Monday, June 1, 2015

On Flying With A Cello

In just a few days I will be leaving for Duino, Italy where I'll be participating in the International Music Festival of the Adriatic. While I won't be flying with my cello this time (they've generously offered to rent cellos for those attending IMFA), I know that many other cellists will be taking their instruments on board. To help navigate the craziness that is flying with an instrument,  I've made a detailed checklist of how to order tickets, prepare your instrument, get through security, and board the plane!

Ordering Tickets:
  • Always purchase a second ticket for your cello. Do not simply assume there will be seats on the plane. Reserve seat under Cello (Last Name).
  • Read and print out the Instrument Policy for the airline with which you will be flying. Keep it on hand (in a carry-on) in case you need to show a TSA agent or steward.
  • Be aware that the seats in the back of some small aircraft (specifically the ones that only have 3 seats across instead of the usual 4 or 6) will not have leg room enough to fit your cello. If you are flying on a small aircraft, do your best to get seats near the front where there tends to be more legroom. 
  • A ticket for an instrument should always be the window seat as it is safety hazard for the instrument to be blocking a passenger's access to the aisle. 

Preparing your instrument:
  • Loosen the strings. Not so much that the bridge isn't supported but enough that there's no worry if the air pressure changes slightly a string will snap. 
  • Place a scarf or small blanket underneath the fingerboard. Be careful not to stuff it under there. I always use a scarf which is smaller and fits more comfortably inside a case.
In the Security Line:
  • When your ID and tickets are being checked, point out to the TSA agent that you have purchased a ticket for your cello. {One time the agent checking me in only scanned one of my tickets not realizing I was holding two! Thankfully, a person working at the terminal desk realized the error before I boarded and "checked-in" the other ticket for me.}
  • When it's your turn to remove your shoes, belt and other items for scanning, simply place your cello (in a sealed hard case!) on the conveyer belt to be scanned. Don't worry, this will in no way damage the instrument!
Boarding the Plane:
  • Most stewards and airline workers know right away that you're a musician and that, yes, your cello will be boarding with you. If, however, you're flying out of smaller airport, you may want to walk up to the check-in desk at your terminal and inform them that you're bringing your cello on board and that you purchased a ticket ahead of time. 
  • Carry your cello in front of you, not on your back, when walking through the airplane aisle so that you don't get stuck and/or bump passengers. 
  • Place your cello in the seat closest to the window, ask your airline steward for a seat belt extender, and then buckle the seat belt and extender over top of your cello. 
If you all have any questions, advice or experiences you'd like to share, please comment below! It's always great to hear which airlines people have had success or trouble traveling with so that others can follow suit. 

Have a great start to your summer and happy travels!