The double bass airline experiences survey is still open, so please take a moment and fill this out if you haven’t done so yet. We’ll be compiling this data and making it viewable to readers in the next few weeks.
Part of the survey includes an area to leave your own double bass travel experiences, and people have been filling this out with some very interesting information. Here’s what we’ve got so far:
British Airways – London Heathrow to JFK New York return. Although we phoned ahead, when we arrived the air line had no idea that we were coming with a bass. But when we arrived they added the bass weight with the baggage weight of 2 people and so we did not have a fee to pay. They said we would have to put it in the cargo hold but in the end it was put along with the other luggage and all was fine and it turned up with no problems!!
Kolstein= Your bass will be fine, but good luck getting it on the plane Gage= Potential for breakage, but under 100 pounds with a Mooradian, unless you have a really heavy bass. Stevenson= United= It better be under 100 pounds, and they’ll way overcharge Southwest= Awesome Northwest= Will charge you, but will not argue American= It better be under 100 pounds Delta= Will charge a reasonable fee, but won’t argue–unless it’s a codeshare flight with Air France. My Air France NIGHTMARE!!!!! TWICE!!! Once on a return flight from Berlin. A festival was covering the cost, Delta charged me $115 on the way over, no problems, so the festival gave me that amount cash in Euros and a ride to the airport. The Air France baggage person said, fine, that will be 500 Euro to check your bass!!!. Much haggling and phone calling later I got it on the plane for 115(always keep the receipt), I made the whole planeload of people 10 minutes late with the ruckus I was making. luckily many other passengers were from the orchestra and weren’t about to leave without me. The other time a travel agent had booked me CHI-DUB, on Air France, the TRAVEL AGENT had called ahead and OK’d it. They had to get me an emergency rebooking on United. I have to say that the travel agents at Flight Centre in Chicago really came through, as did a Delta manager (the flight was booked as a codeshare) I was put on a United flight so I arrived 8 hours before I have to play at 9AM!! Fortunately the audition went well and I was asked back. United actually made me remove a tuner and C string so that the case was under 100 pounds. Can you imagine? Dissasembling your pride and joy, the only earthly possession you truly care about, so that it’s 99.7 pounds instead of 100.8? To add insult to injury, I got charged $380, one way. The entire r/t flight was $425!!! On the way back it was Delta, they put it on for $115, no questions asked
AirCanada has a weight limit of 70lbs for any luggage to be checked at baggage. They forced me to take a taxi to the other side of the airport (after waiting in line for at least 45 minutes) to check my bass as cargo. I ended up paying around $570 to get my bass from Montreal to Chicago, which is weird, as I paid the typical $100 on the way to Montreal. United Airlines has been very consistent with their policy. I am typically charged $100, once being charged $150, and once not having to pay at all (yippee!)
I find flying out of smaller airports easier. It all depends on the ticket counter rep. I try to be really nice, I never hesitate with any questions asked about the bass, and my weight is always “under 100 lbs” technically. The problems I usually encounter is that I insist on the inspection being done in front of me. I will wait for this to happen. I know too many people that have had their case opened away from them and then never shut properly. If they have to open the case, I am talking to them the entire time and watching their every move. I have had inspectors actually lean on my instrument’s bridge to support themselves bending over and this will never happen again. I will also grossly exaggerate the price of the instrument. “It is a 60K instrument” I tell them, and then they suddenly become very careful around it. Southwest is by far the best airline to use if you are able. Their fees are the cheapest and they don’t even balk because of all the freight they do daily. After 911. I feel like the ticket counter reps. are more educated and better able to help. – Kim Plewniak
United has never given me trouble, though at $110 for oversize/overweight they are not cheap. The last time I flew southwest they told me that they would let me on “this one time,” but I would never be allowed to fly with the bass again. USAir has frequently not charged me for the bass. Northwest seems to have a standard $80 each way without much trouble. I would never book a flight on delta with a Bass. I’ve even had them deny my electric bass.
Northwest – I’ve flown a few times back and forth across the US for school auditions, and then for school. I’ve never had the bass denied on Northwest (they have written policy that has the words Double Bass in it for a flat $80 each way fee), but I have had the behind the counter people search for a long time (15 minutes or more) in there computer to find the policy. After one flight the finger board of my bass and come off, but the glue had just separated and it was an easy fix. It was January in Rochester and our flight got delayed – I think it just sat outside to long and got a little jolt. One time the bass didn’t make it on the same flight as me, but the Northwest people were good and got it to the airport by that evening.
Delta took my bass in 1999 but after that it was IMPOSSIBLE to get them to take it. In 2003 trying to fly (one way) from the UK to the US I tried every airline – called and called and no one would take it. I was looking into sending it freight – which would have meant employing a customs officer and paying tax (my bass is old a v expensive so I’d have been paying in the region of $7,000!!!!!). Then out of the blue I found Iceland Air who would take it for 70 pounds (UK money – not weight) – they were life savers!! Then in 2004 I was flying with a Stevenson from Cleveland to Chicago on Continental and they wouldn’t let me on – my bass weighed in at 108lbs. 100 was the limit. I was flying to go on tour so was given permission to ask any airline if they would take me and at ANY price and they ALL said NO!!!! I had to DRIVE to Chicago with my bass and catch my connecting flight a day later. So when I then flew in 2005 to Seattle I used a Gage case and my bass weighed 99lbs and Continental took it for $80 each way and were very nice…!! Due to my experiences I will do ANYTHING not to fly with my bass – I’ll drive days rather than deal with airlines, trunks, taxis. It has gotten worse and is only getting much worse every year
united airlines refused all liability regarding the bass/case once it was in their hands…just a bit unnerving
Really have no complaints on the few trips I’ve taken. The bass came out in great shape and the skycaps always were smiling and helpful. I gave them big tips. The situation with car rental was different though. I ordered a van for a trip to Tucson for an audition. The car place gave me a Ford Probe. I am standing there with this ginormous hulk in a flight trunk, and they just say sorry – deal with it. They were total a-holes. Anyway, to my shock, the thing was a hatchback and the entire fiberglass case magically fit right inside with the neck between the two front seats. It didn’t look at all like it would fit, but somehow it did fit snugly. I spent the rest of the afternoon flooring it across the desert
Quite a varied set of experiences, as you can see! It is frustrating how all over the places airlines are in their double bass flight procedures. As players, we never know what’s going to happen when we leave for the airport, which is the most frustrating thing of all. If we knew it would cost $100, fine. If we knew that we had to say phrase x, y, or z, fine. If we knew that we had to present some specific paperwork, fine. But so much of the bassist’s flight hassles come from the unpredictability of the airline employees. All too often, it all comes down to the mood the airline employees and not any specific procedure or policy, which is highly frustrating.
If you haven’t done so yet, please take a minute to fill out the poll about your favorite travel trunk. This poll ties in quite nicely with the Basses, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles series and the above flight experiences survey.
- Basses, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
- Take a survey! Tell us about your double bass flight experiences
- I fly plane!
- Flying with the bass
- More advice on flying with the bass