Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

Have Guitar, Will Travel….

February 26, 2012

Bravo to the U.S. congress and the United States Federal Aviation Administration. As I prepare for my upcoming travels around the world with my guitar, I have just read a wonderful bit of news on the New York Times “In Transit” blog about how a bill recently passed in congress has just written legislation to allow musicians to carry their instruments aboard their flights.

“But a new bill passed by Congress this month sets a uniform national policy on the matter,” said the blog. “The Federal Aviation Administration will permit any instrument that can be safely stored in the overhead compartment or underneath a seat to be treated as carry-on luggage. It also sets size and weight requirements (150 linear inches and 165 pounds) for instruments checked as baggage, and it allows musicians to purchase an extra seat on a plane for instruments that are either too large for the overhead compartment or too fragile to be stored in the cargo hold.”

Yes, but…. that of course only affects flights in the United States. How much do you want to bet that I will continue to be hassled elsewhere as I travel to all continents except Africa and Antarctica with my guitar? The first time I experienced a problem was in 2009 on my first tour of the world’s open mics, when the Singapore Airlines people in Paris told me that I could not carry the guitar aboard. I found that I was flying on an Airbus A380 for the first time, i.e., the biggest airplane in the world. And there was plenty of room for the guitar.

As the years passed, I occasionally ran into the problem again – with Vueling, Korea Airline and Emirates. Unfortunately, somewhere on the Emirates flight from Paris to Singapore the guitar was severely damaged. As I had a stop over in Dubai, it may have happened in the transfer from one flight to another. But Emirates, classy airline that it is, offered me a voucher for future services as an apology.

In fact, I have found in the three years that I have been flying around the world with my guitar, that the most difficult airport of all to try to board a flight with a guitar has become Charles-de-Gaulle in Paris. I now believe that the problem stems not from the airline – although both Vueling and Singapore Airlines said it was their policy to not allow instruments aboard – but rather the instructions that the people at the check-in desks have concerning instruments. IE, the local staff. Having said that, I managed to make it through on several occasions despite queries from the check-in as to whether or not they should allow the guitar in the cabin.

I hope that the rest of the world’s aviation authorities will adopt the FAA standard. I never, ever, encountered a situation in which the guitar was a problem for fellow passengers. But as I said, it has been damaged, and therefore a problem for the musician, when placed in the hold.

Now I will never have to consider writing a song like this:

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