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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Flying with banjo


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/359111

aintbrokejustbadlybent - Posted - 12/02/2019:  06:54:27


Hey Guys,
When flying with your beloved banjo, do you check it or carry on? I’m flying SW, Dallas to NO. They say over the phone that I can’t carry on however the website allow it. I’m reluctant to check it but that might be my only option unless I purchase a seat for it.
Welcome experiences and advice.
Mike

neilends - Posted - 12/02/2019:  07:34:49


Depends on whether you’re willing to risk the banjo. I am, for my $500 Deering that’s my designated travel banjo. I check it as luggage. Airport employees tend to treat it with care. They have always given it special handling so it doesn’t roll out on the carousel with normal suitcases.

The next level of safety is to fly Southwest and time things so that you get early seating. (You can usually purchase this for $35 or so, but not always). Southwest seems to have a very pro-instrument attitude compared to American. If you have early seating, they should let you store the banjo just like a carry on. One time they even offered to put it in their employee closet for me (but don’t count on that always).

If you don’t get early seating, you might not have room for carry on.

American is awful and will just instruct you to just check your banjo. In that case you’d need to buy an extra seat if you can’t tolerate the risk of damage.

Alvin Conder - Posted - 12/02/2019:  07:46:49


There is a huge archived thread here on just this subject - dozens, of not hundreds of suggestions.

Here:

banjohangout.org/topic/281603

Turpen1 - Posted - 12/02/2019:  08:38:01


Hi Mike,

I fly twice a year from Dallas to El Paso....mostly Southwest, sometimes American. I have ALWAYS taken my banjo on board and fit it in the overhead bin. On one occasion (American), they allowed me to put it in the front "closet area" with the pilot's belongings....and on one occasion (also American), they insisted at the gate that it be hand checked. I asked that it be the last bag on and the first one off...carried from and back to my hand. They did precisely as requested and it was not a problem. All other 20+ flights were above my head in the bin.
I hope this is helpful!

9470 Granada - Posted - 12/02/2019:  09:51:50


Hey Mike, I fly Southwest several times a year. They are the best for musicians BTW. You can almost always "carry on" the banjo especially if you get checked in in the "A" or "B" boarding group. You can also pay for the upgrade...I think it's $25 extra.


Also if that doesn't work you can "Gate Check" it...which I do from time to time. I always use a Calton case, which i'd recommend...or Hoffee or the like.


 


quote:

Originally posted by aintbrokejustbadlybent

Hey Guys,

When flying with your beloved banjo, do you check it or carry on? I’m flying SW, Dallas to NO. They say over the phone that I can’t carry on however the website allow it. I’m reluctant to check it but that might be my only option unless I purchase a seat for it.

Welcome experiences and advice.

Mike






 

Omeboy - Posted - 12/02/2019:  10:08:04


I used to fly with a high-end banjo on occasion. I bought a Mark Leaf case (which is no longer in business). I was then able to check it in and not worry about it because that case was airline-proof. (I made sure the banjo was extremely well padded from end to end inside the case.) There are still a small number of manufacturers that offer an airline proof case.
Nowadays, you've got the security people to worry with---whether or not they will re-latch and secure the case properly, etc. I don't put any faith in those folks to protect your instrument.

Basically, I wouldn't travel with a banjo I really valued. The only person who really cares about the welfare of your instrument is you. So if you have to fly with one, call the airlines and talk to them and only fly with an instrument you don't highly value. Get the toughest case you can get and pad that banjo top to bottom, end to end.

USAF PJ - Posted - 12/02/2019:  11:20:29


Get specific measurements. I flew American w/ my Stelling. Boarded w/ it and it fit in overhead.

Get there early. Be Nice, and it never ever hurts to ask and have a polite sense of humor. I am so glad my jo was not checked.

OMGBobSaget - Posted - 12/02/2019:  11:37:38


Just flew from Seattle to NC and back with my banjo on Alaska airlines. With most major carriers you can absolutely carry it on and store it overhead, if there is room. The storage bins on 737s are plenty big enough for a banjo in a hardshell case. Otherwise, you can check it at the gate so it will be waiting for you as soon as you get off (like a stroller or wheelchair).

I was lucky enough to have 25 empty seats on my first flight. My second flight was full, but I boarded early in Group B and got to put it overhead. When I flew with it on SW, I always paid the extra $15 to board early.

I have a Hoffee carbon fiber case and I would still never check my banjo as luggage unless it was absolutely necessary. Always carry-on or gate check imo.

aintbrokejustbadlybent - Posted - 12/02/2019:  20:37:01


Hey Everyone,
Thanks to all for your experiences and advise. Helped to quite my anxiety.
Mike

Dragonslayer - Posted - 12/03/2019:  03:08:07


Well, I've only flown a couple times since becoming a musician... I took a fiddle and mandolin on board on four overseas flights (two going and two coming) and I acquired a banjo while on the far end of the journey, and unfortunately it had to be checked (due to the amount of carry ons I had) and it survived with no damage, except for a couple scuffs on the case (a guardian economy) I was happily surprised. This was a flight from Houston to Paris and then from Paris to Johannesburg.

benandren - Posted - 12/03/2019:  08:27:37


I fly internationally and have not had any trouble carrying my banjo on board. It either fits overhead or in a coat closet. For added protection I bought a zipper case cover from Greg Boyd’s shop. I’ve been really happy with the extra protection, and if I ended up having to check my instrument it would give me sone extra peace of mind. I also have my banjo insured.

Omeboy - Posted - 12/03/2019:  13:50:14


For some clarity's sake, it should be mentioned that most overhead bins will take a tenor banjo case, but not all will take a plectrum or five-string banjo case. They tend to be a little too long or at least used to be when I flew. In that case, you have to have the flight attendant put it in the closet for you. Give her a tip if you have some cash on you.

neilends - Posted - 12/03/2019:  14:35:54


quote:

Originally posted by benandren

I fly internationally and have not had any trouble carrying my banjo on board. It either fits overhead or in a coat closet. For added protection I bought a zipper case cover from Greg Boyd’s shop. I’ve been really happy with the extra protection, and if I ended up having to check my instrument it would give me sone extra peace of mind. I also have my banjo insured.






Who's a good insurer you've used for this?

benandren - Posted - 12/04/2019:  00:05:26


@neilends, sorry, I can't really offer any helpful suggestions for you. I get property insurance through the nonprofit I work for. It's something they do internally as a service to us.

waystation - Posted - 12/06/2019:  07:42:11


quote:

Originally posted by Omeboy

I bought a Mark Leaf case (which is no longer in business). I was then able to check it in and not worry about it because that case was airline-proof.






Bad assumption. Current TSA regulations forbid you from locking your case, and banjos are frequently inspected. Once inside, all manner of things can be done to the instrument. Resonators get pried off because the inspectors don't understand thumbscrews, or it just takes too long to remove them. Straps get wedged in under the neck, so the neck gets stressed by the top of that nice tight-fitting case and broken off at the heel or head. Latches don't get correctly closed, so the case opens up during baggage handling and the banjo is unprotected. And so on. And since this is all done in the name of the Global War on Terror, your banjo is just collateral damage. TSA takes no responsibility, and you get to fix it on your own dime.



I fly with a Leaf case as well. I have gotten in the habit of emptying the accessory pocket, removing the strap and thumbscrews to make the TSA inspector's job as easy as possible and limit the potential damage. I use no extra packing material, which can end up getting wedged between the banjo and the case and cause crush damage when the case is forced closed. The inspector can lift the banjo, leaving the resonator wedged inside the case, and it's obvious how to put it back. The strap, thumbscrews and accessories stay with me in checked luggage. So far, so good, and there has been evidence after some flights that the banjo case was opened for inspection. I used to print a sign to place on top of the head, with arrows pointing to the thumbscrews and instructions on how to remove the resonator, but it's easier to just do the work for them and the possibility exists that the banjo will be inspected twice on a two-segment flight and the sign will be lost the first time. Keep it simple for the people who have never seen a banjo before, and you're more likely to end up with a complete banjo when you reach your final destination.



And if I wasn't clear enough, don't lock your case, or any of your luggage for that matter. You'll just have a broken lock at the end of your trip, once again your responsibility. TSA used to sell approved locks, which they could open and which would work on a case like a Leaf that has a place to put an external lock. But those locks were pretty cheap and unlikely to deter an actual thief. On a bag of clothes, maybe. On a $5000 banjo, no point.



Luggage inspections on airline trips are a fact of life, and they risk compromising any packing job you do. This isn't like packing for UPS - anything, including complete dismantling and re-packing, may happen along the way. Keep it simple, and trust your case to do its job. If you can't trust your case, get a better one, or don't fly with the banjo. Shipping it ahead is always an option.

Omeboy - Posted - 12/06/2019:  07:48:42


quote:Originally posted by waystationquote:Originally posted by OmeboyI bought a Mark Leaf case (which is no longer in business). I was then able to check it in and not worry about it because that case was airline-proof.Bad assumption. Current TSA regulations forbid you from locking your case, and banjos are frequently inspected. Once inside, all manner of things can be done to the instrument. Resonators get pried off because the inspectors don't understand thumbscrews, or it just takes too long to remove them. Straps get wedged in under the neck, so the neck gets stressed by the top of that nice tight-fitting case and broken off at the heel or head. Latches don't get correctly closed, so the case opens up during baggage handling and the banjo is unprotected. And so on. And since this is all done in the name of the Global War on Terror, your banjo is just collateral damage. TSA takes no responsibility, and you get to fix it on your own dime.



I fly with a Leaf case as well. I have gotten in the habit of emptying the accessory pocket, removing the strap and thumbscrews to make the TSA inspector's job as easy as possible and limit the potential damage. I use no extra packing material, which can end up getting wedged between the banjo and the case and cause crush damage when the case is forced closed. The inspector can lift the banjo, leaving the resonator wedged inside the case, and it's obvious how to put it back. The strap, thumbscrews and accessories stay with me in checked luggage. So far, so good, and there has been evidence after some flights that the banjo case was opened for inspection. I used to print a sign to place on top of the head, with arrows pointing to the thumbscrews and instructions on how to remove the resonator, but it's easier to just do the work for them and the possibility exists that the banjo will be inspected twice on a two-segment flight and the sign will be lost the first time. Keep it simple for the people who have never seen a banjo before, and you're more likely to end up with a complete banjo when you reach your final destination.



And if I wasn't clear enough, don't lock your case, or any of your luggage for that matter. You'll just have a broken lock at the end of your trip, once again your responsibility. TSA used to sell approved locks, which they could open and which would work on a case like a Leaf that has a place to put an external lock. But those locks were pretty cheap and unlikely to deter an actual thief. On a bag of clothes, maybe. On a $5000 banjo, no point.



Luggage inspections on airline trips are a fact of life, and they risk compromising any packing job you do. This isn't like packing for UPS - anything, including complete dismantling and re-packing, may happen along the way. Keep it simple, and trust your case to do its job. If you can't trust your case, get a better one, or don't fly with the banjo. Shipping it ahead is always an option.



______________________________________________________________________________



In my case, you're "preaching to the choir." I used to fly in the old days with my Mark Leaf. They inspected it the case first and then relocked it. That was the days before all the terrorist crap. Fortunately, I never had a problem back then. Nowadays the TSA are basically careless with all your valuables---everybody knows that. I wouldn't get near an airport with any instrument I valued...............................Omeboy


Edited by - Omeboy on 12/06/2019 07:57:01

waystation - Posted - 12/06/2019:  13:22:06


Unfortunately sometimes you have no choice but to fly with a banjo you care about. But current air transit security policies protects TSA employees and management completely against anything they do, no matter how badly thought out. If you give people the chance to do their job in whatever manner they choose, with no consequence to them when things go wrong, and you underpay them to boot, it's not hard to guess what will happen. That's why I try to make things as simple and labor-free as possible. So far, so good.

Meestro - Posted - 01/12/2020:  19:36:51


Travel alot with my tenors and mostly in a soft case strapped onto my back. Never been questioned and everyone takes great care because they know it can’t be jammed into the overhead in the same manner as one in a hard shell case.

Glad to hear that Southwest is great now as they had the reputation of being the absolute worst for a number of years, years ago. The musicians’ union hit them hard with an advertising campaign and lobbied Congress so things turned around really fast because many different unions boycotted Southwest. I even brought home a like-new one-owner Gibson L7NCE in the original hard shell California case about 10 years ago and didn’t have an issue fitting it in the overhead. Gate check at the very least so you have the right to open and close the case for security before heading to the gate. I worry more about the border guys that get all hot and bothered about the ebony, or pernambuco bows with ivory eyes. The miserable ones don’t want to know where you got the instrument from. They have the right to ask where the maker got the endangered woods from. Some of these instruments and bows are 300 years old. A well-known visiting orchestra from Europe was enroute to Carnegie Hall a few years ago, when all of the string instruments were held at the US border along with the bells of the Heckle bassoons which have an ivory ring on the end. New York musicians and luthiers rose to the occasion to scrounge up and lend quality instruments but they will never hear that orchestra again in the US. Just plain silly.

waystation - Posted - 01/13/2020:  06:45:40


quote:

Originally posted by Omeboy

In my case, you're "preaching to the choir." I used to fly in the old days with my Mark Leaf. They inspected it the case first and then relocked it. That was the days before all the terrorist crap. Fortunately, I never had a problem back then. Nowadays the TSA are basically careless with all your valuables---everybody knows that. I wouldn't get near an airport with any instrument I valued...............................Omeboy






Unless you don't care about what you sound like when you travel, you're bound to travel with an instrument you value. I don't fly with an instrument I can't replace. No one outside of driving distance will ever hear my 1929 Gibson. Fortunately I can find modern banjos that do the job.



Maybe we should set up a banjo player's co-op to offer some of our spare banjos (most of us have a few) to traveling players when they come to our area. That way we avoid the hassles of traveling with an instrument and we can all be assured of having something to play when we get where we're going.



Eric, are you listening? The Hangout is the perfect place to offer the service. Let everyone register their location and the banjo(s) they're willing to lend. Members can verify their home address before being eligible to borrow an instrument, so they can be found if a banjo disappears.  Maybe the Hangout can charge a small fee for the service, so it becomes a revenue stream and helps keep the Hangout afloat.



We can all borrow a banjo from the cloud when we need it at the cost of making one of ours available when needed. BHO makes a little money, and we get to meet each other face to face. And the TSA folks don't have to pick up those heavy banjo cases. Win all around.

rsqswmr - Posted - 01/13/2020:  09:10:20


(Glad to hear that Southwest is great now as they had the reputation of being the absolute worst for a number of years, years ago. The musicians’ union hit them hard with an advertising campaign and lobbied Congress so things turned around really fast because many different unions boycotted Southwest.)

Been working for them for 20 years SWA has always been instrument friendly, you might have the wrong airline. Only time problems arise is when you don’t get early boarding (because traveler is too cheap to pay for it) and you’re the last in the C group but overhead bin space has always been first come first serve just like seating. Even back before the ABC groups the color boarding cards, overhead bin was first come first serve.

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