Posted by bellf on Friday, March 1, 2019
Notes on flying with a banjo (international)
I traveled from Melbourne Australia to Asheville NC, with a banjo as carry on (mostly). Here’s a breakdown of how it went.
First flight: Melbourne to LA. Qantas flight. I simply walked on the plane with my banjo (Goldtone BG250F) in its hardcase. No questions were asked and I easily fit the banjo into the overhead locker.
Second Flight: LA to Charlotte, American Airlines. I tried to walk on with my banjo, but the gate agent made me gate check it. I think this was because the flight was full. When I got off the plane my banjo was waiting for me.
Third Flight: Charlotte to Asheville, American Airlines. I got the banjo onto the plane fine, but the overhead compartments were smaller in this plane, and my banjo did not fit. I asked the flight attendants for help and they very kindly made some space in the crew’s storage space.
Fourth Flight: Asheville to Charlotte. American Airlines. I took the banjo on the plane. Again, the overhead compartment was too small. The flight attendants seemed to store it under some seats.
This flight was delayed and arrived late so that I only had 15 minutes for my next flight, and I had to get a fair distance across Charlotte airport (probably a twenty minute walk). I ran with my banjo, which was quite a workout, but I made it in time.
Fifth Flight: Charlotte to LA, American Airlines. Once again, no problem getting the banjo on the plane and into the overhead compartment.
Sixth Flight: LA to Melbourne, Qantas. There was no problem with the gate agents but when I was walking onto the plane a flight attendant asked me if I had purchased a seat for my banjo. I told her I had not and she made me leave it with her to be stored below. I was annoyed by this because I knew that the banjo would fit in the overhead compartment, and it turned out that there was an empty seat next to me on the flight anyway. When I arrived in Melbourne, I had to collect the banjo from the oversize luggage collection area. The case was placed upside down - not necessarily a problem, but it does show a lack of care. The banjo was not damaged.
What to make of this? It seems the American flight attendants are much more helpful to musicians than the Australian flight attendants. Was my experience on the sixth flight bad luck, or the first flight good luck? I’ll have to fly more to find out. If others record their experiences it might help build up a picture on how to fly with a banjo internationally.
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