Flying with brass instruments

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Despot, Feb 29, 2004.

  1. Despot

    Despot Member

    Any advice for travelling with band equipment on a plane?

    I've heard some horror stories of instruments being damaged by baggage handlers. And particularly that those brown besson cases get damaged quite easily.

    Is this a realistic fear? Has anyone any advice on what to do, boxes to buy etc?
  2. Frosty

    Frosty Member

    I fly with my instrument quite often.My Bass Trombone is too large for most lockers.Anything smaller might possibly fit in but may not be allowed on.Different Airlines have their own policies on this.It's probably worth checking first.
    As far as damage goes, standard hard cases will get trashed,along with the instrument inside.I have an extra strong SKB case which is supposed to take whatever is thrown at it.Even thats been split.
    I think a fragile sticker is only there as a challenge for the baggage guys!!

    Hope that helps!!!

  3. over the past 2 years I've travelled up and down the east coast of Australia quite a few times, usually for a musical purpose, which has meant I've more often than not been taking along my euphonium. I learnt the hard way... the first time I travelled with my eupho, (in it's besson brown case) I collected it at Brisbane airport with the case cracked and split in all places along where the bell flares out. As a general rule, the flat part of the case is fine, but a good method for protecting the case around the bell is to get some stiff cardboard and mould it around the bell flare, sealing it all up with as much gaffa tape as you can find! this wont stop a baggage handler dropping your case and splitting it open, but it will take alot of the sting out of a solid hit or bump to an odd angle of your case. I havent gotten anymore splits in the case since i started using this method anyway!!!
  4. Okiedokie of Oz

    Okiedokie of Oz Active Member

    Those Sovereign eupho cases are famous for breaking there, and Bessie's old case was looking a little beaten around also. Bill Barker, my teacher, has gaffered every single case I've seen him with.

    Also, when I went o/s, I invested $100 on an extra case to go AROUND the original case. stops a lot of the little bangs and scratches, and if made form a good quality material, woight even insulate some of the bigger breaks. The material I used is a vinyl type, used in tents and tarps and other camping products, made by a local upholsterer. I've seen thicker ones with like, a layer on a wool-type material in it too, and one that looks like it's made out of the same material people wear when training attack dogs. (That material stuffed with cotton??). The only catch I've seen, to date, is in the Tubas, trying to accomodate the wheels.
  5. jameshowell

    jameshowell Active Member

    I wouldn't rely on taking a sovereign case on an o/s plane trip - my flugel was damaged in it's sov case when im my dad's car boot on it's own! That is how poor and unreliable they are :evil:

    If you have a large instrument like a BBb bass, I know of some people that have bought an extra ticket and arranged to have it on the seat next to them, though this is highly dependant on airline, an understanding person on the airline's behalf when arranging it, and most importantly of all isn't a cheap option... :(

    On the cheaper side in the long run is to invest in a really good hard case - one designed for travelling on planes and o/s. I know they are made for trumpet/cornet/flugel, so I would assume they are made for larger instruments, since it is these that are most often damaged, as you can take smaller ones as hand luggage.

    Just a thought, maybe putting your instrument in a thin shaped gig bag, then in a high quality hard case, and then wrapping this case in a material such as okiedoke of oz suggested is the best way. Short of taking it on the seat next to you, I would think that was the best level of protection you're likely to get.

    Unfortunately this seems to be a problem that brass bands and players have encountered for many years, and I don't think it will get much better, in the short term anyway. :cry:

    Maybe if we started our own airline... 8)
  6. AndyCat

    AndyCat Active Member

    I travelled to Miami this January with US Airways with a bass trombone (and a full Big Band). We had 3 flights on the way out, no damage to anything. On the very last flight (Philadelphia - Manchester) my case was split, as was the Bass players. I reported it as soon as I spotted it (Before leaving baggage collection) and US Airways have paid £343 for a new case.
    It's worth chasing the airline company for damage costs incurred!
  7. Hornblower RN

    Hornblower RN Member

    I've travelled to the States and back three times packing my flugel and trumpet in a Reunion Blues double trumpet gig bag. I carried it on as cabin luggage and it fits nicely into the overhead compartment. No problems encountered
  8. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    i suggest not taking it to france... having watched a luggage person (I'm sure they have a proper title, but I really don't care...) pick up a baritone from the hold with 3 fragile stickers on it and throw it into the waiting truck a good 10 feet away... not very impressive!
  9. asteria

    asteria Member

    The young ambassadors band went to america last year, no problems on the way out but when we got back in to England several members of the band watched aghast from inside the airport as they saw our beloved instruments thrown off the plane, despite the 'fragile' stickers all over them! :evil:

    Result was something like 3 damaged instruments (including a concertina trombone bell) and at least 2 damaged cases! Don't know whether it finished as a happy story for the people involved, but there was a struggle to get compensation!

    Just depends how un/lucky you are with your baggage handlers i guess, but stuff any gaps in your case with clothes and bubble wrap just in case!
  10. Jo Elson

    Jo Elson Member

    Someone i know travels on plains loads and he takes his soft case on the plain with his mouthpieces and stuff in and his trombone goes in his hard case and he has never had it damaged.
  11. Okiedokie of Oz

    Okiedokie of Oz Active Member

    That was the beauty of my "case case". While o/s, the girls and some blokes noticed all my spare space and asked me to carry some of their bulkier and heavier goods so their luggage weight wasn't compromised, as we believed noone had bothered checking instruments.

    I ofund out later that our manager had only budgeted 20 KG for Bessie at Hong Kong and she came a bit over.......Could be the panda in the bell?? Or maybe the 3 pairs of sparkly heels that the girls all bought at a Hello Kitty shop. I know!! It was my friend's wet lingerie!!! everyone knows that a week's supplies of bras when wet weighs 20 kilos!!!
  12. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

  13. Jo Elson

    Jo Elson Member

    I hope no-one had to search your luggage, that would have been slightly embarrassing! :oops:
  14. Jeff Lewis

    Jeff Lewis New Member

    I work in the airfreight industry and am based at Manchester Airport. Below are a few suggestions which shiould hopefully help avoid some of the problems. Though nothing is fool-proof and I will not take any responsibility for my comments!! :roll:

    Most times you travel the luggage and freight moves in large aluminium containers (you may have seen them moving on trolleys towed by a tractor-type vehicle at the airport) however, your destination and type of aircraft determine if these are used. If these "bins" are used then the chances of damage are quite minimal as the loading process into and out of the aircraft tends to be done with the aid of a mechanical ramp and the bins slide down the aircraft on a floor of ball-bearings.

    What you should think is - if the case is manually loaded how far would it be thrown by the baggage handlers?

    Consider the idea of the drop test. If you dropped your instrument case from above your head, do you think the instrument inside would get damaged?

    If you think it will, then there is a risk it will be damaged in transit.

    As Helen V suggested fill the space / fresh air in the case with bubble wrap or some other form of filling (polystyrene / clothing / foam padding).
    Also, it may be worth investing in a hard flight case if you do a lot of travelling as these are specifically designed for the purpose of flying and transportation.

    Also, consider the amount of times your case could get handled / man-handled during its journey i.e for every flight the case will be handled at least 4 times from the time you hand it over at the check-in desk.

    If you travelling as a band it is worth talking to the airline in advance as they may take the instruments and load them into the aforementioned "bins" or they may set up a monitored handling procedure for you on both sides of the journey.

    Remember that airlines and their baggage handlers do have a responsibility and duty of care to take all reasonable precautions not to damage your case and contents. If you have any damage, report it to them immediately.
  15. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    it's slightly worrying that this is the standard of care we should expect... it's like the idea that if you go somewhere by train you should account a half hour delay into your journey time... ah the wonders of the transport industries...
  16. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    We've went to Spain on tour for 3 years running, on a bog standard charter airline. Most of the instruments were bubble wrapped and for the first two years we didn't have any problems with the instruments getting damaged, but some of the cases came off a little the worst for wear! Interestingly it was the lighter instruments that came off worst - I guess the avarage baggage handler doesn't fancy throwing a BBb bass around!

    On the last tour we did, a Spanish bus driver slammed the coach bootlid shut on a bass, resulting in a mangled case and damaged bell, and on the return flight one of our Yamaha Euphonium cases got totally smashed were the bell bulge is, but the instrument inside survived any damage.

    It is a worry, most of the cornets took theirs on as hand luggage (but check this now as this was pre 9/11) and I was always releaved to see my beloved Flugel trundling around the conveyor unscathed! So I think its OK provided your instument is well wrapped (case & inside) with bubble wrap, it's covered in "fragile" stickers (though not sure how effective these are but you can try!), and most of all check your insurance, our claims were delt with quickly by the airline, but only because we had the insurance aspect absloutely nailed down!

    Hope this helps and enjoy your trip!
  17. flugelgal

    flugelgal Active Member

    On a side note, the subject of this topic always makes me think of Superman flying through the air playing a flugelhorn lol...

    Anyway, on tour in 2002 to Gozo with a concert band *hides* i had trumpet and flugel - this was before I got a gig bag big enough for them both. I could only take one in the cabin (naturally that was the flugel in a little gig bag) and wrapped the trumpet up with bubblewrap inside and outside the case and put it in the hold. We were told by our travel agent that our instruments would be treated as special luggage but I'm not sure that they were - anyway, trumpet was fine the other end and also on the journey home. I worried about it a lot though. I kept the flugel under the seat in front of me so that it didn't get bashed about in the overhead locker, and it was fine too. Only drawback was that I had 2 cases to lug about when we went to gigs!

  18. picju96

    picju96 Member

    We took cornets as hand luggage and checked all other instruments in, Jersey airport were good about fragile instruments, they went through a special little gate straight onto a trolley instead of the conveyer belt. At the other end, in Birmingham, a flugel's bell was mangled, but otherwise we've had no problems. Once a BBb bass wasn't put on the plane, but it was on the next one.
  19. Despot

    Despot Member

    Great feedback everyone thanks! Keep it coming! :D

    One question though, would you get away with say a tenor trombone or tenor horn in a gig bag as hand luggage? Or are they too big! :shock:
  20. I had a thought...i dunno how well this would work with a cheapo no frills airline...but with more upmarket, higher priced carriers, the customer service departments seem to never rest until the customer is satisfied. Perhaps when flying with QANTAS or BA or the like all it would take were a few words expressing your concerns to the lass at the check in desk and they might be happy to park your instrument in a row at the back of the idea if this will work, but I might try it next time. Based on what other people manage to score by kicking up a bit of fuss odds are that unless you're a ten piece tuba ensemble you might just get lucky... A long shot perhaps, but worth the ask!