Important: US posts new rules for airlines and instruments

The following letter went out last night from the American Federation of Musicians. Print it out and carry it with you at all times.

The rules are now unequivocal. You have the right to take certain instruments on board.


smashed violin BA

From today, this need never happen again.


December 31, 2014

Dear Member,

I am pleased to announce that on December 30, 2014 the United States Department of Transportation released the long awaited final administrative rule which fully implements section 403 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2012 – the law authorizing musical instruments as carry-on baggage onboard US air carriers.  This historic accomplishment was led by your Union and made possible through efforts by Members of Congress who are longtime AFM allies, and officers and rank and file members of Local 161-710, Washington, DC.  We were also assisted by the Department of Professional Employees, AFL-CIO and by many of our music industry partners.

I am currently analyzing the rule in order to bring you a concise, comprehensive explanation of these new policies and how they affect you.  Look for that analysis soon and in the February edition of the International Musician.  However, I’d like to bring to your attention several important points that I believe are worthy of your immediate attention.

•    Airlines are required to allow small musical instruments, such as a violin or guitar, to be carried into the cabin and stowed in approved stowage spaces, if available, and/or under the seat.
•    Once safely stowed, airlines cannot require passengers to remove their instruments, even if space taken by their instrument could accommodate one or more other carry-on items.
•    Airlines cannot charge an additional fee for instruments as carry-on or checked baggage other than any standard fee imposed by the carrier.
•    Airlines are now required to train air crews, gate agents, counter agents and baggage personnel concerning appropriate procedures necessary to comply with all FAA musical instrument transportation policies.

Those of you interested in reading the rule can do so here:

I want to acknowledge the work of our National Legislative Office-Office of Government Relations and the two Directors who helped usher this process through to the end – Alfonso Pollard, our current Director and former Director Hal Ponder, who retired in the spring of 2013.  Special recognition is in order for International Executive Board Member and Local 257 President Dave Pomeroy, Local 161-710 President Ed Malaga and Secretary Treasurer Marta Bradley, and National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) violist and ICSOM Governing Board Member Jennifer Mondie, who attended my recent meetings with Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, his General Counsel Kathryn Thomson and DOT Deputy Assistant General Counsel, Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings and their staff.  I believe it was the impromptu solo performances by Dave and Jennifer at our discussion sessions that may have led the Federal Government to finally come around to our way of thinking.  I also want to thank major and regional airline executives for their work and cooperation in bringing these important new policies to fruition.

Finally, please accept my best wishes for a happy, healthy and productive New Year!

Sincerely and fraternally yours,

Raymond M. Hair, Jr., International President
American Federation of Musicians
of the United States and Canada

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  • Thank goodness. Maybe finally, just finally there will be less drama for many of us who do travel with their babies (instruments) on-board. Too bad it’s for USA only.

    Happy New Year!

  • Recalcitrant gate agents and flight attendants still have to be trained……some friends have still had trouble even while showing these rules to them.

  • Better, but some loopholes that are likely still to cause trouble for musicians (I put them in caps). For example, many airlines charge $100 for oversize luggage (which includes cellos) and USAirways does not allow cellos to be checked as baggage at all (even in a special travel case). I do not see how this language addresses those problems.

    • Airlines are required to allow small musical instruments, such as a violin or guitar, to be carried into the cabin and stowed in approved stowage spaces, IF AVAILABLE, and/or under the seat.

    • Airlines cannot charge an additional fee for instruments as carry-on or checked baggage OTHER THAN ANY STANDARD FEE imposed by the carrier.

  • The rules also don’t require airlines to permit you to purchase an extra seat for a large instrument.

    They can allow you to do that if they wish but they don’t have to, which is pretty much the same as it is now.

  • ” Once safely stowed, airlines cannot require passengers to remove their instruments…”

    All a stewardess needs to do is assert that an instrument is not “safely stowed”. In a dispute between a passenger and a stewardess, who do you suppose the airport police will side with?

  • Although it is a good thing that if a violin or viola is already in an overhead bin they cannot require you to remove it so that other passengers can put their carry-ons up there instead.

  • Our issue was that were in the last boarding group. Before the preboarding, my daughter ask to get her violin on board but they refused. By the time we got boarded, the in cabin storage was full. I had to get a supervisor who finally allowed us to put it underneath our two seats. She would not have been able to do that if we were not flying together. It was horrible the way we were treated!

  • I had the same problem here in the UK 2years ago. I won’t declare which airline it was, it could have repercussions. I was treated horribly by a stewardess who grabbed my instrument despite my objections & marched down to the door of the plane to have it put in the hold. The hold was locked ready for take off so she reluctantly brought it back & insisted on putting it on the empty seat in front of me ,stood up with safety belt around it. The plane was half empty with ample room in the overhead lockers , I wasn’t allowed to sit with my violin on the empty row in front of me. I spent the 2 -1/2 hrs flight with my arms around the seat & violin. People in the uk will know what airline I am referring to , I was disgusted

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