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Choosing the airline for travel with musical instruments

Each airline and airport will have a different policy regarding the size and shape of an instrument that can be stored in the overhead bin of an aeroplane or under the seat.

Airlines may also have their own rules about the number of bags you are allowed to take on the aircraft. Seats may have to be purchased for larger instruments, and some airlines have restrictions about the weight/baggage allowance for checked-in hold luggage.

The MU strongly recommends that you check with your airline that they will allow your instrument in the cabin before you book your tickets.

It is also highly recommended that passengers contact the airline to enquire whether the musical instrument is in addition to, or in place of, the hand baggage allowance.

To check the policy for each airline, use the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) Airline ‘traffic light’ tool. You can also leave feedback to document your experience with each airline. Good news stories as well as bad news stories are welcome.

In 2017, Air Canada received the inaugural FIM Airline Award for its favourable policy towards musicians and their instruments.

Tips for travelling with music instruments

  • No other item other than the instrument and its accessories should be in the case.
  • No liquids should be placed in the cabin baggage.
  • Musical instruments will need to be screened.
  • Ensure that there are plenty of “Fragile” stickers on the case and that it is clearly labelled with your contact details.
  • Be sure to take oversized instruments to the oversize or fragile baggage area at the airport — do not check it in and allow it to go on the conveyor belt with cases etc. Items deposited at the former will be taken into the hold of the aircraft by hand thereby negating any rough handling. Ask them to bind the case with tape too.
  • If you have an instrument with strings, loosen them a tone or two to allow for change of temperature!

The MU's work for musicians travelling abroad with their gear

Every musician will look at working abroad at some point in their career. MU Head of International Dave Webster explains how the MU is helping musicians travel with musical instruments and gear – from CITES exemptions around the world to keeping you touring in the EU. 

Join our efforts to make air travel easier for musicians

The Union is working hard at European level to bring about some clear, consistent and transparent policies that all airlines can adopt. Please sign the petition that calls on the EU council to take action.

Sign the petition

Member services

Free Visa & Work Permit Advice

Access Viva La Visa's free advice line for guidance on visas, work permits or travel documentation for touring abroad. Members also receive a 20% discount on any services.

Read more about Free Visa & Work Permit Advice

Contract Advisory Service

Protect yourself against unpaid fees by making sure that your tour or engagement is covered by a written contract. Have it vetted by the MU for added peace of mind.

Read more about Contract Advisory Service

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