In what is being hailed as a victory by traveling musicians in the US, the latest reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration has codified provisions that create a uniform national standard for musical instruments being treated as carry-on luggage.
This legislation establishes that any instrument which can be safely stowed either in an overhead bin or under an airline seat may be carried aboard for domestic airline travel. The American Federation of Musicians has been actively lobbying for this language for several years.
“This is great news for professional musicians throughout the U.S. and Canada who carry the tools of our trade – our instruments – aboard commercial aircraft,” said AFM President Ray Hair. “Ending the confusion over musical instruments as carry-on baggage has been a top legislative priority for nearly a decade. Musicians can now fly in friendlier skies.”
Left uncertain by these new provisions is the definition of when an instrument can be “safely” stored overhead or under a seat, so it is probably still good advice to check with an air carrier before flying, and obtaining information in advance concerning the size of overhead compartments and under seat storage before arriving at the airport. Additionally, carry-on status will still limited by available space, so nothing here guarantees that your guitar or banjo will end up on the plane.
There are also provisions regarding larger instruments up to 150 pounds.
Here is the full text of the relevant portion of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which passed both chambers last week, and is expected to be signed by the President.
SEC. 403. MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Subchapter I of chapter 417 is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘‘§ 41724. Musical instruments
‘‘(a) 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 instrument in the aircraft cabin, without charging the passenger a fee in addition to any standard fee that 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 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 so as 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 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 carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the Administrator.
‘‘(b) REGULATIONS.—Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this section, the Secretary shall issue final regulations to carry out subsection (a).
‘‘(c) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The requirements of this section shall become effective on the date of issuance of the final regulations under subsection (b).’’.
(b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT.—The analysis for such sub-chapter is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘‘41724. Musical instruments.’’.