Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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To Russia, With No Guitar – I Won’t Back Down

October 7, 2015
bradspurgeon

Sochi

Sochi

SOCHI, Russia – So I’m sitting in my hotel room in Sochi, at the site of the Winter Olympics, and it’s pretty dismal outside, with lots of rain, and my work does not start until tomorrow.  So what would I do right now to be playing my guitar, like I have done for the last seven years while travelling on my job to cover Formula One races.  Yes, this trip to Russia is the first time in seven years that I have not been able to take my guitar on a flight to a faraway country to play in my room and seek out open mics and jams and other venues to play at. Thanks Turkish Airlines.

I love Turkey, I love Istanbul, and I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Turkish Airlines.  That’s why I decided to take Turkish Airlines to Sochi, since, as it turns out, it is also the cheapest way there from Paris:  Paris – Istanbul, Istanbul – Sochi.  In fact, the flight last night after midnight from Istanbul to Sochi was about 98 percent booked by Formula One paddock people, drivers, team staff and media.  So I’m not the only one who has discovered the Turkish Airlines way to Russia (with love).
Turkish Airlines

But as it has been many years since I flew on Turkish Airlines, and I have my paces all set out for most of the other countries I fly to, and as I’m aware that of all of the world’s airports, Charles-de-Gaulle, in Paris is one of the most difficult ones for a musician with a guitar to pass through, I decided to check out the Turkish Airlines site for its baggage policy before I left.

I was also spurred on to doing this because I noticed that in my international flight on my electronic ticket, it said I could take 30 kilograms of baggage – which is wonderful, since I’d be well under 30 kilos even with the guitar in a hard case.  But I then noticed that there was a special policy for lepers.  Sorry, I mean musicians.  It said that if you really wanted to take your guitar onboard – i.e., if the instrument exceeded cabin baggage size – you had to buy a seat.

This all seemed pretty absurd.  So I decided to call up Turkish Airlines at the airport in Paris and query.  They took my name, checked my ticket, and told me to wait, that they would look into it.  Actually, no, they did answer one of my questions, which was, if I have 30 kilos of baggage, can I divide that into two pieces.  They said I could divide it into as many pieces as I wanted, but that, oh, if one of those pieces happens to be a guitar, then I might have to pay an excess luggage fee.

Off the woman went, and when she returned, she confirmed that I would have to pay about 15 euros per kilo of that excess luggage.  In fact, it was NOT excess luggage, it was just a guitar.  I explained that with my main bag and the guitar – which would weigh 7 kilos, hard case included – I would have a total of 24 kilos in the flight, which is well under the 30 kilos allowed.

The woman told me that it made no difference, since one of the pieces of luggage was a guitar, I had to pay out of my nose for the privilege of taking it with me to Russia on Turkish Airlines, i.e., a minimum of 105 euros extra…and I’m not actually sure if I had to pay the 105 both ways, or if that covered the entire return trip.  And I no longer cared, because 105 euros to take my guitar which is NOT excess luggage, for me was not just torture of a musician, it was also a sum I cannot afford.

One of my journalist colleagues, upon hearing this story last night at the airport upon arrival, reminded me that he had seen me singing and playing my guitar in Sochi last year, at a pub, and that I had sung Tom Petty’s, “I Won’t Back Down.”  I was impressed with his memory, but I was suddenly less impressed with myself, as I said to him that this year, I had just backed down.  I had backed down from Turkish Airline’s extortionate practices against guitar carrying musicians.  But on the other hand in a way, I did not back down.  I was not going to let the airline make me pay a vast sum of money that they did NOT deserve.

But so here I am on a rainy day in Sochi, and missing my guitar like hell.  Maybe I’ll find an open mic, though, and play someone else’s guitar….

PS, Last year I did the same trip with Aeroflot via Moscow. It was more expensive, and Moscow Airport was a little too crowded for my liking. But both the Aeroflot people and the people at the Moscow Airport were super cool about my guitar, allowing me to take it into the cabin, and even, at the airport, asking me if I wanted to go up and play some music on the stage that was being constructed behind me in the airport for some upcoming concert.

PPS, I keep on having these urges, where I am sitting at my computer, and I want to turn around and grab my guitar for a few chords and songs…. Have to keep stopping myself….

4 Comments

  1. You may need a small travel guitar.. mine fits in an overhead bin! but, in the meantime go to an open mike, borrow a guitar and please play me a Dylan song… And say hello to your lovely girlfriend for me.. : )

    • Thanks Lorin, but I have travelled internationally just about every week for the past 7 years – from March to December – and take flights just about every week, internationally. My Seagull S6 fits into any airplane’s overhead compartment in the cabin with no problem. It’s the fact that the object has the name “guitar” that disturbs some airlines. Be it travel guitar or regular guitar, it is the word “guitar” that disturbs. It is very, very rare that I meet with problems, but when I do, there is no way to rationalise with people. They don’t care that the guitar fits and is smaller than most of the monolithic suitcases people now cram into overhead compartments! It’s just the word “guitar” that upsets them. And travel guitars are still musical instruments called “guitar”. I suppose I could tell them it is a fishing rod, and that might change things. But…. I only sought to put the guitar in the hold this time because a), they wanted me to buy a seat for the tiny object called a “guitar” if I took it into the cabin, and b) because they offered 30 kilos of luggage divided up by as many pieces as I like, so I figured with 17 kilos of suitcase and 7 kilos of guitar, for a total of 24 kilos out of 30, I was ok. No such luck, since the object in question is “guitar.”

  2. Brad – that’s the whole reason why I created my company. My business partner and I traveled extensively and wanted to play our instruments when stuck in airports and hotel rooms. But the big problem was either the stigma surrounding guitars on plans or the fact that all of the travel guitars either sounded like a toy or felt like one. So we spent 2.5 years doing our research and came out with the ultimate travel guitar: One that you carry right on-board since it fits in a backpack (22″ x 14″ x 9″) but the real kicker is the fact that it feels and sounds GREAT! Don’t take my word for it. Visit the Acoustic Guitar Forum (http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=360161) and see what literally hundreds of folks are saying about our Journey Instruments Overhead Travel Guitar. We recently introduced a carbon fiber version for those who need resistance to temperature, humidity and other extremes that would otherwise damage a wood guitar.

  3. Pingback: The Wandering, Guitar Carrying, Vagrant of Music-less Sochi | Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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