Flying with a Guitar

02004-10-27 | Uncategorized | 2 comments

Flying with a guitar sucks, especially since 2001. I wonder how many instruments have died in the name of flight security since then.

I used to be able to either get a Business Class ticket – they always have space for a little guitar case in Business Class, or buy a second ticket for my guitar, usually called G. Liebert, if I flew Southwest Airlines for example. Yes, you actually put the guitar in its own seat and use a seatbelt extension to make sure it is safe and secure. Naturally I ate the guitar’s peanuts…

Then came the day that I flew to L.A. for a session and when I arrived at LAX in the evening to fly back to Santa Fe I discovered that shields had been added to the X-Ray belt. My guitar case did not fit through the shield. This shield was something new they were trying out at LAX and did not use in Albuquerque yet. I showed the security person my ticket for the guitar and suggested they could hand search the case. Nope, they would not. I ended up having to return to the Southwest Airline check-in and demand that someone go up to security with me as I held a valid ticket for my guitar. A gentleman then accompanied me to security and signed some kind of document which caused the security person to remove the shield for a minute, so I could stick my guitar on the X-Ray belt. Ludicrous, insane, idiotic, childish.

I called the FAA, I emailed them – never got through to anybody who could tell me why no exeptions could be made for instrumens with a valid ticket. Seems simple to me: if a person has bought a ticket for an instrument, they should be able to get the shield opened for the instrument…

Well, since then I do one of two things: First I had a heavy-duty flight case made. I stick my guitar case into the flight case, pay the overweight charge, and hope for the best. Second, when time permits I send the guitar via Federal Express to the gig and travel without the guitar. I have done this a few times already and for some reason I trust FedX more than any airlines.


  1. J Michael Vidal

    OL I heard that it’s a good idea to loosen the guitar strings when shipping it by air (FedEx or as a cargo luggage) Strings tend to expand/shrink drastically due to climate change and near zero temperatures. What’s your experience about this. Have you lost a guitar because the neck felt apart after shipping it?


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