Well This Is Handy: Rating Airline Instrument Carry-On Policies

The International Federation of Musicians (FIM), not to be confused with the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), recently launched a webpage that rates major airline musical instrument carry-on policies (h/t MusicalAmerica.com). Perhaps unsurprisingly, most don’t fare well.

Adaptistration People 034According to FIM, the information used to create the ratings came directly from each airline’s website and as anyone with a degree in public administration will be happy to point out, the gulf separating policy and implementation can be vast. Consequently, ratings should not be assumed to be an accurate representation of actual musician experiences. Nonetheless, it’s a great start and FIM keeps everything simple by adopting three ratings:

  • GREEN: These companies accept musical instruments in the cabin, provided they fit in the overhead compartments or under a seat, without specific size limitations.
  • AMBER: Airlines that do not comply with the current US FAA regulation but apply size limitations that are more [favorable] than those applying to regular cabin luggage.
  • RED: Airlines that apply the same size limitations to musical instruments as to regular cabin luggage.

Among major US carriers, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, and Southwest Airlines garnered Green scores while United Airlines and US Airways rank Amber. Alaska Airlines earned a Red rating and not listed were Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines, and Virgin America (although Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia were listed).

It would be interesting to cross tabulate these scores with a database of ratings based on actual musician experiences. Perhaps the AFM will follow up on that part.

Visit the FIM Ratings Site

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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