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The April 2010 issue of Acoustic Guitar features an article on flying with a guitar, written by bluesman Chris Smither (click HERE for a link to the article). As someone who travels with his Collings 12-fret year around, Smither has some very specific tips to offer, and some run contrary to another article on the topic, written by our senior editor Scott Nygaard in the April 2009 issue (click HERE for a link to that story). While Nygaard (who used to log thousands of air miles as a member of Tim O'Brien's band) prefers to check his guitar as luggage, Smither makes a case for carrying his guitar onboard in a gigbag. Obviously, there's more than one way to go about getting your guitar in the air, and we'd love to hear from Acoustic Guitar Community members about their experiences, so here's your chance to let your voice be heard!

Tags: air, carry, chris, flying, guitar, nygaard, on, scott, smither, travel

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I read Chis article with much amusement as I think he has been lucky. I have done 400 boardings in the last 5 years and most of them with Southwest. As an a list flyer I always get on within the first 30 passengers. So I started getting cocky and decided that I would take my guitar on board in a gig bag. I put it up in the overhead one flight (Gibson J-45) and sat down while everyone else boarded. Well those overheads get full and the next thing I know this guy (classic sales guy) slams his wooden brief case in the overhead and worse throws some pretty blondes baggage up there and then forces the door closed. When i objected this guy wanted to know how much a guitar cost could cost. When I told him and that it was the cheapest one I had he was dumb founded. Fortunately the guitar survived but that was the last time I tried that trick. I would rather wait at baggage claim with a better chance than have rambunctious passengers and airline staff who don't give a damn about my guitar. Guitars don't carry the charm they used to in this day and age although the blonde did sit next to me on the flight and to tell you the truth I could have done without her American Idol conversation.  


Thanks!!!! For some supplemental advice from Mark Hanson, here is a sample of an interview I conducted with him in 2008. For the complete text or mp3 (it was a phone interview) feel free to download it from my website below.


Mark: A couple of things. First of all, when you go to Nashville, so many guitars go through there, my experience with the baggage handlers in Nashville are actually quite gentle with guitars because they know that these are valuable and they have a high respect for guitarists in that town. I’ve had two experiences, that may not be true for everyone, I don’t know, but I’ve had two experiences at the Nashville airport where that occurred. The best advice if you’re really concerned is to leave your really good guitar at home because then it won’t get damaged and buy something that’s moderately priced, put insurance on it so if it gets damaged, really badly damaged, it won’t break your heart and it won’t break your pocketbook. I think that’s kind of bottom line. Now I travel with my main guitar which is worth quite a bit of money so I have to travel with it. I can’t leave it at home. The first thing to do is to absolutely avoid putting your guitar on the conveyor belt. A lot of damage happens there. Unless you do what some of my friends do, which is to buy an $800 case that’s like a tank and then you just let it go and you don’t worry about it. However, when you get to your destination you have to carry that thing around and it’s very heavy. I prefer to have a backpack so I can put my guitar on my back and leave my hands free for whatever else I need to carry or just to keep from having to lug this heavy thing around and actually overwork my hand before I have a gig. So what I do is I actually have a Reunion Blues, very well padded soft case and I take my guitar to the airport, it’s on my back.



I just tell them I got a 10.000 dollar guitar in my bag and if the want that on their conscious it's their problem. My guitar is only 1000 dollars but they don´t know that. I've had 2 guitar necks broken when flying to spain and I tell them this as well.. Since then I've had no problem on taking it with my. Sometimes even 2 gigbags. And they just put it in the cockpit..



Anyone had the opportunity to play the Andy Benedetto, which is supposed to be flight locker friendly?

great article - would love to see more on comparisons of the smaller travel guitars.

Just got this in my mailbox this morning from my subscription to Mark Hansen's "Accent on Music":


I am a gigging musician, based in UK, but play in europe a bit.  I invested in a Calton guitar case

Pricey, but the best protection I have seen offered by a hard case.  Also, I don't fly cheap airlines like easyjet anymore, as they don't take as good care of your luggage, and they sting you with extra fees.  Last few trips I have flown air france.  The ticket is a few pounds extra, but they have always let me take my guitar in the cabin with me, even in a big hard case. When the fights havn't been full, I have had it on the seat next to me for no extra cost.

Hi All,


I travell a lot for work and cant stand it when i travel without a gutar although it is not comfortable. But than people showed me the GS Mini from Taylor well if you dont play gigs (it possible with it) and want a decent gutiar to bring with you when you travell this is a awsome guitar.

The travel guitar group mentioned here seems to not exist...

Here's a rather late reply.

My son asked me to play at his wedding last summer.  Great!  But we had to fly from Connecticut to Iowa.  OK!  He wanted me to bring my OO-18, which he'd known all his life.  Hmmmmmmm...

How to do this?

I considered several methods, but finally decided to take the guitar as luggage.  Everything else was too "iffy" or too costly.  So the guitar, strings loosened, went into its blue Martin case, and I covered the case with taped-on, large-printed bits of paper that explained that it was on its way to a wedding, please be gentle, etc.  I put a similar sheet into the strings, which also included both my home and destination addresses--just in case.

I also contacted my homeowner's insurance company, who put an $11 rider on the policy to protect the guitar for significantly more than it would cost to replace (I know, you can't replace a guitar).

And for all that?  No problems.  I was permitted to carry the guitar to the gate, where I handed it over, and it made it to Iowa and back again just fine (even with changes of planes in Chicago and Minneapolis).

I know that there are always risks; I now wonder if was just lucky, or if I had inflated those risks and so not traveled with my musical friend before!

Recent federal law addresses this issue, giving musical instruments priority for cabin space:

I have had 100% success putting my National Reso in OH bins, in HSC....

good luck


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