Friday, April 6, 2012

Flying With your Bass

Buenos dias, amigos!

I have travelled a lot with my basses over the years, and I have to say that it is not getting any easier. In their efforts to maximize profits and use every cubic inch of cabin room, the airlines have pretty much forced us into paying a ton of money or putting our basses at risk.

In the good old days if you carried your bass onboard there would be ample closet space to store it safely. But, these closets are smaller now and are often times filled up by the first class and elite status flyers that board the plane before you. Many of the overhead bins are not big enough to store a regular scale bass, and again they will probably be full before you board. That means you will be checking your bass at the gate in a soft case and putting it at the mercy of the baggage handlers. Boo.

Of course there are small bass options that will fit in overhead bins, such as the old Steinberger L series or the new Status composite basses, but you will have to sell your children to pick one of those up these days.

Another option is checking your bass in its hard case, which will certainly result in having the case broken or badly scratched. I have never had one come through baggage claim without serious damage, and they always make you sign a waiver when you check it. And don’t forget that the airlines will charge you for this service as free checked bags are a thing of the past.

The safest choice is to use a custom-made flight case such as the ones from Anvil or Jan-Al. I have flown with these cases many times with no damage to the bass or the case. Be prepared to spend between $300 to $400 for a new flight case, or a bit less for a used one from Craigslist. Also, these cases are very heavy, so you will probably end up with a heavy bag charge of $125. Each way.

So, there are not really no good choices. My best advice is to not travel with you bass, and borrow one from a local friend when you travel. But, if you must, choose a bass that is sturdy and not terribly special, and carry it on in a nice padded gig bag. Precision basses fit the bill nicely.

By the way, I have pretty much given up on flying with my basses, and now carry a ukulele with me for my own entertainment.


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