During my upcoming holiday to the USA I'm thinking about buying a new guitar as the exchange rate is extremely favorable. Excuse my naivety but I have never flown with a guitar before. What is a recommended way to go about this? Could I take it as carry on luggage or would it have to be checked? If checked luggage what kind of precautions should I take to keep it safe? Are there any problems with flying US budget carriers? If I do buy the guitar I'm expecting to have to make two flights with it, one domestic flight with Virgin America and an international flight with Air NZ.
How an airlines handles musical instruments like guitars depends on the one you are flying with.
- Some require you to put it into check-in luggage.
- Some allow you to carry it on-board; either by paying an excess baggage fee or by buying an extra seat (perhaps at a discounted rate). Many low-cost airlines either force you to check-in or buy a full-cost seat for it. With low-cost airlines, you also may need to book the music instrument upgrade online before your flight, otherwise you end up paying at excess baggage rates at the airport.
- There are very few airlines who offer a free seat (even to economy class fliers) if the flight has seats available. One airlines that does this in the international sector is Jet Airways.
In my experience I've found quite a few travellers with guitars, so it's fairly common. Most seemed to use some form of rocket atttached to the back, but fuel for this is hard to come by in certain areas of the world, and often requires FAA approval to use in the States.
No seriously, lots of people do, and much like travelling with a snowboard it generally just goes into the oversize baggage area, often at no extra cost to you. This is both domestic and international. But it's definitely important to check with your airline, as everyone has different rules - I'd hate to know what RyanAir would do to you if you tried with them ;)