On the 28th of October, departing on an Air France/Alitalia flight for a concert in Rome, I was refused transport of my double bass because its weight in the flight case exceeded the authorized50 kgs. Indeed, the registered weight was 51.4 kgs, that is to say, an extra 1.4 kgs. Despite my attempts at politely explaining to the Air France officials then present that if I could not go to Rome with my instrument, a charity concert “Jazz for Children” would be cancelled, they maintained their refusal to take my double bass on board.
This sort of experience, I fear, will only become more common among bassists. I did a lot of flying with my bass for about five years (I have not flown with my bass since 2001–lucky me!), and I encountered many nasty situations. At least a few of them warrant a separate blog post in the future. There are no set rules for dealing with double basses (or musical instruments in general) that are consistent between airlines. It usually depends on the knowledge/attitude of the person at the baggage counter. I’ve gotten on for no extra charge, for $40, for $100, and for $160 each leg of the trip. I have never had my bass denied completely, but I have heard of it happening to many bass players.