Can a Guitar Be Carry-on Luggage on a Plane?

If you are planning to travel by air with your guitar and suddenly wondered, ‘Can a guitar be carry-on luggage on a plane? Maybe because the guitar is a delicate instrument and you don’t want to check it in, it doesn’t get damaged.

Well, the answer is yes! You can, of course, fly with your guitar as carry-on luggage on a plane without paying additional money or checking it in.

This answer is highly reliant on the size of your guitar and the airline’s policies regarding travelers carrying musical instruments as carry-on luggage.

Therefore, if the size of your guitar is compatible with the aircraft cabin or under the passenger’s seat on the plane, you will not have any problem taking it as carry-on luggage.

However, if the guitar is too big and cannot fit under the passenger’s seat or in the aircraft’s cabin, there is a problem. At this point, if you must fly with it, you must buy a ticket for a different seat on the aircraft.

While it is true that you can bring your guitar on board as carry-on luggage, it is best to contact the airline to learn about its policies on travelers flying with their musical instruments along as carry-on luggage.

You should contact the airline before making a payment for your flight ticket. So, if their policies work for you, you are sure you won’t encounter any problem flying with your guitar as carry-on luggage.

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012

Furthermore, let us look at the excerpt from the FAA Modernisation and Reform Act 2012 about traveling with musical instruments such as guitars.

The then-President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. This new reform act contains various regulations for musical instruments, particularly for traveling musicians.

403. MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS.

Sec. 41724. Musical instruments. In general …

1. Small instruments as carry-on baggage

An air carrier providing air transportation shall permit a passenger to carry a violin, guitar, or other musical instruments in the aircraft cabin, without charging the passenger a fee in addition to any standard fee that the carrier may require for comparable carry-on baggage; if…

(A) the instrument can be stowed safely in a suitable baggage compartment in the aircraft cabin or under a passenger seat, in accordance with the requirements for the carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the Administrator; and

(B) there is space for such stowage at the time the passenger boards the aircraft.

2. Larger instruments as carry-on baggage

An air carrier providing air transportation shall permit a passenger to carry a musical instrument that is too large to meet the requirements of paragraph (1) in the aircraft cabin without charging the passenger a fee in addition to the cost of the additional ticket described in subparagraph (E), if …

(A) the instrument is contained in a case or covered to avoid injury to other passengers;

(B) the weight of the instrument, including the case or covering, does not exceed 165 pounds or the applicable weight restrictions for the aircraft;

(C) the instrument can be stowed in accordance with the requirements for the carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the Administrator;

(D) neither the instrument nor the case contains any object not otherwise permitted to be carried in an aircraft cabin because of a law or regulation of the United States; and

(E) the passenger wishing to carry the instrument in the aircraft cabin has purchased an additional seat to accommodate the instrument.

3. Large instruments as checked baggage

An air carrier shall transport as baggage a musical instrument that is the property of a passenger traveling in air transportation that may not be carried in the aircraft cabin if …

(A) the sum of the length, width, and height measured in inches of the outside linear dimensions of the instrument (including the case) does not exceed 150 inches or the applicable size restrictions for the aircraft;

(B) the weight of the instrument does not exceed 165 pounds or the applicable weight restrictions for the aircraft; and

(C) the instrument can be stowed in accordance with the requirements for the carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the Administrator.

Flying With Your Guitar? Here are a Few Tips You Should Know.

As discussed above, the law permits travelers to fly with their guitars as carry-on luggage; however, airlines are not obliged to handle your precious guitar with absolute care.

So, in this section, we will discuss some essential tips to help you keep your guitar safe while flying on a plane. Some travelers have had cases of damaged guitar or their guitars mishandled.

Safety Tips for Flying with Guitar as Carry-on luggage

Follow the safety tips below to learn how to care for your guitar when taking it in as carry-on luggage

1. Get a flight case.

Putting your guitar in a flight case gives your delicate musical instrument maximum protection. One thing you should never do is fly a guitar without a case, weather, gig case, or hard case.

A gig case will not give your guitar the best protection, but the flight attendant won’t bother you if you travel with one.

A hard case is the best, but because of the size, the airline attendant may not allow your item to go in first because it takes up lots of spaces that other passengers might use.

2. Make your packing tight.

When packing your guitar in any of the two cases mentioned above, do not allow spaces to be in the case such that your guitar dangles from one end to the other. 

We will advise you to add some clothes to all the sides of the guitar where spaces are to prevent it from moving around, especially when the plane is turbulent.

Also, pad up your tremolo, knobs, or pickup selector switch if your guitar has. Padding them gives protection.

3. Get your guitar detuned.

When you detune your guitar before you fly, it helps to prevent damage from environmental changes like temperature, humidity, and pressure changes. These changes can lead to the expansion and contraction of the wood in your guitar.

Keep the humidifier of your guitar protected in a case; it helps to regulate humidity.

4. Know the law

Your knowledge about the law guiding traveling with musical instruments is a must-know for anyone flying their guitar as carry-on luggage. The law will guide you in situations when the airline would want to refuse you from traveling with your guitar.

Few American Airlines Policies on Flying Guitar as Carry-on Luggage

Depending on whether you fly domestically or internationally in the USA, the regulations for carrying a guitar as carry-on luggage vary. Here are a few American airlines’ policies on flying guitars as carry-on luggage.

 AirlinesAllow guitars as carry-on luggageChargesDimensions
1United AirlinesYesFreeAllow up to 63×115 inches
2American AirlinesYesFreeAllow up to 63cm x 101cm/Up to 75kg
3Spirit AirlinesYesFreeIt must not exceed 127 cm
4Delta AirlinesYesFreeAllow up to 200cm
5Southwest AirlinesYesFreeIt must not exceed 10″x16″x24″
6British AirwaysYesFee applicableAllow up to 80 x 45 x 25cm – cannot exceed 75kg (for booked seats)
7EasyJetYesFee applicableAllow up to 32kg
8EmiratesYesFee applicableAllow up to 22 x 15 x 8 inches
9Virgin AtlanticYesFee applicableIt cannot exceed 23kg
10LufthansaYesFee applicable155 cm x 42 cm x 25 cm (stood in cabin) 110 cm x 42 cm x 50 cm (strapped to the seat)

Conclusion

As you can travel with your guitar as carry-on luggage, do not forget to contact your airline to learn about their policies as regards to flying with musical instruments.

Although we have mentioned some domestic and international airline rules above, we suggest you contact them before your trip, just in case they update their policies.

Sourav Biswas

Music is my life and I love to play guitar so much. It's been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a musical family, and my parents were always supportive of my passion for music. I am also a freelance writer who has been writing for over 10 years. I have written for both online and offline publications, including Amazon and Medium.

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