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Thread: Mandolins on airplanes

  1. #1
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    Default Mandolins on airplanes

    We will be flying across the country to be with our grown children during the holidays. I have been tasked to bring my mandolin. Do airlines let you carry them on? I hope I donít have to buy it its own seat! Certainly donít want to check it.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    I have had no trouble with putting my Collings A case in the overhead, and have never been challenged by airline staff. But that's a small case. The big, square TKL that houses my F would never make the grade.

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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    I have an Eastman A and a hard case. Glad to hear yours fits.

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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    I will say, however, that most of those airline trips were to Hawaii on Hawaiian Arlines. They're so used to Ukeleles flying back and forth, I think they're a little soft on regulations.

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    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    There are several good threads on this subject, but it is a fluid situation so it is good to hear recent experience.

    I haven't flown with one in the last year, but I haven't had any trouble. I do carry whatever mandolin in a gator lightweight case, which is smaller and lighter than most original equipment cases.

    There seems to be a lot of airtravel outrage lately but I haven't heard any related to mandolins.
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  8. #6

    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    In the past six months, I flew twice on Southwest Airlines with a mandolin as my carry-on luggage in the overhead bin. First was bringing a Gibson A-50 back from Phoenix, Arizona (wonder where I got that?) to Maryland. The second trip was bringing a Gibson Army-Navy out to Phoenix in a soft gig bag. I had no problem getting it on the plane either time and experienced no problems whatsoever.

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  10. #7
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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    I traveled twice last month, without any problems. Just try and get on early so there is a close spot in the overhead bin. And tell people not to try and squeeze their bag into your bin spot. I would not use a soft gig bag.

  11. #8
    mandonucs John Uhrig's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    I've never had a problem taking mine as carry on. Last time I flew (American Airlines), they let a guy carry on his electric bass in a soft case and he put it in the overhead storage...no questions asked
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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    I travel several times a month on Southwest and have never had a problem boarding with my mandolin in a hard case and stowing it in the overhead. If you fly SW, I do suggest getting the "early bird" check-in to make sure that you board early and can take your pick of seat and overhead space.

  13. #10
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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    FWIW, I have traveled with a mandolin since 2005 (yes I still am not good, but I take it with me to try and learn). I have never had an issue either domestic or international travelling with a mandolin.

    Only suggestion is to try and get on the plane early so you can get an overhead place near you. Twice there was no overhead room and the flight attendants were willing to put my mandolin in their closet since it was small.
    I can only play half as much as I want, because I only play half as much as I would like.

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    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    If you are on a full-size plane you should be fine. On smaller regional jets you would probably have to gate-check it.

    One of my kids went to college across the country, and always traveled with his viola. (Much bigger than a mandolin case.) Southwest was always very solicitous of the instrument, even having him carry it on when he already had two other carry-ons. He checked it a few times, too, on other airlines. Bobelock fiberglass case, padded case cover, and every extra cubic centimeter stuffed with T-shirts and socks for extra padding and cushioning. Made me nervous, but it got where it was going fine.

    Leslie, a young woman of our acquaintance always found that stuffing her case with women's undergarments kept TSA from going through it too aggressively.

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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    There are lots of previous threads on the MC about traveling on airplanes with mandolins. You would do well to check these out! There's a wealth of useful advice in them, not worth repeating here for the umpteenth time. In general, if you play your cards right, you can store your mandolin in the overhead on nearly all major flights that use large aircraft. You cannot store it under your seat, and you cannot count on using the onboard closet, either (unless you're in first class or lucky). This assumes, of course, that sufficient overhead space is still available at the time when you board. These days, to ensure that, you either have to have priority in boarding, or manage to board early, or manage to get on an underbooked flight.

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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    Whether you can take it on board or not,might still very well be down to the check in clerk = some will let you, & some may tell you to check it into the hold !. Hopefully,you'll be lucky,but it's not a 100% certainty,so be aware of that fact,
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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    Just flew with mine in one of those white Eastman (or Superior?) cases. I flew on Frontier (smaller planes) and had no issue whatsoever. My guitar player took his guitar on as well. The person gate checking told him he'd have to check it, but the stewardess on the plane told him to forget it and put it in the overhead. People are crazy.

    To make things easiest, don't even bother inquiring about it, just carry it on as if you are carrying it into your local jam.

    PS: TSA frowns on asking about going behind the scenes to see the mandolin in the x-ray thing.
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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    There are lots of previous threads on the MC about traveling on airplanes with mandolins. You would do well to check these out! There's a wealth of useful advice in them, not worth repeating here for the umpteenth time. In general, if you play your cards right, you can store your mandolin in the overhead on nearly all major flights that use large aircraft. You cannot store it under your seat, and you cannot count on using the onboard closet, either (unless you're in first class or lucky). This assumes, of course, that sufficient overhead space is still available at the time when you board. These days, to ensure that, you either have to have priority in boarding, or manage to board early, or manage to get on an underbooked flight.
    Admittedly, I got lucky and had 2 good flight attendants when they were gracious enough to store in a closet during the flight.
    I can only play half as much as I want, because I only play half as much as I would like.

  19. #16

    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    I flew Southwest in September with my banjo in a calton case. I paid the extra fees for group A and had no other carry on bags. Walked on an went to the back where there was an empty bin. No issues either way. I carry a mandolin in a Pegasus shaped case quite often without a problem. Be nice and don’t carry much else!
    Good luck

  20. #17

    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    Previous threads have focused on vintage or modern instruments that contain CITES I and II materials -- Brazilian rosewood, ivory, etc. and their seizure by customs agents. Many, if not most, modern instruments would not be affected unless they contain so-called exotic wood or trim material.

  21. #18
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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    Take extra strings out of your case, as I know people who have them confiscated. I guess they make a nice impromptu garotte.

  22. #19
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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    Take extra strings out of your case, as I know people who have them confiscated. I guess they make a nice impromptu garotte.
    A fiddler I know, I woman five feet tall at most, was told that she had to remove the strings from her violin. She said, "Look, I'm a tiny woman. Do you think I'm going to climb up on a seat, get my fiddle out of the overhead compartment, spread my case across my and my neighbour's laps, remove a string, and attack someone with it, before anyone notices?" They accepted her argument, but what would have happened if she was five foot four?

    (On the other hand, my sweetheart checked a fiddle, leaving the strings tight, and the neck snapped due to the temperature drop. Take warning, and loosen your strings when flying.)
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    I don't know why some folks insist on spreading these outrageous horror stories -- most of them second-hand and entirely unverified! -- from an earlier time when air travel regulations were quite different. And some of those stories were exceptional even then, and not representative of 99% of travelers with instruments. Others are simply "tall tales" that, like the Paul Bunyan stories, just grew and grew in the re-telling. Furthermore, they're not relevant to air travel today. No, you do not have to remove the strings from any stringed instrument to travel on an aircraft. That rule simply does not exist! Actually, it never existed -- not even shortly after 9/11/2001.

    I recommend that you stop listening to the tall tales and instead read this document from the League of American Orchestras, on tips for traveling with instruments:

    https://americanorchestras.org/learn...t=WyJhaXIiXQ==

    On the other hand, it's a very good idea to loosen the strings on an instrument before traveling, to relieve pressure on the head and neck, in case of bumps, jolts, or rapid changes in temperature or humidity. You don't have to let them go fully slack by any means, just gently loosen them. The same holds for long-distance travel by boat, bus, car, or train. This is just a part of taking good care of your valuable instrument. Oh, and invest in a really good case!

  24. #21
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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    No problems whatsoever.
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  25. #22
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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    I don't know why some folks insist on spreading these outrageous horror stories -- most of them second-hand and entirely unverified! -- from an earlier time when air travel regulations were quite different. And some of those stories were exceptional even then, and not representative of 99% of travelers with instruments. Others are simply "tall tales" that, like the Paul Bunyan stories, just grew and grew in the re-telling. Furthermore, they're not relevant to air travel today. No, you do not have to remove the strings from any stringed instrument to travel on an aircraft. That rule simply does not exist! Actually, it never existed -- not even shortly after 9/11/2001.

    I recommend that you stop listening to the tall tales and instead read this document from the League of American Orchestras, on tips for traveling with instruments:

    https://americanorchestras.org/learn...t=WyJhaXIiXQ==
    Thanks for the American Orchestra reference, and for letting me know that my friend is a liar and that I'm spreading tall tales. It's funny, I've known her for a number of years, and she isn't in the habit of telling tall tales. But now I can safely assume that you, sblock, have travelled all airlines in all countries since 9/11 and are the last word on this subject.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

  26. #23
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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    Thanks for the American Orchestra reference, and for letting me know that my friend is a liar and that I'm spreading tall tales. It's funny, I've known her for a number of years, and she isn't in the habit of telling tall tales. But now I can safely assume that you, sblock, have travelled all airlines in all countries since 9/11 and are the last word on this subject.
    Ah, but Ranald, you are spreading tall tales! Your story, regardless of whether it happens to be true, or has been somewhat exaggerated, is not the norm for air travel with a violin. And it never was the norm. Learn to read more closely, please: I did not at any point call you, nor your friend, a liar. I wrote that the story you related was "exceptional" and "not representative." I said that your telling of this story was "second-hand" and "unverified." I stand by all those things.

    Your story simply does not ring true to my ears, particularly the part about your friend having been excused from removing her violin strings on the silly grounds that she was too short to reach easily into the overhead compartment to grab her violin in flight and de-string it. That kind of accessibility argument has never been a criterion for deciding whether an object brought onboard poses a danger or not, as a possible weapon! Could it have been some nutsy flight attendant gone rogue? Possibly. It can happen. In such situations, the proper thing to do is to remain calm and call in a supervisor. And note that in your story, your friend did manage to travel with her violin aboard and did not remove any of the strings, so it came to nothing in the end.

    No, I have not traveled on "all airlines" in "all countries" since 9/11. No one has! You're being quite ridiculous. But then again, I have traveled extensively (hundreds of thousands of miles, in fact) with a mandolin, on many airlines and to many countries, both before and since 9/11. I'd wager that I've traveled a good deal more with my instrument than you have! So please stop trying to scare folks, and don't challenge my experience with your own.

    As you will have seen from so many other comments in this thread, traveling with a mandolin has actually gotten easier, not harder, over the past few years, thanks to improvements in the FAA rules regarding instruments, and to more uniform application of these rules by individual airlines. The situation is by no means perfect, and my fellow musicians still experience occasional problems (particularly on smaller aircraft, or or when boarding with low seating priority on large aircraft that are fully booked). But for the most part, traveling with a mandolin in the overhead compartment is downright straightforward whenever it's a larger aircraft (not a puddle-jumper or regional jet) and you can snag early boarding -- one way or another.

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  28. #24

    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    I have carried mandolins on airplanes without problems. I use a small hard case, no a gig bag. Some airlines have ticket pricing that restricts you from placing items in the overhead bins. I had one of these tickets once and on the flight out no one questioned me puting the mando in the overhead bin, On the return flight one of the crew was not going to let me carry it on until I told them it was a musical instrument. Seems that musical instruments were an exception. This was on a United flight.

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    Default Re: Mandolins on airplanes

    It’s all good...until it isn’t...

    Usually it’s fine, but be prepared in case it’s not...
    Chuck

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