Advice on air travel with your instrument Jump to main content

Advice on air travel with your instrument


  • Always carefully check the airline’s hand baggage allowance policies before your flight, every airline have different policies. Some airlines allow musicians to carry small musical instruments (defined as ‘guitar sized or smaller’) in the cabin as a second item of hand luggage
  • We strongly recommend, where possible, that you contact the airline before you travel and receive written confirmation of the acceptance of instruments.
  • Musicians who are carrying an instrument larger than a guitar (e.g. cello) should purchase an extra seat for their instrument must be allowed to take this on board, receive a written confirmation of this ahead of your flight.
  • Always pack your instrument in a hard case, even if you are taking it on with you as hand luggage.
  • Make sure no other item other than the instrument and its accessories are in the case. However, please be mindful that certain accessories may not be permitted in hand luggage so will need to be packed in your hold luggage instead.
  • Be prepared for your musical instrument to be screened at security.
  • Do not place any liquids in your case.
  • Ensure that there are plenty of ‘Fragile’ stickers on the case and that it is clearly labelled with your contact details.
  • If you have an instrument with strings, loosen them a tone or two to allow for temperature changes.
  • Be sure to read up on CITES and prepare the relevant documentation and permits you need if you are travelling with instruments that are made of rare materials, especially when you are traveling to the USA. Please refer to our guide 'Applying for a CITES permit or certificate.'
  • Document everything and make copies.
  • Photograph all your luggage in case it gets lost.
  • ISM members should always carry their ISM membership card with them at all times to validate your rights as a professional musician.
  • Check the weight allowance for your hand luggage - you may need to pay extra for overweight items.
  • Check that your musical instrument insurance policy covers travelling with your instrument to the territory you are travelling to.

ISM visa and work permit advice service

ISM members can access our visa and work permit advice service, delivered in partnership with experts Viva la Visa. They can offer advice on your individual situation, helping you to navigate the required work permits and visas in the country or countries you are visiting on your work trip.