take your chances having it stored in the hold and then on the baggage carousel.
  • Carry your guitar on board as hand luggage. A few airlines will allow you to although they will always need 24 hours’ notice and you will incur a fee. A few others might accept it on the actual day of flying, but only if there is available storage room in the overhead lockers and you will be subject to excess baggage handling charges.

Let us look at these options in further detail.

Get strapped in!

All airlines will allow you to purchase an extra seat for your guitar. There are a few stipulations; the ticket will be full price, the seat must be adjacent to yours and you should ensure the guitar is securely strapped in, using a belt extender.

If you can afford to then this is obviously the safest way to transport your guitar, it significantly reduces the risk of any damage whilst in transit.

If you’re flying with Ryanair all relevant paperwork will need to be completed in the surname of ITEM SEAT, first name EXTRA!

Wing and a Prayer

If you have rung ahead, begged and pleaded to keep your guitar in the cabin with you and you are having no joy, then you will have to risk putting it in the hold with all of the other baggage.

There are several things to consider when doing so, firstly you should invest in a hard, sturdy case if you don’t already have one.

Pad the case out well, stuff it! Minimal movement should help your instrument stay in one piece. Use bubble wrap around the body of the guitar, then t-shirts, towels, socks, and boxer shorts, anything that might protect it, especially the slender neck.

Always remember to loosen the strings; the changes in temperature and pressure are enough to snap the neck.

Mark both sides of your case with FRAGILE stickers, today just might be the day that the baggage handlers actually read them!

Smile and be polite to everyone, it sometimes works, a friend of mine chatted away to a girl at the Emirates check-in desk and was told there were a couple of empty seats on the plane and his precious guitar could have one. FREE OF CHARGE!

Hand-le With Care

The ideal scenario would be to take your guitar on board the plane and store it in your overhead locker, all as part of your hand luggage allowance. If you’re lucky enough to be flying by Delta then this is exactly what happens!

Other airlines will allow your guitar in the cabin only if there is going to be enough storage room in the overhead locker, beneath the seat in front or if they are really accommodating, in the coat closet! These are subject to you paying an excess baggage fee, of course.

In every instance, I recommend that you ring your airline 24 hours prior to flying to forewarn them that you will be carrying a guitar. This way you will find out their exact policy and if they have cabin storage space available for your flight.

Come Fly With Me.

British Airways will do their best to accommodate you; their dimensions for extra baggage allowance are a very generous 190x75x65cm. Give them 24 hours’ notice of your intention to carry a guitar on board.

Virgin Atlantic will want you to store it in the hold if you do not purchase a seat. You will incur a fee if it takes you over your baggage allowance. However, they will allow you to keep hold of your guitar until the departure gate for extra safety.

FlyBe will transport your guitar in the hold whereupon hold luggage charges will be applicable. They are also happy for you to purchase a seat for it.

Emirates policy is for you to purchase a seat or put it in the hold.

Easy Jet require that guitars should be checked in as hold luggage andcannot weigh more than 32kg. This will be subject to a statutory baggage fee.

Ryanair will only accept your guitar if you purchase an extra seat for it.

There you have it, not as clean cut as you might like, but useful guidelines I hope.

If you can afford to, buy your precious guitar a seat on the plane, if you can’t, arrive at the airport early and be as polite to all of the airline staff and if there is enough space they just may let you store your instrument in the cabin.

Failing that, take your chances in the hold. Wrap it in cotton wool and keep everything crossed!

Oh, buy specific insurance for it too. Just in case.

Good luck!