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Home » Officer Columns » Carry-on Talks with DOT: We Have Liftoff

Carry-on Talks with DOT: We Have Liftoff

  -  AFM International President

By the time this column is published, the AFM and the US Department of Transportation (DOT) will have convened a second historic meeting at DOT headquarters in Washington, DC, to address the difficulties professional musicians face when traveling by air with musical instruments.

Our initial meeting was convened in July by DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx and was attended by a variety of stakeholders from all sides of the issue—the DOT, the airlines and their industry associations, and musicians themselves. The AFM delegation included Legislative-Political Director Alfonso Pollard, AFM International Executive Board member and Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President Dave Pomeroy, Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) President Ed Malaga, and Jennifer Mondie, a violist with the National Symphony Orchestra.

We were accompanied by representatives from the AFL-CIO, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Recording Academy, the League of American Orchestras, Chamber Music America, the Performing Arts Alliance, and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. Each of these organizations outlined their support for our concerted effort to clarify the obligations of the airline industry to comply with the statutory requirements of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act adopted in 2012, which contained new regulations covering the treatment of musical instruments as carry-on baggage.

In support of a final rule on this issue, our direct interaction with the DOT was also facilitated in part by 35 members of both the US Senate and House of Representatives. They corresponded with DOT Secretary Foxx about our shared concern over the delay in implementing administrative rules that would give effect to the 2012 law.

The major take-away from our July meeting was a general acknowledgement from the DOT and the airline industry that most major and regional airlines have adopted company policies concerning the air transportation of musical instruments, most of which closely mirror the requirements contained in the 2012 law. The DOT is now bringing both sides together to help clarify and negotiate protocol differences, while ensuring that the airlines’ published policies are clear and will be adhered to, so that musicians can rely upon them while flying with their instruments.

We gained tremendous insight and engaged in productive discussions during our July meeting about the obligations of the US airlines toward musical instrument air travel. The need for the dissemination of information about existing policies, protections, commitments, and remedies available for musicians from government and industry, prior to the issuance of final administrative rules, was well recognized by every stakeholder.

As a result, our September meeting would concentrate on the following agreed-upon items, including but not limited to:

  • The creation of a webpage to provide public information on transporting musical instruments.
  • Improved airline communication of musical instrument policies to frontline staff, ticket agents, gate agents, and flight crews.
  • Group review of AFM member survey results concerning instrument air transport.
  • Development of a public document summarizing musical instrument carriage regulations in plain language.
  • New options on how to file air travel service complaints.
  • Development of a tip sheet for musicians traveling by air with instruments.

These historic DOT meetings were driven to implementation by AFM Legislative-Political Director Alfonso Pollard. They would not have occurred but for the energy and determination he brings to our legislative office each day. We owe Alfonso a big round of applause for his tireless efforts to focus attention on all of our legislative issues, and in particular, to bring resolution to our decades-long campaign for the safety of our precious instruments when we travel by air to and from our performances. We will update you on the results of our September DOT meeting in the next issue of the International Musician.

Please don’t forget the importance of TEMPO, our Political Action Fund that helps us support men and women of Congress who take the lead legislating issues of critical importance to professional musicians—from performance rights to African elephant ivory to copyright protection to pension reform. AFM members can donate to TEMPO online at