Flying a band abroad

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by tubafran, Dec 26, 2004.

  1. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    We have been involved in a few European tours but have always used coaches. Has anyone been involved in the organisation of a tour using aircraft?

    We are planning to go to Prague next year and would be interested to hear from anyone that might have done this before. Thought we could get the cornets through as hand luggage but is it possible to fly a band, luggage and all the gear using normal baggage allowance?
  2. cazszandurski

    cazszandurski New Member

    hey. my band (dearham) went to chicago in november and we were allowed 2 pieces of luggage to go into the hold each (not sure whether that is normal?) these were obviously a suticase and an instrument for the players. about 2 instrument cases were damaged coming back to england but no instruments luckily. a couple of cornet players and a horn player took their instrument as hand luggage but my horn went in the hold and was fine - just put a security strap on the instruments because the locks on my case had come undone.
    hope that gives you some info :)
  3. Mrs Fruity

    Mrs Fruity Member

    We went to the South of France earlier this year with Easyjet (Prague also one of their destinations!) and had no problems on the way out. However,on returning we had damage to a trombone, two horn cases and both Bb basses, which had obviously (sorry, allegedly) been dropped onto their bells by the luggage handlers. I wouldn't let that put you off - we had a fab time made better by the fact that we didn't have to suffer a 14 hour coach ride!

    Have fun!
  4. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Does the flight insurance cover any damage to instruments?
  5. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    It's do-able, but can be tricky. In recent years Wigston have toured Malta and the Spanish Costa's (well actually it was Benidorm but the Costa's sort of sounds better :-? ). We did all on normal package tour group bookings, and these are the lessons learned:

    1. You have to tell your travel agant at the time of booking that this will be a group booking with lots of oversize baggage. They should then work out the luggage allowace for the whole party (say 40 people). You then need to weigh your instruments and take off their combined weight from that allowance, and then divide the remaining figure by the number in the party to get each persons personal (not including instrument) baggage allowance. As a reference point our personal baggage allowance was 15kg rather than the normal 21kg for our last trip - and we took a full band and lots of percussion with us. That way everyone will get a decent luggage allowance, your bass players won't get nailed for excess baggage(!) and (provided you tell the check-in staff at the airport) your passage through check-in should be no more painful than normal. You will most likely end up taking your instrument to the excess baggage check-in - but this is not a problem, provided the normal check-in staff have some pre-warning. Otherwise this may cause a few delays.

    2. A cornet case will (just about) fit as hand luggage. It depends on the airline really. As I remember a soverign case (the latest brown one) is right on the limit size-wise and the couple of cornet players that took theirs as cabin baggage got a few raised eyebrows on the spanish side on our last tour. However that tour was pre 9/11 so the rules may well have been tightened since then - I'd say check with you travel agent. Or perhaps someone else can help with this one?

    3. Damage. Our first ever trip to malta saw us dilligently bubble wrapping everthing in sight and over time we've got gradually less and less worried about cases/instruments gettting damaged in the hold. I would say if your instrument is in a decent hard case, and you dont mind a couple of scuff marks on it then it is probably OK for it to travel with nothing more that a "FRAGILE" sticker. Just be sure if it has any "sticky out bits" - like the riveted corners of our drum cases, that they are taped down at least or preferably bubble-wrapped as they WILL snag on the luggage conveyor and damage the case. If you have a soft-faced case (such as my Bach Strad case) then bubble wrap it, as it will come back looking like its been dragged behind a car for a mile or so. If all you have is a gig bag - forget it!! Beg or borrow a hard case from somewhere otherwise the instrument will not resemble anything you recognise when you get the the resort arport. Put lots of "FRAGILE" stickers on eveything - although these only seem to mean to the baggage handlers "don't drop from quite such a great height". But at least if something is marked fragile you have some come back if anything does get mashed. Do make sure the instruments are a good fit in the case though - if they rattle about inside the case pack them with some bubble-wrap.

    4. Most importantly - check and double check that your insurance covers all instruments in the party for damage during transport including flights. You may have to pay a premium for the flight cover. Please, please make sure if it's your band policy you are using that any dep's or players personal instruments are covered for their full value (old for new) on any damage caused, both here, in transit and abroad.

    I hope this all helps - if you have any more questions PM me and I'll try to answer them.

    Have a good trip!!
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2004
  6. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Since your post was edited I wonder, then, what the costs would be for insuring old for new. Sounds pretty expensive to me! :-? (...reminds me of a Sovereign that tried to get sold on eBay that was flight-damaged ... crushed bottom bow and bell .... ouch! I knew who owned it as well ... lucky he was sponsored by Besson).
  7. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    Sorry mate you caught my uneditted post - you promted me into talking about insurance. It is the most crucial thing really - don't assume whatever insurance you have covers everything. Ask your insrance company specific questions about cover for things like damage in transit, abroad, depping / personal instruments etc. Really anything you can think of. If they can't help go to a company that can. Our last trip to Spain we had two instruments damaged - a euph had is bell squished (plus case) on the return flight and a bass case was damaged by a stroppy Spanish bus driver slamming the boot of the bus onto it. Both were totally the other parties fault. But becasue we had decent insuance cover the insurance company delt with the claims our end (ie after we'd filled out the claims forms they paid us) and no-doubt delt with the airline / bus company themselves. Incedentally if this does happen to you make a point of telling someone (ie the damaged luggage desk at the airport) - it makes the claim so much easier.

    EDIT: Arrgghhhh!!! Crossing posts!! I'm no insurance expert, thankfully, but we just went with our normal band policy, as, after asking we found that it covered all of the requirements I've mentioned above. You do need to check though...I would think if you doo need to upgrade that it's probably not too bad - a figure that could be incorperated into the overall cost of the trip.
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2004
  8. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I know how luggage gets handled at airports knowing people who do that job. They have to move everything as quickly as possible off the plane so sometimes no concern is given to safe handling. Even our inland postal service is a bit careless regarding this too. I had a brand new instrument delivered and the guy literally bundled the box on to the road. Luckily the case was in another strong cardboard box filled with polystyrene bubbles and a Wallace Collection mute re-inforced the bell. Needless to say I sweated a little.
  9. Brian Kelly

    Brian Kelly Active Member

    When I flew to Berlin in 2003 with Blackburn SA band, my bass trombone case was damaged. A new one cost £329, but the Lufthansa flight insurance has a limit on how much they will pay out and it was not enough to cover the cost of a new case (I cannot remember what it was - I think that it may have been something like £150 - £200) so I ended up getting a new one through the band's insurance (the instrument and case were my own, but they were insured through the band).

    We took our cornets on board the plane as hand luggage, and, if I remember rightly, the number (and weight) of instruments was contained / allocated within the normal luggage allowance for each member of the band. However, we did not take any percussion with us, but were able to borrow the percussion instruments we needed from the Salvation Army in Berlin.

    Douglas Yeo, bass trombone player of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, has advice on his website on how to avoid or minimise the chances of damaging your instrument when travelling by plane.
  10. Brian Kelly

    Brian Kelly Active Member

    Pay heed to WoodenFlugal - his posts say it all.
  11. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks Brian - good link - there is some good advise on there...

    Just a couple of other things really - Brian's experience with Lufthansa seens pretty typical to me - most airlines will have a fairly basic level of insurance for damaged luggage, so really the onus is on you to sort it out. Check, check, check with your insurance company is the best advise I can give.

    Lastly - I forgot this - it's probably best that you take any loose, heavy, objects out of your case, like mutes etc, unless they are vey well held in position - if it can move it will, and most likely cause damage to whatever precious instrument it is travelling with!!!
  12. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Interesting point made from Doug Yeo in his article ...

    "You should have insurance for your trombone. If you checked your trombone as baggage, you may have had to sign a "limited release" form which absolves the airline of liability if the instrument is damaged. If you're asked to sign such a release, you have no choice but to sign it if you want the trombone to go on as luggage. That's why you have your own insurance. After getting deplaning, open your case immediately and check for any damage. If it's fine, you're in great shape. If it's damaged, then go to the airline baggage service counter and file a claim. You may get a few dollars from the airline toward a repair, but even if you don't, it's important to file the claim of damage so you can then file a claim with your own insurance company"

    Basically that if damage is done, your insurance company is the most likely to foot the costs!
  13. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    Yeah that was the expierence we had with the euph that was damaged. Fortunately the case was visibly damaged too which caused the player to check things out...I know that if we hadn't gone to the damaged baggage desk before we left the airport our claim would've been much more complicated, and may have been rejected. I don't know who ended up paying for it all but the claim was delt with swiftly due to a good insurance company, and our doing the right thing when we saw a problem.
  14. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Another interesting thing about Doug Yeo's article is the description of bell damage ... the crease!!! Heheheh! That'll explain a lot of second-hand instruments sold on eBay with similar problems. Can't do the bell resonance too well after rolling out creases flight after flight!
  15. Brian Kelly

    Brian Kelly Active Member

    When I picked up my trombone case on arrival in Berlin and saw that it was damaged, I took it straight to the damaged baggage desk. It is the best thing to do. In future, if / when I take my trombone abroad by air, I will open the case and check to see that the instrument is ok as soon as it comes off the carousel, even if the case is undamaged.
  16. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... have you tried his styrofoam cone protector yet? It's not a new idea but seems to be a cheap option to use.
  17. Brian Kelly

    Brian Kelly Active Member

    With my usual excellent timing, the trip to Berlin took place a few weeks before Doug Yeo's advice appeared on his website. I have not taken my instrument on a plane since (I have not needed to) but if / when I do, then I will give the styrofoam cone a try. I should think that the same idea can be adapted for other instruments as well.
  18. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    A BIG thankyou to every one posting on here, some excellent advise and your experiences have set my mind at rest about the feasabiltity of this form of transport.

    All the relevant ponts have been noted and will form the basis of our further planning on this.
  19. jo

    jo Member

    just as a word of warning, i took a hard case with my sticks on to a flight to amsterdam as hand luggage as the combined worth of the contents is too much to let out of sight, and got stopped at security who wanted to confiscate the lot as dangerous weapons. after much persuasion and not a little stroppiness by others in the group, they limited themselves to the set of very expensive triangle beaters and my wire brushes....which i never did get back despite paying for said items to be posted back to my home address from the airport. So, be careful about what you put through the xray machine!
  20. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    Post-911, baggage gets a much more thorough check. On domestic US flights, all checked baggage is X-rayed. Since X-rays don't penetrate a brass instrument very well, any instrument that is checked is likely to be opened. If the case is locked (as opposed to just latched), the checkers will break the locks to open it or refuse to allow it on the flight. I use a wide cloth strap with a strong latch (but not a lock), in the hopes that if they do open the case they'll at least have the decency to refasten the strap.

    Also, if you're traveling with a cornet (or something) as a carryon, be prepared to take it out of the case and play it for the screeners - they won't do this to everyone, but if you're singled out for special treatment (in the US, a certain percentage of passengers are pulled at random for each flight) they might.

    As far as damage is concerned, most US airlines do not consider a standard instrument "hard case" as adequate packaging, and therefore will attempt not to pay anything for damage. I've had several damaged instruments from flights where it took months for the aitline to admit fault and come up with payment - obviously, we had to have the instrument repaired at our own expense long before we got reimbursement from the airline.

    You might want to consider shipping your instruments with a reputable shipping company rather than attempting to take them on the flights with you, depending on how the timing of the tour is arranged. This can be expensive, but not as expensive as getting to the first tour stop and discovering damaged, possibly unplayable instruments.

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