US Department of Transportation Issues Final Ruling on Flying with Instruments

Bass gear and travelHoping to fly with your bass in tow?

The U.S. Department of Transportation has ruled that traveling musicians can place their instruments in overhead bins, if there’s space available, and if not, a second seat may be purchased for an instrument.

Additionally, the DOT offers this advice: “Because the rule does not require that musical instruments be given priority over other carry-on baggage, we encourage passengers traveling with musical instruments to take steps to board before as many other passengers as possible to ensure that space will be available for them to safely stow their instruments in the cabin. This includes utilizing pre- boarding opportunities that some carriers offer (usually for a fee).”

The DOT ruling goes into effect March 6.

There’s much more to the ruling, and if you want the full story on how you can travel with your instrument, take a look at the full, detailed ruling on the Department of Transportation website.

Photo by Damian Erskine

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  1. Aaron

    This is only for US flights i presume?

    • Yes, Once outside of our boarders, it’s Russian Roulette. Most countries are pretty cool about it. Some are not (even if there plenty of room, some airlines have made me check it as luggage (not gate check, but all the way through to the carousel). 9 out of 10 times, I have no problems anywhere.

  2. Rather sit next to my bass than, well, pretty much any typical airplane passenger.

  3. Can a bass fit in an overhead compartment on a typical US flight? I think this would necessitate using a gig bag and not a hardshell case. But, if you couldn’t take it on the plane, you would have to check your instrument in a gig bag. There are still a lot of questions.

  4. What’s that case in the picture?

  5. that bass guy

    Thanks for posting this. Years ago (pre 9/11) I traveled with my string bass while on vacation. Referring to the essential Rufus Reid “Evolving Bassist” book, I took his advice to heart. I bought a plane ticket for my full-size string bass, explaining thoroughly to the ticketing agent that “Mr. Bass” was an instrument not a live person, and arrived very early at the gate so I could get a bulkhead seat where there was more room (as advised in the book). I even strapped the bass (again as advised by the book) in an inverted position so that the bass would travel more safely. With the exception of one overzealous and underinformed airline employee on my return flight, everything went smoothly.

    The point of all this is, that with planning common sense, and above all courtesy to people who are just trying to do their jobs, not only can you still fly with your instruments but that to a limited extent your rights are guaranteed.

    One word of advice: if you’re flying on multiple airlines I would be sure to inform each individually so that you are aware of any issues various companies’ policies might pose.

  6. PhiDeck

    Flying with a double bass seems masochistic.
    Doing so with an electric bass guitar would seem much simpler if the (bolt-on) neck and body were disconnected from each other, thereby allowing a ~12″ shorter case. Using threaded inserts and machine screws instead of wood screws would seem advisable.
    A headless bass would knock another 6-8″ off the length of the case.

  7. Greetings; First off give thanks for the heads up, but I as a Bass Player I found a way around that about 13 years ago.. I bought a headless Bass for that very reason. The headless Bass fits into a Fender strate Gig bag & fits comfortably in an over head compartment on the plane. If my Bass don’t make it then there was no reason to leave my HOUSE! Plus there’s room to spare..Being paticular of my sound as a Bass Man I also traveled with my amp head..Say what you want, those had to be handled with utmost care. We were a TEAM inside the team inside the BOND. Those were the tools I needed to get(my) the job dun… If I did’nt have them (I”M NOT FLYING) YOUR SOUND as the Bass Man accounts for the WEIGHT of the BAND. Give thanks 4 the heads up……….

  8. I’ve never encountered problems (so far). I’ve traveled a few times with my Fender 5 string in a gig bag. Each time the flight crew let me stow it in the hanging locker at the front of the plane. It didn’t even interfere with the spare crew uniforms hanging there. In fact, every time they went out of their way to get me on first so I could stow it ahead of the other passengers. I guess folks have a soft spot for traveling musicians. As always, be courteous and polite and ask first!