Gate Checking Your Large Musical Instrument (or Case)
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America West

Dear Kenneth,

Musical instruments are considered a fragile item. Fragile items will be accepted as checked baggage if they are appropriately packaged in a container/case designed for shipping such items. Fragile items without appropriate packaging will be accepted upon the execution of a release furnished by America West relieving America West of liability for loss/damage of checked baggage.

Musical instruments are permitted as carry-on baggage as long as they fit within US Airways' carry-on dimensions of 45 inches (length + width + height).

9in + 13in + 23in or 8in + 16in + 21in

For more information, please click on the link below.

http://www.americawest.com/awa/content/traveltools/baggage/specialitems.aspx#music

Thank you for visiting americawest.com.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to reply or call our americawest.com Support Desk at (800) 327-7810.

Sincerely,

Karilyn F.
DST Support Specialist
US Airways


America West and US Airways recently merged, which explains why the above message was sent from a US Airways representative.  Unfortunately, she did not address the specific issue I had inquired about.

The response below, from US Airways’ corporate offices, was not very helpful as the link to which she refers does not directly address the issue I had inquired about.  This and the brevity of her response makes me doubt the truth of her last statement.


US Airways

Dear Mr Amis:

This letter is to acknowledge receipt of your recent correspondence to Customer Relations at US Airways.

The information you requested can be found at www.usairways.com/customers/travel_policies/baggage/.

We appreciate the time you have taken to contact us.

Sincerely

Rebecca Fisher
Customer Relations
Corporate Offices


Continental Airlines

Thank you for contacting Continental Airlines.

Items allowed to be gate-checked must meet the size and weight limits of the carryon baggage.  The example that you presented does not meet those size or weight limits.  Musical instruments would be handled as any other gate checked item.  There would be limited liability assumed.

Jim Gilbert
Continental Airlines

Please visit our website at www.continental.com or contact us at 1-800-525-0280, if you require further information.


This Continental Airlines representative states, “Items allowed to be gate-checked must meet the size and weight limits of the carryon baggage.”  Why in the world would a musician with an instrument that meets the size and weight limits of a carry-on bag check their instrument at the gate?  I suppose if they were carrying too many “size-wise” instruments they may have too.  However Mr. Gilbert’s third sentence should be of great concern to anyone who values their instrument.  Continental would handle your instrument the same way they handle strollers and then claim limited liability!


American Airlines

American Airlines is claiming copyright ownership of their correspondence to me and that any unauthorized use, reproduction, or transfer of this message or its contents, in any medium, is strictly prohibited; so, I shall just give you the gist of it.

The response was addressed from Sheila D. Magembe of Customer Relations.  She informed me that it is not American Airlines’ policy to provide gate check service for musical instruments and that any such service that I may have received in the past was provided as a courtesy only.  She goes on to offer the purchase-an-extra-seat option but warns that “bass fiddles” are not allowed in the passenger cabin and only on certain aircraft.  American Airlines does not accept liability for damage of a checked musical instrument and only limited liability for loss.  The email signature says that, for additional information regarding this matter, I can contact the Reservations department at 1-800-433-7300 or vista AA.com.


United Airlines

Dear Mr. Amis,

Thank you for contacting us. We appreciate the opportunity to respond.

Currently, our reservation offices are not directly linked to our web site. Thus, we don't have the capability to assist you with your inquiry online. Please contact our Reservations staff for assistance at either 1-800-UNITED1 (1-800-864-8331) for Domestic travel or 1-800-JETAWAY (1-800-538-2929) for International travel. You can find Reservation phone numbers outside of the U.S. or in Canada from our Home Page by clicking "Customer Service" then "United worldwide contacts".

We appreciate this opportunity to respond and look forward to serving your travel needs.

Regards,

Edmund Singh
United Airlines Customer Relations


Since I emailed my letter directly to them using their Customer Relations web form,  I suspected that I'd receive little success getting a resolution on this matter from their reservations staff.


Northwest Airlines

Dear Kenneth Amis,

RE: Case Number 2279689

In your email, you requested information regarding the carriage of musical instruments while traveling with us. On behalf of Northwest Airlines, I appreciate your interest in our company.

As of today, the information readily available to all agents is as follows:

"MUST BE APPROPRIATELY PACKAGED IN SUITABLY DESIGNED SHIPPING CASE WITH PROTECTIVE PACKING. PASSENGER MUST SIGN A LIMITED LIABILITY RELEASE TAG WHICH MUST BE ATTACHED BY THE STATION AGENT. MAY BE INCLUDED IN FREE BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE PROVIDED THEY ARE WITHIN THE NUMBER OF PIECES/WEIGHT/LINEAR DIMENSIONS ALLOWED. IF IN EXCESS A USD80.00/CAD123 EXCESS CHARGE APPLIES. *EXCEPTION - CELLOS/BASS THAT ARE CHECKED CANNOT BE INCLUDED IN THE FREE BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE BUT ARE SUBJECT TO A USD80.00/CAD123 EXCESS CHARGE. THEY MUST BE IN A HARD SIDED CASE OR CRUSH PROOF CONTAINER TO BE ACCEPTED AS CHECKED LUGGAGE. ** CARRY ON ** MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS WILL BE ACCEPTED AS THE PASSENGERS ITEM OF CARRY ON BAGGAGE PROVIDED THE MAXIMUM LINEAR DIMENSIONS DO NOT EXCEED 45 INCHES OR WEIGH MORE THAN 40 LB. CARRY ON BAGGAGE MUST BE STOWED UNDER THE SEAT IN FRONT OR IN THE OVERHEAD BIN OR CLOSET. NW/KL/CO PASSENGERS MAY PURCHASE AN EXTRA SEAT FOR ITEMS TOO LARGE/BULKY TO STOW AND/OR TOO FRAGILE TO CHECK - A SEPARATE PASSENGER SEAT MUST BE RESERVED AND A TICKET PURCHASED. MAXIMUM WEIGHT OF CABIN SEAT LUGGAGE IS 165LBS/75 KGS. CONTRA/DOUBLE BASS NOT ACCEPTED AS CABIN SEAT BAGGAGE. PASSENGERS FREE LUGGAGE ALLOWANCE IS PER TICKET."

Before each trip, we recommend that passengers review Northwest or KLM's website, including the luggage FAQs section, for the most up-to-date luggage allowance. You may also contact Northwest at 1-800-225-2525 with any luggage questions.

Although our policies are uniform, our agents are not. The way the regulation is written, the station agent must apply a limited liability tag to the checked item and these may not be readily available at the boarding gate. In addition, the checking of baggage is not the job of the gate agent and may cause delay of the flight in addition to other luggage concerns.

On a lighter note, we do have musical instruments with their own frequent flyer numbers and receive WorldPerks miles for their seat as all other travelers.

Thank you for writing, Mr. Ames. As our WorldPerks member, we appreciate your interest in our company and look forward to welcoming you and any of your musical instruments onboard a future flight.

Sincerely,

Darci Boeller
Customer Care
Northwest/KLM Airlines


This was very candid response from Northwest/KLM Airlines.


Delta Airlines

Dear Mr. Amis:

Thank you for your e-mail. We appreciate your comments.

We are sorry for any misunderstanding regarding Delta’s policy and procedures for passengers who must check their musical instruments. Delta allows passengers to check their instrument at the gate. We hope this information will be helpful for your future travels.

Again, thank you for contacting us. We will always welcome the opportunity to be of service.

Sincerely,

Leigh Attaway
Manager
Customer Care


Delta Airlines reply was positive.  Although, due to the lack of detail in the response, we can only hope that this Delta Airlines representative read my letter enough to understand that I was inquiring about gate checking a large musical instrument.  Given the uncooperative exchanges the American Federation of Musicians has had with Delta Airlines, those of you with carry-on instruments may have other serious problems with this airline.


As you can see from the various responses, the airline companies can be rather difficult to communicate effectively with.  The service you get may be based more on the mood and experience of the ticket agent you get when you check in.  Whatever policy or lack thereof an airline has on gate checking a large instrument case, you should assume that the person behind the counter will be unaccustomed to dealing with it.  If, for whatever reason, you’re concerned about the safety of your instrument on the conveyor belts and are unsure what the mindset of the ticket agent will be, in the words of one Northwest ticket agent, “It’s always worth a challenge.” There are, of course, considerations you should make before you “challenge” the ticket agent.

 
 

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