Airline Carry-On Instrument Policies

The larger airlines seem to agree on how to accommodate musical instruments, most allow you to walk aboard with a smaller case at no extra charge.
But it’s always best to be armed with the knowledge of your airline’s policies and here they are!

Southwest 

Airlines

Carry-On Dimensions: 10 x 16 x 24 inches                              Personal Item Dimensions: 8.5 x 13.5 x 18.5 inches

If your musical instrument (including case or covering) exceeds carry-on restrictions, it CAN be carried onboard.

The instrument must fit in an overhead bin or under a seat onboard the aircraft.

Space in overheard compartment is NOT guaranteed. Seats may be bought for larger instruments that do not fit in the overhead compartment at a price “no greater than the Child’s Fare.” 

Southwest assumes no liability for any damage sustained to the item during transport.

American

Airlines

Carry-On Dimensions: 9 x 14 x 22 inches                                 
Personal Item Dimensions: 8 x 14 x 18 inches
 

You can travel with small musical instruments as your carry-on item on a first come, first serve basis as long as it fits in the overhead bin or fits under the seat in front of you.

Seats may be bought for larger instruments that do not fit in the overhead compartment at an “applicable adult fare.” 

American Airlines will only be liable for damages to musical instruments if  your instrument is in a hard-sided case and the outside of the case is visibly damaged.

Delta

Carry-On Dimensions: 9 x 14 x 22 inches                                 
Personal Item Dimensions: Personal items must be able to fit securely under the seat in front of the passenger.
 
Guitars and other smaller musical instruments, such as violins, will be accepted as your free carry-on baggage item on Delta and Delta Connection® carrier’s flights. These items must easily fit in the overhead bin or other approved storage location in the cabin.
 
Based on available space at the time of boarding, space is NOT guaranteed.
 
Musical instruments may be gate claimed at the discretion of the passenger and as a result of limited overhead space. 
 
No information on liability, but assume they don’t take responsibility.

United 

Airlines

Carry-On Dimensions: 9 x 14 x 22 inches                                 
Personal Item Dimensions: 9 x 10 x 17 inches
 
You may carry a violin, guitar or other small musical instrument on board as part of your carry-on baggage allowance as long as the instrument is placed in a hard case and there is space in the overhead bins or under the seat in front of you when you board the aircraft.
 
If you are traveling on a Basic Economy ticket, your personal item will be the only item you can bring on board.
 
No direct information on carry-on liability, but assume they don’t take responsibility.
 

JetBlue

Carry-On Dimensions: 9 x 14 x 22 inches                                 
Personal Item Dimensions: 8 x 13 x 17 inches
 
A musical instrument is allowed in place of one carry-on item, provided it can be stowed properly under the seat or in an overhead bin. 
 
The standard carry-on baggage size limitations do NOT apply to musical instruments.
 
JetBlue is NOT required to give musical instruments priority over other carry-on baggage.
 
JetBlue is NOT responsible for damage to baggage carried in the cabin or as checked baggage if it’s not packed properly.
 

Spirit

Airlines

Carry-On Dimensions: 10 x 18 x 22 inches                                 
Personal Item Dimensions: 8 x 14 x 18 inches
 
Baggage Fees apply to ALL carry-on items (size and weight charges may apply).
 
Musical instruments are permitted as carry-on baggage as long as they fit within Spirit Airlines carry-on dimensions.
 
If the instrument exceeds the size restrictions for carry-on baggage and/or the customer believes that the instrument is too fragile to be handled as checked baggage, the customer must purchase an extra seat for the instrument at applicable fare. 
 

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Im a professional NY/Nj Trombonist member or AMF with prospective Gigs in Florida. How can I bring my horn with me onboard for safety and security? The hard case is 8x11x35 inches.

    1. Mr. Bendon,

      Our trombone specialist, Christian Paarup, says that he avoids checking his trombone as often as possible. If it must be checked, he recommends padding the inside of the case with clothing to minimize the potential for damage.

      What most of our musicians do is travel with an airline that allows them to board early, whether by checking in early or paying extra for priority boarding. This guarantees that there is still space in the overhead compartments to carry on your instrument — board the plane too late and you’ll probably be forced to check the trombone at the gate. Christian uses a Marcus Bonna Super Light case (https://houghtonhorns.com/shop/marcus-bonna-tenor-trombone-super-light/) that is small enough to fit in an airline’s overhead compartment.

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