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Flying with a tuba

Postby tubabill » Sat Dec 03, 2011 7:32 pm

I am looking into traveling with my tuba on Delta Airlines. I have asked numerous employees and get various answers about if I can take my tuba in to the boarding gate and check it as a gate check to avoid the baggage handlers and conveyor belts. Has anyone had experience with flying with a tuba and what works the best to protect it? Thanks for the help.
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby ShoelessWes » Sat Dec 03, 2011 7:38 pm

tubabill wrote:Has anyone had experience with flying with a tuba and what works the best to protect it? Thanks for the help.



A flight case, independent insurer, and prayer.

Seriously, airlines are hell to deal with. I fly Delta frequently and have given up taking my tuba unless I can get it its own seat with my points.

Nothing like sitting on the plane, looking out the window, and watching employees toss your 10k+ tuba 10 feet onto a concrete tarmac. A flight case is pretty much mandatory for this kind of stuff.

There was also a petition to allow members of a (shall remain nameless) union, to take their instruments on the plane.... I'm not sure how that ever panned out, but I know that I have to pay to do so with Delta (and did as of Salt Lake City to Denver Thanksgiving weekend).
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby Paul Tkachenko » Sat Dec 03, 2011 8:18 pm

That's correct ...

1. Buy a seat for it and take a gig bag.

2. Flight case it.

You should have insurance anyway ...

Take care (everyone else) to not check an empty gig bag as well as the flight case (for when you get there). I got charged once for the empty gig bag, which I thought was a bit harsh! Most flight cases will take the horn in the gig bag, which is best ...
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby BRSousa » Sat Dec 03, 2011 8:36 pm

I will be doing this VERY SOON. I was told by the airline that I was using that I could take the Tuba on the plane in it's HARDCASE if I bought a seat for it...so I did. If complications arise I will also have the gig bag handy.

Don't take my word for it though. Policies are different from one airline to the next and I am not flying Delta this go round. Call up their customer service line and ask.

In my opinion, I would absolutely avoid checking the Tuba without a proper flight case. There are just too many chances for the horn to get damaged.
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby Donn » Sat Dec 03, 2011 8:48 pm

You can lose with the gate check, too.

They will take your case down the stairs "by hand", to be loaded in the baggage compartment, but they don't have to carry it down. They carry the baby strollers and stuff, but your case may go down the chute beside the stairs, and hit the pavement a lot harder than would likely have happened if you had just checked it as baggage in the first place. I personally think if you gate check a large, unwieldy case, you're asking for it.
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby Paul Tkachenko » Sun Dec 04, 2011 7:38 am

I have flown a lot, with a lot of delicate instruments (some more delicate than a tuba). Get a copy of the airlines policy on baggage, read it, print it off and take it with you.

Most important - don't deviate from it.

Don't count on having someone nice at check out, because you may meet others who will make life difficult.

It's not worth it - if they decide to enforce it, they can.

As my union said over here: 'we just can't fight the airlines, they are too powerful'.
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby Tom » Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:21 pm

Every time a "flying with a tuba" thread comes up, the responses begin to roll in saying "buy a seat for it and use your gig bag."

And almost every time I ask...

1. Has anyone actually done this successfully RECENTLY?

2. What was your fall back plan if the airline suddenly decided NOT to allow your tuba on board despite having a ticket for it?

Nine times out of ten there are no responses to the question or someone replies that they have a friend of a friend that says they did this is 1999 or something. My point really being this:

Remember, the airlines don't owe you anything. If they decide your tuba is luggage and not a passenger, you've got two choices. Get it on the plane as luggage or don't. You're going to be in a world of hurt if all you've got along with you is a gig bag and suddenly you're faced with that scenario.

About the only guy around here that really travels with a tuba a lot via air is Tuba Joe. He purchased a carbon fiber Accord flight case for c. $2,000. His choice to do so says A LOT to me about how to fly with a tuba these days.

Needless to say, I think it's a real crapshoot as to if the airlines will allow the tuba on the plane, if they will enforce size/weight restrictions, charge fees, etc. Even with a flight case, you're rolling the dice, but dare I say that you're making a safer bet?

Me? Flying with my instruments would be an absolute last resort. I would do everything possible to find a way to drive. For an overseas trip these days, I think I would SERIOUSLY consider buying a semi-beater instrument for the sole purpose of flying so that I didn't have to risk my difficult to replace main horns.
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby ShoelessWes » Sun Dec 04, 2011 5:08 pm

Tom wrote:Every time a "flying with a tuba" thread comes up, the responses begin to roll in saying "buy a seat for it and use your gig bag."

And almost every time I ask...

1. Has anyone actually done this successfully RECENTLY?

2. What was your fall back plan if the airline suddenly decided NOT to allow your tuba on board despite having a ticket for it?

Nine times out of ten there are no responses to the question or someone replies that they have a friend of a friend that says they did this is 1999 or something. My point really being this:

Remember, the airlines don't owe you anything. If they decide your tuba is luggage and not a passenger, you've got two choices. Get it on the plane as luggage or don't. You're going to be in a world of hurt if all you've got along with you is a gig bag and suddenly you're faced with that scenario.

About the only guy around here that really travels with a tuba a lot via air is Tuba Joe. He purchased a carbon fiber Accord flight case for c. $2,000. His choice to do so says A LOT to me about how to fly with a tuba these days.

Needless to say, I think it's a real crapshoot as to if the airlines will allow the tuba on the plane, if they will enforce size/weight restrictions, charge fees, etc. Even with a flight case, you're rolling the dice, but dare I say that you're making a safer bet?

Me? Flying with my instruments would be an absolute last resort. I would do everything possible to find a way to drive. For an overseas trip these days, I think I would SERIOUSLY consider buying a semi-beater instrument for the sole purpose of flying so that I didn't have to risk my difficult to replace main horns.



If you'll read my post, I did this exact same thing Thanksgiving weekend. Not only that, it was welcomed. I've done it, easily, more than 10 times in the past year. I've done it on both Delta and Southwest. Pretty much all facets of my music jobs (tuba playing and teaching marching band across the states, as well as some marketing for Chrysler and Redbull) require flying, so I end up flying over 100 times a year.

One time, in a situation where there were questions about enough seats on the plane, I was allowed to put the case and tuba in the area where the food closet was. They strapped it in, like they occaisionally do with bags that don't make it down below in time.
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby BRSousa » Sun Dec 04, 2011 5:53 pm

Tom wrote:Every time a "flying with a tuba" thread comes up, the responses begin to roll in saying "buy a seat for it and use your gig bag."

And almost every time I ask...

1. Has anyone actually done this successfully RECENTLY?

2. What was your fall back plan if the airline suddenly decided NOT to allow your tuba on board despite having a ticket for it?



I will be traveling this week, so I will post my experiences following that trip. Also, I will dig up various airline policies and see if I can either post links or scan documents.
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby Lew » Sun Dec 04, 2011 6:06 pm

You're supposed to fly with a plane, not a tuba, that could be the problem. OK, seriously people have given you some good advice, but here's what can happen when traveling with musical instruments, so always assume the worst:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOq ... ure=relmfu
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby ScottM » Sun Dec 04, 2011 6:12 pm

I too am taking a trip and having to fly with my horn. Does anyone have any experience with how the wooden Mirafone case hold up to the airline baggage handlers? I planned to use bubble wrap around the horn and use a beach ball in the bell to help cushion it but am open to any other ideas or suggestions. I am going to China and did consider trying to buy a horn and bring it back but the costs to do so discouraged me. I have flown with my tuba before with it occupying a seat but that is a pretty expensive way to go for this trip.
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby ShoelessWes » Sun Dec 04, 2011 6:24 pm

ScottM wrote:I too am taking a trip and having to fly with my horn. Does anyone have any experience with how the wooden Mirafone case hold up to the airline baggage handlers?



Seriously. Do NOT fly without a flight case. Of all the arguing about how to fly with a tuba, I hope that at least 90-100% of us that fly frequently can agree on this subject.
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby Scott Sutherland » Sun Dec 04, 2011 6:45 pm

I fly with my tuba at least once or twice a month and always in the seat next to me (as recently as two weeks ago). Rarely do I have problems and certainly have never had them take the horn away and put it under the plane. When you add up all of the extras involved with checking the instrument (expensive flight cases, overweight charges, oversize charges, extra baggage charges, renting a bigger car to accomodate the huge flight case, repairs to the instrument and the case because of mishandling by the airport personnel), it almost always evens out but you have the added bonus that you don't have to haul around an extremely heavy and cumbersome case.

Each airline handles this a little differently, and most are very accomodating, but avoid Frontier like the plague. They are very unfriendly with instruments and have denied the purchase of a seat for an instrument in the past.

Good luck!
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby Biggs » Sun Dec 04, 2011 10:10 pm

My only experience is checking the tuba in a flight case (Walt Johnson), but I have done so successfully and without incident every time (4 times, I think?). The best airline I have dealt with in this regard was Southwest. I have no experience with Delta. To succeed:

1.) Get to the airport early. Earlier than you normally would.

2.) Be prepared to pay oversize/overweight fees. It's an expensive pain in the butt, but so is the tuba itself. Do not try to haggle/negotiate/otherwise refuse this fee. Doing so will only incense employees and fellow travelers.

3.) Request a TSA inspection by hand. All the TSA people I have dealt with were very accommodating and interested in the tuba and they let me lock the case after they completed the inspection.

4.) Stay with the tuba as long as possible. Take it to the TSA checkpoint yourself. This plays into #3.

5.) Be exceedingly, overwhelmingly pleasant. Smile. Be polite. Kill them with kindness. Show appreciation for the help you are receiving. You are asking to complicate the lives of the airline and airport employees you're encountering. This is perfectly within your rights as a passenger, but transporting a tuba is harder on everyone involved than traveling with any ordinary suitcase would be. If you're likeable and a nice guy, they'll have no reason to begrudge you this favor. If you're a snotty jerk about it, that makes it a lot tougher to want to help you.

6.) When you land, open the case and double-check nothing is missing/damaged. Should the unthinkable occur for any reason, you're in a much stronger position if you deal with it fresh off the plane.
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby tubabill » Mon Dec 05, 2011 12:02 am

Scott Sutherland wrote:I fly with my tuba at least once or twice a month and always in the seat next to me


Do you have any problems taking it through security. I spoke to a TSA agent and they said that IF the ticket agent lets me through it then I can take it to the gate IF it fits in the scanner. What have you done about this?
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby ShoelessWes » Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:26 am

tubabill wrote:
Scott Sutherland wrote:I fly with my tuba at least once or twice a month and always in the seat next to me


Do you have any problems taking it through security. I spoke to a TSA agent and they said that IF the ticket agent lets me through it then I can take it to the gate IF it fits in the scanner. What have you done about this?



At DIA (my most frequent terminal) they will open it, sometimes scope it, or use their electronic sniffer for it. I've also been asked to toot a couple notes on it before, as well.
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby BopEuph » Mon Dec 05, 2011 2:08 am

A few years ago, I wrote an article about flying with a musical instrument. There's not much help for the tuba in my article, but my explanation on how to do it is quite valuable.

http://www.musicianwages.com/cruise-shi ... struments/

Also, I have since flown with tuba players who bought a ticket for their horn. There were no problems, other than funny looks from some people, and some bitter looks from other passengers that think the tubas are getting extra special attention when they had to pay a whole $40 for their suitcase, and this guy is carrying a huge bag on the plane and is being greeted by the employees with it.

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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby Scott Sutherland » Mon Dec 05, 2011 2:10 am

tubabill wrote:Do you have any problems taking it through security. I spoke to a TSA agent and they said that IF the ticket agent lets me through it then I can take it to the gate IF it fits in the scanner. What have you done about this?


Nope, never had a problem. You will probably have to explain many times (calmly and politely) that the tuba has it's own ticket and seat and will not be checked baggage. Then ask for a handcheck when you get to the x-ray scanners. Explain that it's a musical instrument that is too big to fit through the scanner. The TSA will wait until you've gone throught the security checkpoint then seat you next to a handcheck station where they will inspect the instrument, swab it for explosives, and hand it back to you in one piece. Takes maybe 2-3 minutes.
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby bloke » Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:44 am

If 1000 miles or less, just DRIVE. If you MUST fly, just take some sort of Yamaha tuba...If it gets damaged, no great loss.
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Re: Flying with a tuba

Postby ShoelessWes » Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:06 am

bloke wrote:just take some sort of Yamaha tuba...If it gets damaged, no great loss.



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