Instruments and Airplanes: Legally Speaking

802 Legal Corner

Volume CVI, No. 12December, 2006

Harvey Mars, Esq.

Recently, several musicians have brought to my attention a problem which probably affects just about every musician who is compelled to travel via air to get to a job. How can they safely stow away their musical instruments while they travel by airplane? In fact, it was brought to my attention that many air carriers have refused to permit musicians to carry their musical instruments on to aircrafts even through they were capable of fitting within overhead compartments on the plane.

This situation has caused grave inconvenience to traveling musicians whose instruments either have arrived damaged or who have lost work because they were not allowed to carry their instrument on the flight. With recent terror threats this situation will only get worse.

The Transportation Security Administration submitted a letter to AFM President Tom Lee on Jan. 17, 2003 indicating that airlines were instructed to permit professional musicians to carry on their musical instruments in addition to the one carry-on item they are normally permitted to bring onto the aircraft. If musicians had difficulty carrying their instruments aboard the aircraft, they were advised to speak to a TSA screening supervisor for a resolution. The letter is available on the AFM and 802 Web sites.

In addition to the TSA directive, section 2357(F)(5) of the Air Operator Technical Administration Manual issued by the Federal Aviation Administration, airlines are required to create a carry-on baggage program that provides procedures for the storage of unusual articles such as musical instruments. It is not known the extent to which carriers have complied with this regulation.

While it is assuring that some positive steps have been taken by the federal government to address this problem, it remains to be seen whether the TSA will enforce its prior directive given recent terrorist threats to air carriers.

Musicians need to be prepared in advance to make alternative arrangements for the transportation of their instruments, if necessary. One logical place to start is to address this issue with the employer who requires you to travel. If another seat needs to be purchased for the instruments, make sure the employer knows of this and adequately compensates for the additional expense.

Further, make sure your instruments are adequately insured so that they can be repaired or replaced in the event they are damaged in transit.

These are trying times for all of us. But I think that with advance planning, flexibility and a little patience, musicians will be able to ensure the safety of their musical instruments while at the same time the TSA attempts to ensure all of our safety.

Harvey Mars is counsel for Local 802. He can be reached at