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My last flight was on American and I asked them if there would be a problem carrying onboard my violin case and the counter person said no, just let them know upon check-in that you have an instrument to board and they'll find a spot for it.
When I go to NYC in March, I'm bringing a violin but before I buy a ticket I'm going to get (whichever airline I choose) them to email me a note stating they'll let me bring it onboard. I'm just not going to leave it to chance.
I know that Pierre travels with his violin and I know he knows the practical answer to this question.
JoeP, I just got back from a round trip between Florida and Washington state on Alaska Airlines. I took a violin both ways as carry-on luggage with no problems.
Actually I've never had a problem with any airline over any instrument--fiddle, mandolin, ukulele, whatever--that would fit in the overhead bin.
I've flown a few times now with my violin on Delta and they have never given me any issues with it as a carry-on bag. Even with all the crap I store in my case, TSA just sends it through. I use one of FM's wood cases so I don't worry too much about any harm coming to it. I think I can actually use this case to replace my standard body armor...
"I know a girl who cries when she practices violin because each note sounds so pure it just cuts into her, and then the melody comes pouring out her eyes. Now, to me, everything else just sounds like a lie."
I do travel quite a bit with my fiddle. Mainly Europe. The attitude of airlines to carry on the violin case has dramatically changed over the last few years. I never had a problem until recently. Even when I checked their luggage rules before booking I experienced at the check-in at the airport that they refused to let me take it. It is usually 1 piece of handluggage only. So even when I put my purse, passport and keys in my case they still did not want me to take it - and I even have a trad violin case which is quite small. Only after making a fuss they let me. I will avoid travelling with my violin in the future. Also Frankfurt Airport customs in Germany like to confiscate violins and then ask for huge tax payments. I don't even have a paper declaring the value of my violin - it was found in a loft probably 60 years ago.