Traveling with your instrument – Advice from the ISM on air travel

Blog by Incorporated Society of Musicians under Live

This blog is contributed by ISM, the UK’s professional body for musicians, set up in 1882 to promote the art of music and to protect the interests and honour of all musicians.

Squeezing your toiletries into a sealed transparent bag, going through security, remembering where you put your passport, finding the correct gate: boarding a flight is already stressful enough, but boarding a flight with an instrument is an entirely different situation and can sometimes bring unnecessary disruptions to musicians. Our advice will help prepare you for your travels with your instrument.

• Always carefully check the airline’s hand baggage allowance policies before your flight, every airline has different policies.

• We strongly recommend, where possible, that you contact the airline before you travel and receive written confirmation of the
  acceptance of instruments in the cabin.

• Musicians who are carrying an instrument larger than a guitar (e.g. cello) should purchase an extra seat for their instrument must
  be allowed to take this on board, receive a written confirmation of this ahead of your flight.

• Always pack your instrument in a hard case, even if you are taking it on with you as hand luggage.

• Make sure no other item other than the instrument and its accessories are in the case.

• Be prepared for your musical instrument to be screened at security.

• Do not place any liquids in your case.

• Ensure that there are plenty of ‘Fragile’ stickers on the case and that it is clearly labelled with your contact details.

• If you have an instrument with strings, loosen them a tone or two to allow for temperature changes - this will ease any tension on
  the neck of the instrument.

• Be sure to read up on CITES and prepare the relevant documentation and permits you need if you are travelling with instruments
  that are made of rare materials, especially when you are traveling to the USA.

• Document everything and make copies.

• Photograph all your luggage in case it gets lost or damaged.

• ISM members should always carry their ISM membership card with them at all times to validate your rights as a professional musician.

We are calling on airlines to follow the lead of easyJet in adopting the ISM’s minimum standard and allowing small musical instruments of 120cm or less at their largest dimension onto planes and ensuring that musicians who have purchased an extra seat for a larger instrument can take their instrument into the cabin. Musicians should be able to carry small musical instruments (defined as ‘guitar sized or smaller’) in the cabin as a second item of hand luggage.

About the ISM

The ISM is the UK’s professional body for musicians. We were set up in 1882 to promote the art of music and to protect the interests of all musicians. Today we support almost 9,000 members from across the music industry providing them with unrivalled services and expert advice, from study up until retirement and beyond. We are a wholly independent, non-profit-making organisation. We offer full, graduate and student membership to professional musicians. To find out more about becoming a member visit


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