Can You Bring A Guitar On A Plane?

Traveling with musical instruments can often seem daunting to musicians, given the value and fragility of their equipment. For many guitarists, the thought of parting with their instrument, even temporarily, can be anxiety-inducing. The guitar, an instrument revered for its harmonious blend of melody and rhythm, has been a travel companion for troubadours and performers for centuries.

The modern era of air travel has introduced a new set of challenges and considerations for those wishing to bring their stringed companions on a plane. Historically, concerns over damage, loss, and additional fees have troubled guitar-wielding travelers. Policies regarding the transportation of guitars on airplanes have evolved significantly, especially following incidents that attracted the public’s outcry and led to widespread calls for improved conditions. The significance of these instruments to musicians, who often regard them as extensions of themselves, has motivated airlines, travelers, and regulatory bodies to pay closer attention to how guitars are handled during flight.

can you bring a guitar on a plane

Can You Take A Guitar On A Plane?

Yes, you can take a guitar on a plane as a carry-on or checked luggage, but it’s important to be aware of the airline’s specific policies regarding musical instruments. Most airlines allow guitars as carry-on items if they fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. However, due to space limitations, it’s advisable to contact the airline in advance to ensure that your guitar can be accommodated. Some airlines might require you to purchase an additional seat for your instrument or have special handling fees. Taking your guitar on a plane can be advantageous as it ensures that you have your instrument with you for performances or practice while traveling. For a detailed discussion on airline policies, packing tips, and other considerations when flying with a guitar, continue to the next section where we delve deeper into the subject.

Carrying Guitars on USA Domestic Flights: Guidelines and Tips

Flying with musical instruments, especially guitars, within the United States can raise questions about logistics and safety. Airlines’ policies can vary, and it’s vital for travelers to be well informed to ensure a smooth journey.

Understanding TSA Regulations for Musical Instruments

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows travelers to carry musical instruments, including guitars, on domestic flights. However, there are specific guidelines passengers must adhere to:

  • Passengers should check with their airline before traveling, as policies and procedures for transporting guitars can vary.
  • Guitars are subject to screening by TSA officers, and passengers might be asked to open the case for inspection.
  • The TSA recommends that travelers arrive to the airport early to allow extra time for the screening process.
  • It’s important to consult the TSA’s official webpage on musical instruments for the most current regulations (TSA – Musical Instruments).

Airline Policies for Guitars as Carry-Ons

While TSA sets the overarching regulations for instruments at security checkpoints, the decision to allow guitars in the cabin as carry-on items is determined by each airline:

  • Most airlines consider a guitar as a carry-on item, but it must fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of the traveler.
  • Size restrictions for carry-on items differ between airlines, necessitating prior verification of specific airline policies.
  • In some cases, if the guitar does not fit in the designated areas, it may need to be checked or a seat may need to be purchased for the instrument.
  • Airlines typically offer the option to check the guitar as baggage, but this might expose the instrument to potential damage.

Checked Guitars: Protective Measures and Considerations

When opting to check a guitar, consider the following protective measures to minimize risk:

  • Use a sturdy, hard-shell case designed specifically for air travel.
  • Loosen the strings to reduce tension on the guitar’s neck caused by changes in temperature and pressure.
  • Provide ample padding within the case to prevent the guitar from moving around during transit.
  • Ensure that the case is clearly labeled with contact information and a ‘Fragile’ sticker.

Buying an Extra Seat for Your Guitar

Purchasing an additional seat for a guitar is an option for those looking to keep their instrument nearby:

  • This practice is commonly referred to as ‘Cabin Seat Baggage’ or ‘CBBG.’
  • The details and cost involved for reserving an extra seat for an instrument may vary between airlines.
  • Travelers usually need to book the extra seat over the phone or through customer service rather than via online booking platforms.

Compensation for Damaged Instruments

In the unfortunate event of damage to an instrument, the following steps should be taken:

  • Report the damage immediately to the airline, as there is often a limited time to file a claim.
  • Document the damage with photographs before leaving the airport.
  • Keep all travel documentation, such as boarding passes and baggage claim tickets, as these might be required when filing a claim.

Adherence to these guidelines helps ensure the safety and security of guitars when flying on USA domestic flights. It is crucial for all traveling musicians to be well prepared and stay informed about current regulations and policies of their chosen airline.

✅ Pros ❌ Cons
Practice or play during your travels Risk of damage during transit
Have your instrument with you for performances Potential extra fees if considered oversized/overweight luggage
No rental fees or need to find a guitar at your destination Security concerns and additional screening
Comfort of playing your own instrument Challenges of navigating crowded airports with an additional item

International Air Transport Association (IATA) Guidelines

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) provides general guidelines for airlines regarding the carriage of musical instruments. For musicians traveling internationally with guitars, it’s important to be aware of these guidelines, as they can influence airline policies. However, it’s crucial to note that each airline may have its own specific rules, which can sometimes differ from the IATA recommendations.

  • Check the IATA guidelines for musical instruments to understand the general expectations for traveling with a guitar. (IATA Musical Instruments)
  • Consider the size and weight of your guitar, as IATA guidelines often categorize instruments based on these dimensions.
  • Be prepared for the possibility of having to purchase an additional seat if your guitar cannot be safely stowed in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.
  • Review the guidelines for proper packaging and handling to ensure your guitar is protected during the flight.

Country Specific Regulations

When flying internationally with a guitar, it’s essential to be aware of the country-specific regulations that may affect how you travel with your instrument. These regulations can vary significantly from one country to another and may include specific rules about case dimensions, customs declarations, and import duties. It’s important to research the regulations for both your departure and destination countries to avoid any complications.

United Kingdom

Refer to the UK government’s official website for the most current information on traveling with a guitar. (UK Government Musical Instruments)


For European travel, check the European Union’s guidelines on musical instruments as hand luggage. (EU Passenger Rights)


The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority provides details on traveling with musical instruments. (CATSA Musical Instruments)


Guidance on flying with a guitar in Australia can be found on the Australian Government’s Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications website. (Australian Government Aviation Passenger Information)

New Zealand

For New Zealand’s specific regulations, consult the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand. (CAA Passenger Rights and Responsibilities)


Traveling with a guitar in Asia requires checking with the specific country’s civil aviation authority, as regulations can vary widely.


The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore outlines the requirements for flying with musical instruments. (CAAS Baggage Information)

10 Airline-Specific Regulations for Flying with a Guitar

Different airlines have their own set of rules and regulations when it comes to flying with guitars. It’s important for travelers to review these regulations in advance to ensure a smooth journey. Below are the regulations from 10 different airlines, which provide a snapshot of the variety of policies that exist.

American Airlines

Delta Air Lines

  • Delta accommodates guitars in the cabin if they fit in the overhead bin or if a seat is purchased for the instrument. (Delta Special Items)

United Airlines

Southwest Airlines

British Airways

Air Canada

  • Air Canada permits guitars as carry-on or checked baggage, but they must meet size and weight restrictions. (Air Canada Special Items)


  • Guitars are accepted as part of checked baggage allowance on Qantas flights, and size limits apply. (Qantas Special Items)


  • Lufthansa may allow guitars in the cabin if they fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat, or as checked luggage. (Lufthansa Sports Equipment)


  • Emirates accepts musical instruments, including guitars, as checked baggage or cabin baggage if they meet the specified dimensions. (Emirates Musical Instruments)

Air New Zealand

Packing a Guitar for Carry-On Luggage

Traveling with your guitar as carry-on luggage is the safest way to ensure its protection. However, due to size restrictions, this is generally only possible with smaller guitars or travel-sized instruments. Before attempting to carry your guitar on a plane, check with the airline to confirm their carry-on size restrictions to avoid any surprises at the gate.

  • Loosen Strings: Detune the strings slightly to relieve tension on the neck of the guitar, which can fluctuate with changes in temperature and pressure.
  • Pick the Right Case: Use a hard-shell case for the best protection. If you only have a soft case, consider upgrading or at least adding extra padding around the instrument.
  • Extra Padding: Wrap the headstock and neck with bubble wrap or clothing. Also, fill any empty spaces in the case to prevent the guitar from shifting during transit.
  • Security Screening: Be prepared for security screening by knowing how to quickly remove your guitar from its case if required.

taking guitar through airport security

Packing a Guitar for Hold Luggage

If your guitar needs to travel in the hold luggage due to its size, you’ll want to take extra precautions to protect it from the rigors of baggage handling and the cargo environment.

  • Hard-Shell Case Is a Must: Invest in a high-quality hard-shell case designed to withstand impacts and pressure changes.
  • Loosen Strings: Just like for carry-on, detune the strings to reduce stress on the neck.
  • Internal Padding: Support the guitar’s neck with additional padding, and place bubble wrap around the body, paying special attention to protruding parts like the bridge and tuners.
  • Neck Support: Slide a piece of soft clothing or foam under the neck for additional support.
  • Fill Empty Spaces: Ensure there is no room for the guitar to move inside the case. Use soft items like clothing or foam to fill gaps.
  • Exterior Case: If possible, place the hard case inside a shock-absorbent, flight-approved guitar case.
  • Luggage Tag: Clearly label your case with a sturdy luggage tag that has your contact information.
  • Insurance: Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers musical instruments, as airline compensation may be limited.
  • Check Airline Policy: Each airline has different rules and fees for musical instruments. Confirm these details prior to booking your flight to avoid unexpected charges or issues.

Final Pre-Flight Checks

Regardless of whether your guitar is going as carry-on or hold luggage, always perform a final pre-flight check. Ensure your guitar is secured in its case, that you’ve got all necessary accessories like picks, capos, or sheet music, and that you have a backup plan in case the guitar is not allowed as carry-on at the last minute.

Traveling with Musical Instruments Similar to Guitars

When flying with a guitar, you might also consider bringing other compact stringed instruments such as ukuleles, mandolins, or banjos. These smaller instruments can usually be carried on and stored in overhead bins or under the seat in front of you. If you’re a wind instrument player, items like flutes, clarinets, and trumpets are also typically suitable for carry-on luggage, provided they are in a hard case. For electronic music enthusiasts, portable synthesizers and MIDI controllers are often compact enough to bring on board. Percussionists might opt for travel-friendly options like cajons or small hand drums. Always check with the airline for specific size and weight restrictions to ensure a smooth travel experience with your musical companions.

FAQ’s About Can You Bring A Guitar On A Plane?

Traveling with musical instruments can often lead to uncertainty, especially when it comes to air travel regulations. Guitars, being beloved and often valuable possessions, are at the center of many travelers’ concerns. The following FAQ section aims to address common questions and provide clarity for those planning to fly with their guitar, ensuring a smooth and stress-free journey.

Can I bring a guitar as my carry-on luggage?

Yes, you can usually bring a guitar as your carry-on luggage, but it is subject to the airline’s size restrictions for carry-on items. You should check with your airline beforehand to confirm that your guitar case fits within their allowed dimensions.

Will my guitar count towards my carry-on limit?

Most airlines count a guitar as a standard carry-on item, which means if you bring a guitar, you may not be allowed another carry-on bag. Some airlines might allow an additional personal item, though.

Is it safer to carry my guitar on the plane or check it in?

Carrying your guitar onto the plane is generally safer because it reduces the risk of damage or loss that can occur with checked baggage. However, if you must check it, ensure it’s in a hard case and consider getting a flight case designed for instruments.

Do I need a special case to bring my guitar on the plane?

While not required, a hard case is highly recommended for better protection. Soft cases offer less protection against potential knocks and pressure changes during the flight.

Can I buy a seat for my guitar?

Yes, some airlines allow passengers to buy an extra seat for a large instrument like a guitar. This is known as “CBBG” (Cabin Seat Baggage). You should contact the airline to arrange this in advance and understand the costs involved.

What should I do if there is no overhead space for my guitar?

If the overhead compartments are full, talk to the flight attendants as soon as possible. They may be able to help you by storing it in a coat closet or another safe location on the plane.

Do temperature and pressure changes in the cargo hold pose a risk to my guitar?

Temperature and pressure changes can potentially cause damage. If your guitar has to be checked, detune the strings to reduce tension on the neck and if in a hard case, it should be adequately protected from moderate changes in the cargo hold.

Should I loosen the strings on my guitar before flying?

It is a good idea to loosen the strings on your guitar before flying to alleviate tension on the neck due to pressure changes, especially if you’re checking in your guitar. However, if you’re carrying it on and can maintain control over its environment, it may not be necessary.

What about international flights? Are there different rules for guitars?

Rules for traveling with guitars on international flights can vary by airline and country. Always check the regulations of the airline and the customs laws of the destination country before traveling.

What if my guitar gets damaged during the flight?

If your guitar is damaged during the flight, report it to the airline immediately. Document the damage with photos and make sure to get a written report from the airline to support any insurance or compensation claims.

Packing It All Up

Taking a guitar on a plane is generally permissible, but passengers must adhere to the specific airline’s guidelines regarding hand luggage size and weight restrictions. Most airlines allow guitars to be carried as checked baggage, provided they are properly packaged in hard cases to prevent damage during the transportation process. Additionally, many carriers offer the option of buying an extra seat for the instrument, ensuring its safe transport in the passenger cabin. Factors such as the size of the aircraft, the fullness of the flight, and individual airline policies can significantly influence the experience of flying with a guitar.

Travelers should remain mindful of the potential for temperature and pressure changes in the cargo hold, which can adversely affect a guitar. It’s crucial to loosen the strings to accommodate for these fluctuations and to add extra padding within the case for added security. For those opting to check their guitar, investing in a flight case, purchasing insurance, or at least ensuring their home or travel insurance covers the instrument, is highly recommended. Advance communication with the airline can facilitate a smoother process, possibly avoiding unforeseen issues at the gate. It’s also important for travelers to be familiar with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations, which allow guitars through security checkpoints, although they might require additional screening.