I’m once again flying high up in the air somewhere over England. I’m on my way to one of my favorite German cities, Munich. I spent quite a bit of time there in the past few years and developed a real love for the place. Sliotar is playing a show tomorrow night just north from the City and I decided to use the opportunity to get there day early. I’ll write a separate post on my time in the city itself, but now on to something that is on every traveling musician’s mind.
It’s five 5.30am Dublin airport, terminal 2. I am traveling light, just my guitar and a back bag. So I head over to the bag drop as I have already checked in on a mobile app on my phone. I also have my hotel info saved on my phone thanks to Booking.com. I am a big fan of anything that reduces the useless amount of papers we print every day. So the procedure is quick and the short time I spend on the queue, I actually ran into some fellow musicians checking in, which is always nice 🙂 So I got my guitar tagged and dropped it off at the over-sized luggage. Where a nice gentleman told me to put it on a tray on the belt and he will take care of it. So I headed upstairs to the security check and on the escalator gazed down to my guitar still on the belt. This is the moment where little part of every musicians hear breaks. I think by now you all are aware how attached musicians get to their instruments, but lets just put the emotional side aside for once. Bit over ten years ago I had that dreaded trip with two flights and travelled the whole day. It is part of my flight routine to check my instrument on arrival as soon as I get my hands on it. This way if there is any damage you can report it straight away and there will be no dispute about when it happened. On this occasion I lifted my guitar (it was a nice Takamine) and the head-stock stayed in the case… The neck had snapped in two. This created a handful of practical problems, as I said before I’ll leave the emotional side out of this for now. I had a show the following night, and actually for the following 14 nights and I did not have guitar… So the options were to try to borrow someones instrument, rent or buy a new one. As this was my main guitar and the neck was beyond repair (I eventually got a new neck built for it) I needed new no 1. guitar. So most of the following day I spent going through the local music shops looking for a replacement. I was lucky! I eventually found one that I actually liked more than my damaged Takamine. But also this was something I was not financially prepared for, at the time banks were not exactly handing out credit cards for struggling musicians. This is where a very understanding promoter came extremely handy, he payed for the guitar as an advance for the shows fee. Needles to say, I didn’t make any money from that tour :-D. But as it turned out that the guitar became my no 1. guitar for ten years, until I eventually found my current K. Yairi. Still dreaming of that J-45 though :-D.
As I am writing this they have just passed a law in the USA where if there is room on the plain, by law you have the right to bring your instrument as carry on luggage. I think the European aviation authorities are still a long way from this, with all our “budget airlines”. But as these instruments are our livelihood, this needs to be addressed fast! Here I am sitting in a row of three seats on my own and still could not bring my guitar in. So I am left to hope and pray that my guitar will arrive unharmed and in one piece. What I would love to see is the airlines actually taking initiative on this matter, and try to see the situation from the musician’s point of view, before it needs to be forced into a law. But something tells me this might just be hopeful thinking…
I also know some of you are thinking, why didn’t the promoter pay for a second seat for your guitar? The economy we work in every penny counts, and most of us indie artists are not in any position to make big demands. It is a case of “do you want to play or not”. And I choose to play even at the risk of my guitar being damaged.
So here is what I do when I fly: I have a very good case, even though this still is no guarantee. My Takamine that was destroyed was in a Hiscox PRO2 case, and the case was undamaged. Still these are some of the best cases out there. My K. Yairi travels in a Canadian TKL premium case, it is bit heavier case than the Hiscox, but it has survived lots of flights and feels solid as a rock. Also I have my eye on the new SKB flight cases, with wheels on them and I also have heard great things about Calton cases and some Gator cases. The general rule does apply here though, You do get what you pay for. On top of this I loosen the attention on the strings and wrap the neck and head-stock with T-Shirts and make sure everything is nice and snug. And last, I hope for the best…