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Top tips for flying with your musical instrument

5 years ago
Lucy North

Lucy North

Lucy is Content Producer at ABRSM looking after the blog, our online magazine, Libretto, and a range of other written materials and resources. She has a musical background and studied the piano at the Royal Academy of Music. When not writing, commissioning and editing for ABRSM, Lucy enjoys spending time with her two young boys, baking and exploring the Essex countryside.

Travelling abroad with your musical instrument? We asked Allianz Musical Insurance, the UK’s leading specialist insurer of musical instruments, for their advice on keeping your instrument safe in transit. Here’s what they had to say.
Choose your airline carefully
Do your research before you book your flights. All airlines have different policies regarding special baggage and musical instruments, so it’s worth taking the time to find one that’s flexible and understanding.
Ask questions
Is something about the airline’s policy on musical instruments unclear? Give them a call and ask them to clarify it – write out a list of questions before you call if you need to. 
Know your instrument
It might sound obvious, but make sure you know the exact dimensions of your instrument and have them at hand when making any enquiries with your airline. You don’t want to discover that it won’t fit in the overhead locker when you get on the plane! 
Know what your instrument can and can’t handle too. Is it an old instrument? Can it withstand being passed around by baggage handlers if it has to go in the hold? What details does the airline need to know about it?
Pack your instrument securely
Be aware that baggage handlers and airline staff handling your instrument won’t know what’s inside the case, and may not handle it with as much care as you would. For that reason, you need to make sure it’s packed in a robust and lockable case that’s labelled clearly, especially if it’s going in the hold. Fill any gaps in your case with bubble wrap or any other soft materials so your instrument won’t bump around during the flight.  
Prepare your instrument for temperature and moisture fluctuations 
You’ll need to prepare your instrument for varying climates to prevent damage. For example, if you play a stringed instrument, tune the strings down a tone or two to allow for temperature fluctuations, or if you play a brass instrument fill the bell of the instrument with a styrofoam cone (these can be bought from hobby stores or online) to protect it in case of impact.
For any wooden instrument, you may want to consider purchasing a Dampit, a device designed to keep your instrument humidified. This is definitely something to consider when on an airplane where the air is extremely dry. 
Leave instrument accessories out
It might be convenient to have your accessories in your instrument’s case, but this isn’t safe for travel. Other items moving around in your case during the flight can cause damage to your instrument and make your case too bulky to fit into the overhead lockers, so take them out and pack them separately.
This is also a good time to make sure you haven’t got any liquids or sharp items in your case, such as a reed knife or valve oil. If your instrument is going in an overhead locker, it counts as hand luggage, so liquids and sharp items won’t be allowed in your case.
Arrive at the airport early
When you’re travelling with special baggage such as an instrument, it’s likely you’ll need extra time to speak to airline staff, and to smooth out any potential issues before you board the plane. Make sure you also allow enough time to get through security – if your instrument is coming with you as hand luggage, expect for it to be searched, and leave extra time to repack it securely.
Print out the airline’s rules
It’s a good idea to have a printed copy of the airline’s rules on musical instruments or special baggage with you, so you can quickly resolve any issues if things don’t go to plan.
Inspect your instrument on arrival
Check your instrument over thoroughly when leaving the plane or collecting your instrument from the baggage carousel. If it’s not the way you left it, and you suspect damage has occurred during flight, speak to airport staff as soon as possible and complete a baggage irregularity report.

Find out more about specialist insurance for your musical instrument from Allianz Musical Insurance.



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