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26th September 2019

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

Violin in case

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 Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is the UK's professional body for musicians and a nationally recognised subject association for music. Since 1882, we have been dedicated to promoting the importance of music and protecting the rights of those working in the music profession.

We support almost 10,000 musicians across the UK and Ireland with our unrivalled legal advice and representation, comprehensive insurance and specialist services. Our members come from all areas of the music profession and from a wide variety of genres and musical backgrounds.

We campaign tirelessly in support of musicians’ rights, music education and the profession as a whole. We are a financially independent not-for-profit organisation with no political affiliation. This independence allows us the freedom to campaign on any issue affecting musicians.

We offer full, graduate and student membership to professional musicians. To find out more about becoming a member visit