Flying With Your Accordion

I am continuously getting this question – HOW CAN I FLY WITH MY ACCORDION?

I do it all the time!!! You do have to have a gig bag with NO WHEELS attached. (you can still carry a collapsible roller) That does NOT count as a carry-on item! It is considered just like a walking cane. I have a student that has flown all over the world – with her accordion as carry on!

I have flown, Delta, Continental, United, Southwest, Alaska, and Lufthansa. I do avoid the smaller airlines like Jet Blue or connections that include smaller aircraft. AND YES – I do check to see what style plane the flight will be. AND I TRY for non-stop flights – less gate agents to deal with!

I was once traveling with another accordionist – we each had an accordion and we were in line right behind Alicia Baker and she was with her parents and she had 2 Roland Accordions!!! We were flying from San Francisco to Las Vegas on Southwest.

At the gate: I just either sit in my wheelchair with the other grey haired ladies or avoid the gate agents until we FLY BY for boarding! I won’t say there could be issues – but here is how I have always handled them.

  1. NEVER check your accordion through baggage! Not even at the gate!
  2. SOUTHWEST AIRLINE – was just declared ACCORDION FRIENDLY. See this link : https://community.southwest.com/t5/Southwest-Stories/World-Champion-Accordionists-Fly-Southwest/ba-p/46670
  3. YOU MUST HAVE EARLY BOARDING! You will need to insure you have early boarding – by either purchasing it or using the WHEEL CHAIR ASSIST technique. I am a senior citizen, and I when I book – I ADD that I need wheelchair assistance to the gate. (this gets you through security faster too!!!) Tipping the attendant is well worth it! (Grey Hair ROCKS!)
  4. There is sometimes issues – at ticketing  – if they require you to place it in that stupid “too small” sizer – take it out the case – IT WILL FIT! (measure and add all the 3 dimensions of your accordion – in and out of the gig bag. By their “carry-on” rules – it is not supposed to exceed 62 to 115 inches depending on carrier. And if they say – the case is too large (fold the gig bag in half!!) and put your purse in it – now 2 carry-ons! (My Large Hohner totals only 47 inches”)
  5. There is sometimes issues – at security – they think the accordion can not fit through the machine – so – take it out of the gig bag and/or can ask for a supervisor and they can hand check the accordion. My Roland went through the machine and they pulled me and accordion aside and asked what that battery was – and asked me to remove it. I told them I didn’t know how! and they just did that swab test and all was fine.
  6. There is sometimes issues – at the gate – they politely say – let me get you a gate-check for that – it is too large for the overhead. That is where I state I have purchased early boarding – to insure there is space available, that this is a musical instrument that the FAA guarantees can be carried on, state the total 3 dimension size (under 90 inches or what ever that carriers rules are) and they are welcome to accompany you onto the plane to prove to them that it will fit in the overhead. If that doesn’t deter them – then pull out the FAA RULING – listed below for you to print out (AND PRINT out that carrier’s carry on size restriction). What ever you do – DO NOT WAIT FOR A SUPERVISOR – that will insure that there is NO SPACE for it!! Everyone else will have boarded.
  7. There is sometimes issues – with the overhead bins. Once I had my Large Roland accordion in a gig bag that had wheels installed. The wheels were causing it to be TOO FAT to fit into the bin. SO I had to take the accordion out of the gig bag (wrapped it with the towel I ALWAYS keep in my bag) and then it FIT.
  8. There is sometimes issues – getting up to the overhead bins. I simply can’t lift my accordion that far over my head!!! Believe me – after I “fake” try for a few times – there is always the person behind me wanting to get to their seat – that will help me!
  9. You can always make a dry run to the airport with your accordion and place in the carry-on sizer they have at the counter – this way you will know everything will be okay!
  10. ANOTHER OPTION – If you have an acoustic accordion – you can pull the bellow pins from the keyboard side – wrap each section in bubble wrap and place into separate back packs. Take your pliers with you! Don’t forget to TAKE or Check the case or gig bag you plan to use at your destination. I have used the accordion case AS MY SUITCASE – with my clothes in it!!! and then at my destination – empties my clothes and used the case for my accordion!
  11. Most airlines restrict you to 2 carry-on baggage. Some are charging now for carry on. SO do not exceed that amount and pay for what you are “carrying on” – which includes your accordion.
  12. Official FAA Ruling – Please print and take with you to the airport – and reference section 403

QUOTE – “Carriers must allow passengers to stow their small musical instruments in an approved stowage area in the cabin if at the time the passenger boards the aircraft such stowage space is available.  Under the rule, musical instruments as carry-on items are treated no differently from other carry-on items and the stowage space should be made available for all carry-on items on a “first come, first served” basis.”


Links to the FAA Rulings

  1. https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-issues-final-rule-regarding-air-travel-musical
  2. http://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOT-OST-2014-0231-0002

Hope this has helped you.

Now ask me about flying with my handgun!!!! AND I DO!!!