Two documents for you to print out and carry when flying with an instrument

Two documents for you to print out and carry when flying with an instrument


norman lebrecht

December 11, 2013

Section 403 of an FAA law, dated Feb 14, 2012, entitles everyone to carry certain instruments on board any airline flight over the US. Print this now (just pages 74-75 or 84-85, depending on reader) and carry it in your violin case. Thanks to Fenella Humphries for the link.

In Europe there is no such entitlement yet, but the attached FIM document has been known to work on obstreperous airline staff. Print this now. Thanks to Peter Cigleris.

Musicians have a right to fly. Let’s exert it.

broken guitar


  • nick says:

    Why would anyone try carrying 145 pages of physical paper when boarding planes?

    • aminorfigure says:

      He gives the two relevant page numbers on the FAA bill… I’ve had a copy of the PDF saved on my phone since it came out, but sometimes a physical copy is way, way better. You can hand it over, let the flight attendants pour over it as long as they want, ball it up and throw it… All things impossible (or inadvisable) to do with your phone. Although, if you want to be a jerk back to the flight attendants who are inevitably being jerks to you, presenting them with a 145-page bill to figure out sounds just fine.

  • Thank you Norman.

    I notice this is a Musicians’ Union link. This is an issue that is also a concern for the ISM (Incorporated Society of Musicians) too.

    Glad to see the FIA have done something: now time to put the situation right in Europe too.

    There are regularly stories of Youth Orchestras who face the problem when touring that the instruments are not allowed to travel with the young person in the cabin let alone with professional players. Enough is Enough.

  • Warren Cohen says:

    For American travel the relevant pages are pages 74 and 75. That is all you have to print of the document

  • robcat2075 says:

    Gate attendants love to be presented with 145 page documents.

    If the airlines haven’t officially promulgated these rule changes to their staff yet, will this really get anything for a traveling musician?

  • g says:

    For the record: No airline flying in US airspace is required to comply before February 14, 2014. Most have updated their procedures and policies to reflect the law, but they are not required to accommodate your instrument until February. It pays to know your rights, especially when you’re trying to invoke them.

  • Alison Ames says:

    re g’s comment, above: happy valentine’s day!

  • PK Miller says:

    This assumes Airline personnel are reasonably intelligent, literate, actually CARE about their customers . The latter is probably the most improbable of the trio. My concern is if you start giving Airline personnel a hard time about this issue, Homeland Security is going to be called and it could be extremely unpleasant. Our Empire State Youth Orchestra, I understand, has not had a difficult time when they have gone on a European tour. I don’t know–it never occurred to me to ask–if maybe they had chartered flights to accommodate all the young people, staff, chaperones, etc. It’s all the erosion of basic customer service across the board.

    • ed says:

      You are right. So, if, notwithstanding the letter of the law, airline personnel don’t agree, then you still get booted and may get no more than an apology for it later, (and, maybe- or maybe not- a change in the airline’s procedures for future flights that are consistent with the FAA regs.) The system is rife with contradictions and the risk of last minute arbitrary behavior, so much so that passengers don’t know what to expect and must walk on eggshells with a hope and a prayer. If you are insistent you are out- and if too insistent, manhandled and out. What is most frustrating is that all the planning in advance, including paying extra for it, won’t help you if some bozo (TSA or not) drops a fly in your soup.

      A smart airline would pick up on this and reach out to musicians and others to increase their ridership and revenues, but with no accountability, sometimes there is no “smart”.

      Let’s see what happens on and after Valentine’s Day.

  • Martin Lass says:

    This is excellent! Thanks!

  • Lindsay Groves says:

    I can’t find a single page number.

    • aminorfigure says:

      “Print this now (just pages 74-75)”


    • H Boyle says:

      the document should download as a pdf file which constrains the pages so that they are not renumbered by a word processor. You should be looking at the file in some sort of viewer, such as Adobe Acrobat or in the case of a Mac, the Preview program will open it. . If you choose ‘print’ and then narrow the page range to pages 84 and 85 in the ensuing print dialog box, you don’t actually have to look through the document. NOTE that I have changed the pages as my below correction suggested. 84 and 85 not 74-5

      • aminorfigure says:

        People who are saying it’s 84-85 are probably experiencing what Mark says below–PDF viewer weirdness. I saw your other comment saying yours is showing page 1 as page 10. Mine WAS 74-75, viewed in Adobe, and yours ended up as 74-75 for printing purposes. Apparently, your mileage may vary. Just use common sense and don’t print it without looking!

  • Sue says:

    It’s actually pages 84 and 85. There is absolutely nothing on 74 or 75 about musical instruments. Don’t print the wrong pages without checking!

    • Mark says:

      PDFs often have significant text reflow when viewed on a computer that doesn’t have the font loaded, if those fonts are not embedded into the document. It’s a setting that has to be chosen at creation time. Even when you do embed them, it sometimes doesn’t work if the viewer is not on the same platform (eg: PC vs Mac). I’m guessing the entire document is now showing a lot more than 145 pages on your computer.

  • Alan says:

    The ISB is working to educate the airlines on this new law ( which doesn’t actually take effect unt next Feb 14). Good luck in Europe and let us know if we can help.

  • H Boyle says:

    Pages 84 and 85, not 74-75 are the right ones in the pdf I found attached at the link.

  • gibil says:

    I wonder if this applies for other artists who carry performance equipment such as jugglers and fire performers ((I know a lot of artists who have had severe problems to the point they normally ship their show and include that as a part of the cost))

  • HBoyle says:

    I see the problem so I should correct my previous post. To VIEW the pages you look at 84-85 but to PRINT them you still print 74-75. The document as displayed in PDF starts with page 10, but as recognized by a printer the first page is page 1 no matter what the printed number is. This often happens with pdfs, and I didn’t catch it until I ‘printed’ (saved as another short pdf actually) the file myself.

  • Marius says:

    The quickest way to get to the relevant section when using Adobe Reader, is to type Sec. 403 in the “Find” field and press Enter twice.

  • Sara Nathan says:

    Just did quick trip to Istanbul with eight students of 5/6 nationalities, three violins, a viola, a cello with its own seat and a double bass in a flight case with no papers for any instrument. Felt quite smug at getting them all there – and indeed back – with merely patience, determination and one Turkish speaking UK 16-year old to sort it out.