googled06bb313055e587a.html Rock N Roll Rehab for the Control Of Rock and Roll Starring Greg Piper and The Tooners: I Love Rock N Roll - Airline Travel With Guitars

I Love Rock N Roll - Airline Travel With Guitars

I Love Rock N Roll
My name is Greg Piper, (aka RockNRollDude) and I have flown around the globe extensively for the past 25+ years as a professional guitarist and bassist, which gives me new meaning to the expression; time flies!  It seems like just yesterday, 1987 to be exact, when I notified my soon-to-be wife that I was going to be traveling the road with my rock show, thus being away from home more than the average person.  Fortunately, she was cool with this and, lo and behold, it happened!  My gig had me performing one-off evening performances from city to far away city on consecutive nights, flying from Los Angeles to Atlanta to NYC, to Japan, China, India, you get the picture.  I have taken hundreds of airline flights with my guitars carried on by back and have flown well over a million miles.  I'm here to share some airline tips to my fellow traveling musicians who travel with their guitars.

Don't you Love Rock N Roll?
The excitement and thrill of being a high flying, world traveling "Rock Star" can be dampened very quickly when the airlines take your instrument away from you before boarding the plane.   They'll erroneously tell you "it doesn't fit", which is generally not the case at all.  When that happens they often place your guitar under the belly of the plane with the other luggage. This creates the possibility of the guitars either being broken, delayed or even lost!   I know some musicians prefer to check their instruments in at the ticket counter having their guitars in anvil cases, but that sometimes cost a substantial fee and does not guarantee their safety or arrival to your final destination.  Try sleeping if that happens!

We  Love  Rock N Roll
There are three main obstacles for musicians bringing guitars with them on flights; the ticket counter, the TSA security check, and the gate agent, where you actually board the plane.  These three areas often could care less about you and your guitar and their attitudes often show it!  If you can get past them, you've made it and you can breath a sigh of relief.  The flight attendants on board are usually very friendly, cooperative, caring, helpful and understanding.

Peace + Love  Rock N Roll
Here's what to do.  When you first arrive at the airport you initially go to the ticket counter.  This is where to get your tickets, seat assignments and check in your bigger luggage.  It is best not to flaunt your stringed instruments because if you do the agent may try to have you check them in with your larger luggage.  By doing so your guitars will be handled by the same baggage handlers who throw your suitcases all over the place.  You don't want this to happen!  If the ticket counter person asks you to check your guitar with your baggage, kindly tell them, "This is my very fragile and expensive guitar that I need for my job tomorrow.  It's my livelihood, not a hobby and I cannot afford to have it damaged, delayed or lost.  I would like to see if I can fit it in the overhead on the plane, which usually fits, and if it doesn't I'll let the boarding Agent "gate-check" it there"  (Gate checking is when they take your luggage and hand delivers it to a special place under the plane, separate from the bigger bags.  Your hand checked item is usually brought back to you as you immediately depart the craft, and not put on the conveyor belts with the larger luggage.) This request on your part lets the ticket agent know that you are aware of the limitations of baggage space and that you are very willing to corporate and that you understand the situation.  I've never had my 6-string taken away at that point after this explanation.


Love Rock N Roll
Next, you have to deal with the TSA, whose job is supposed to be about security and airline safety.  Sometimes the TSA goes beyond their call of duty, much to a musician's detriment.  If TSA says your guitar is too big to advance to the boarding gate you have no other choice but to return to the ticket counter agent and ask for assistance in dealing with the TSA.  Fortunately, this almost never happens.  Make sure you only are carrying one instrument and maybe a laptop roller bag or a bag that is somewhat small.  If you have more than 2 items, you are definitely asking for problems!

Doesn't everybody Love Rock N Roll?
If you get past both the ticket counter and the TSA, you're left with the final and usually biggest hurdle, the gate agent :(  Gate agents are a breed of their own and they aren't paid to help you.  They're the ones who make the repeated announcements over the PA about allowed carry-ons and size requirements, etc.  The gate agents will almost always say your guitars won't fit.  They are trained to tell you that.  What you have to do, in a professional and friendly way, is simply tell them the same thing you told the ticket counter agent earlier, "This is my very fragile and expensive instrument that I need for my job.  It's my livelihood and I cannot afford to have it damaged, delayed or lost.  I would like to see if I can fit it in the overhead, which usually fits, and if it doesn't I'll "gate-check" it." This usually works.  Not always, but it's clear you are trying to work with them.

I Love  Rock N Roll - Peace N Light
Sometimes the gate agent insists you must gate check the guitar, no matter what!  They won't budge.  It's as if they know their supervisor is watching them and they must not let any instrument on board for any reason, period.  So, what do I do?  I simply allow the gate agent to tag my case.  Then they tell me to drop it off at the end of the ramp just before boarding for someone to take it underneath the aircraft.  As soon as I get pass the gate agent with my tagged case and am out of their view, I take the tag off and proceed to take the guitar on the plane.  Like I said earlier, the flight attendants are way cooler and much more helpful and accommodating.

I Love, Love  Rock N Roll
Now this is very important! - you don't want to be one of the last people to board!  You want to be near the beginning of the boarding line.  Why?  This is the only way you'll be able to fit your guitar into the overhead space.  They'll usually do fit unless it is a small prop plane.  If the craft is full and you're one of the last ones to board, you will not get the guitar to fit in the overhead as the space will have already been taken by other people's carry-ons.

I Love, Love, Love  Rock N Roll
On a final note, carry your ax in as small a case as possible.  Also, leave your custom, one-of-a-kind $10,000 guitar at home and bring your $500 Strat on the road instead.  You get paid the same no matter what  you bring, right? Anything can happen on the road.  Do you really want to take the chance of your $10,000 guitar getting lost, stolen or destroyed? If you must have that over-priced classic with you, my advice is to stay home!  You don't get it and you're not made for the road.  (unless money is no issue for you)

I Love, Love  Rock N Roll - Peace N Light
Traveling is not for every musician.  When it comes to flying, the airlines are in charge, not you.  It can be a slippery path for unknowing musicians with guitars and getting their valued instruments on the plane without incident.  You may be a "Rock N Roll Star" on stage but when it comes to the airlines, you're nothing more than a musical sardine.  The airlines have a funny way of looking at your guitars, their eyes bug out, you're like a target to them.

I Love To Rock - I Love, Love  Rock N Roll
Remember, the airlines motto at times is, "The passenger is always wrong!"  Again, you cannot argue with them.  They have a monopoly on fast travel and they know you have little or no alternatives for getting to your destination on time.  You have to play the game and be flexible, cunning, alert and on your best behavior.  If this is not for you, get a day job, travel via Amtrak Train, Greyhound Bus, or take a very long drive or boat ride.  None of these options work for me.

Rock On, High Fliers!  Peace N Light

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