Most reunions conjure up images of romantic coming back togethers, roses in hands, tears flowing, and a sense that now you’re reunited, everything is going to be just OK.

If you’ve ever had to check your guitar in as hold luggage, we’re guessing you’ve experienced similar emotions when meeting your beloved at baggage carousel number 9.

Turning up at the airport expecting to take your guitar all the way to the cabin, only to be told you’ve got to check it in can be crushing. Each airline has specific guidelines and terms and conditions when it comes to rules for bringing musical instruments on board. It’s crucial that you check with the instruments policy of the airline you are flying with, and take the time to read the fine print.

The last thing you want is to have a problem when you get to the airport, such as excess charges, or worse, having to leave your instrument behind. An obvious first step is to check restrictions on the airline website, but if you have any concerns at all, make sure you contact the airline directly for advice.

Policies vary from airline to airline, but most airlines will let you carry small instruments such as violins and clarinets as hand luggage.

If you need to fly with a large instrument, usually you will have two options. Either you purchase an additional seat especially for your instrument, or you can check it in as hold luggage (weight restrictions and additional charges may apply). If your instrument is going in the hold, you will need to make sure it is packed safely away in a protective case or bag. It’s also wise to purchase insurance.

Leaving your beloved instrument in the hands of an airline can be a frankly terrifying experience!

To make things easier for you, we have included the musical instrument baggage restrictions and guidelines for 10 major British airlines below. However, you should still check with your airline before you fly, as policies may be updated or changed.

  1. EasyJet

EasyJet allow you to take instruments as hand baggage that are no bigger than 30cm x 120 cm x 38cm. Instruments that fall within this include Violins, violas, piccolos, flutes, clarinets, bugles and trumpets.

‘Carriage as Hand Baggage is subject to available space in the overhead lockers and strictly at the Captain’s discretion. Please note the instrument will be classed as your one allowed piece of Hand Baggage.’

View all their rules here.

When it comes to larger instruments, they have to be checked in as hold luggage, cannot weigh more than 32kg, and you have to pay a baggage fee. The only exception is Cellos, which might have to be taken into the cabin provided an additional seat is purchased for the item.

  1. British Airways

You can take some musical instruments on board as part of your free hand baggage allowance. However, they need to fit within the maximum bag dimensions. BA will try where they can to accommodate large instruments, but you will need to check with them. Items that are too large will be checked in as your baggage and put in the hold, but excess baggage charges might apply.

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‘Larger instruments can be carried as part of your free checked baggage allowance or as part of an additional purchased allowance if required. We’ll even carry instruments larger and heavier than the standard checked baggage limits, up to 45kg (99lb) and 190cm x 75cm x 65cm (75in x 29.5in x 25.5in), providing you notify us at least 24 hours before your flight. Instruments over 23kg may incur a heavy bag charge. Please transport all musical items in a hard backed case when you travel with us.’

View their rules here.

  1. Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic do allow you to take some instruments as hand luggage, but they advise that some might not fit within your hand baggage allowance. If your instrument is too big, you will have to check it in and pay an additional baggage fee if it takes you over your check in allowance.

Please note if you do check an instrument in – ‘Rather than checking it in on the spot we’ll still ask you to carry it through to the airport security checkpoint (subject to relevant Airport Security approval). As instruments are especially fragile, this ensures safer carriage. It will be taken at the departure gate for loading into the hold of the aircraft, so please make sure it’s suitably protected when you pack it.’

You can also decide to book a seat for your instruments (two max). However, ‘each instrument cannot exceed 75kg (165 lb) and its centre of mass should be no more than 30cm (12 inches) above the top of the seat cushion.’

View their rules here.

  1. Ryanair

The musical instrument baggage allowance isn’t all that clear on the Ryanair website, so it’s best to check directly with them by phoning before your trip. They do have a small section which mentions musical instruments in their terms and conditions.

‘Objects which we deem unsuitable for carriage in the aircraft hold (such as delicate but small musical instruments, wedding dresses, hat boxes, etc.), and which do not meet the requirements set out in Article 8.7.1 above, may nevertheless be accepted for carriage in the cabin if they can be safely and conveniently secured into an extra seat which you have purchased for the specific purpose of same.’

View their rules here.

  1. Thomson

Thomson allow you to take instruments on board as hand luggage, provided they meet the hand baggage dimensions. If your instrument exceeds the hand luggage allowance you will need to check it in at an extra charge.

‘We recommend you mark the instrument as fragile and advise check-in staff to handle with care. See our Conditions of Carriage for full details.’

View their rules here.

  1. Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook don’t appear to have any specific information about musical instruments and baggage. They do have an information page which outlines their baggage information. They are likely to have similar rules to other airlines, but just to be safe, contact Thomas Cook and confirm with them. They may need notice if you intend to travel with an instruments.

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View their rules here.

  1. Jet2.com

Jet2 have a set charge for musical instruments. It costs £30 and you have to ring 0333 300 0042 to book. They have an information page and a table here. It is unclear whether you can take instruments on as hand baggage if they meet the requirements, so it’s best to check with them before you travel.

View their rules here.

  1. Monarch

Monarch have a helpful page about carrying musical instruments on board here. They provide three different options.

  1. You can take your instrument on as hand luggage if it meets the stipulated weight and size restrictions.
  2. You can check in an instrument as part of your hold baggage allowance, although baggage fees and restrictions apply.
  3. You can purchase an extra seat for your instrument. ‘You will need to ensure that this fits comfortably into the dimensions of a single, standard aircraft seat and can be strapped in using a normal seatbelt. This option needs to be booked by calling our Customer Services Centre. You will also need to pre-book a seat which is adjacent to you. (Seat fees will apply).’

‘All musical instruments should be safely housed in their own carry case. It is recommended that you obtain travel insurance which will cover these items in the event of them becoming damaged.’

  1. Flybe

Flybe have substantial information on their website about baggage allowance and musical instruments. They recommend that instruments are suitably packaged and covered by adequate insurance. They have special rules for cellos, violins and Celtic harps. Other musical instruments are permitted in the cabin as long as they meet the cabin bag requirements.

‘Guitars will be treated as an item of hold luggage and therefore hold luggage charges will apply for its carriage. Excess charges will apply if the weight exceeds 20 kilos. All other large musical instruments such as harps, double bass, drum kits, etc. will need to be prepared and packaged for carriage in the aircraft hold. These will be carried on a standby basis only and standard fees apply. View details of musical instrument fees.’

View their rules here.

  1. Qantas

Qantas require musical instruments to be stored in their hard-shell case, they shouldn’t weigh more than 7kgs or exceed the maximum dimensions if they are going to be used as carry-on baggage. Instruments carried as hand luggage should be stored in the overhead locker. They advise you to measure your instrument before arriving at the airport.

‘If its total linear dimensions are 105cm (41in) or less, then it will be equivalent to a 105cm (41in) bag in the Carry-on Baggage Table. If its total linear dimensions are between 105cm (41in) and 142cm (56in) then it will be taken as equivalent to a 115cm (45in) bag in the Carry-on Baggage Table.

Larger musical instruments, for example most guitars, do not fit within the musical instrument allowance as detailed above. You must check in your larger musical instruments, alternatively you can purchase an extra seat and carry as a Bulky item.’

View their rules here.