by Eric Grunkemeyer
Although I've only just started graduate school, I've already had to fly, both domestically and internationally, with my horn more than I would have liked. So here are a few simple tips that I have deduced from flying with my instrument, and also some that I have been given by friends.
- Cut is best.
-When it comes to flying, having a cut bell is best, as you can easily get a hard-shelled case that fits in the overhead bin of most airplanes. However, if you do not have this option, which I didn't for a long time, see tip 2.
- Always choose a hard-shelled case.
-Even if it is much heavier than whatever gig bag you are using, and super bulky and inconvenient, it will save you money in the long run on repairs! If you have a fixed-bell horn especially, make sure you have a hard case to travel with.
- Pack your horn well.
-This is especially true for international flights as they are much longer, and much more could happen, even if you carry your instrument on the plane. I pack extra socks and underwear around the empty spaces in my case, it saves weight in my checked bag or suitcase, and stops my horn from moving around.
- Be upfront, honest, and persistent with airline staff.
-If your case, like my big ProTec one, is almost too big for the overhead bin, they may try to make you check it at the gate. Do not let them do this if you can help it! Most of them will have seen an instrument like yours, and if you are nice, polite, and persistent, they will often let you put it in one of the storage closets on the plane if there is no room in the bins.
- Just relax!
-Lastly, and most importantly, just relax. Traveling, by yourself, or especially with a touring ensemble, is incredibly stressful for everyone involved, so do not let stress over your instrument make things worse. If you are forced to check your instrument, it will be ok. Most airlines take alright care of baggage, and you bought a case to keep your instrument safe- that's its job! Just breathe and realize things are out of your control. If you are forced to gate-check your instrument though, ALWAYS check it for damage BEFORE you leave the airport. After you leave the airport and the airline is no longer liable for any damage that may have been done to your instrument. ALWAYS CHECK!
Eric is a professional horn player living in Oregon. In addition to performing in Oregon he has performed with various professional orchestras around Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. For several summers he played principal horn with the International Youth Symphony Orchestra, one of the touring ensembles from the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, performing in several European countries.