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Home » Legislative Update » AFM Partners with Government and Airlines to Resolve Long Overdue Inconsistent Policies

AFM Partners with Government and Airlines to Resolve Long Overdue Inconsistent Policies


DOT Issues New Musical Instrument Airline Carriage Rule

On December 29, 2014, Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx issued a final rule regarding the carriage of musical instruments onboard US air carriers. The rule was published in the Federal Register January 5, 2015 and is scheduled to go into effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, around March 6. The rule comes about as a result of language outlined in Section 403 of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which required rulemaking by February 14, 2014. With the effective date looming, AFM President Ray Hair instructed the AFM Office of Government Relations, in cooperation with our arts and entertainment partners, to contact members of Congress, as well as the DOT, to initiate the rulemaking process.


Over the two-year period between passage of the 2012 FAA Reauthorization and the February 2014 rule deadline date, AFM Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President Dave Pomeroy and his legislative assistant Kathy Osborne worked with Congressman Jim Cooper’s office to help keep the carry-on issue alive. On February 11, 2014, Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), along with 33 members of Congress, forwarded a letter to Foxx urging that rulemaking for musical instruments as carry-on baggage become a priority. At a reception at Vice President Biden’s residence, Foxx assured me that this rule was a priority for him as he is himself a trumpet player who understands why it’s important.

On February 3, 2014, members of the arts and entertainment community sent a letter to Foxx urging promulgation of the new rule. In addition to the AFM, signatories to the letter included: Recording Industry Association of America, Department for Professional Employees, Recording Academy, SoundExchange, Americans for the Arts, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Association of Performing Arts Presenters, musicFIRST, Chamber Music America, Performing Arts Alliance, Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, National Alliance for Musical Theater, American Composers Forum, Opera America, Dance/USA, Alternate Roots, Theater Communications Group, Fractured Artists, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures, Network of Ensemble Theaters, Chorus America, New Music America, League of American Orchestras, and Percussive Arts Society. Washington, DC based affiliates of these organizations assisted with setting up our DOT meeting.

Getting to Yes

Staff level meetings began in June 2014. Our first full meeting took place in July 2014, with a final meeting September 2014. AFM President Hair led the proceedings for music stakeholders. Present at the table was Foxx, DOT General Counsel, DOT Assistant General Counsel, and FAA staff. Senior level airline representatives from Airlines for America, National Air Carrier Association, Regional Airline Association, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines/US Airways, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines all participated. Other AFM stakeholders included AFM Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) President Ed Malaga, ICSOM Executive Board Member and National Symphony Orchestra Violist Jennifer Mondie, and AFM Local 257 President and AFM International Executive Board member Dave Pomeroy.

How to Navigate This New Environment

Education is key. The success of our talks with airlines and DOT centered on our team having a complete understanding of federal government and airline industry policies. The federal government regulates airline traffic and requires each carrier to file a Contract of Carriage that outlines commitments between the airline and its passengers.

In addition to the airlines themselves, the Department of Homeland Security has the responsibility for security matters, while the DOT, the FAA, and the airlines harbor responsibility for the safety of the flying public. The result is a complex maze of rules and regulations. Flying today is far more regulated than 10, or even five years ago. Congress’s efforts centered on developing legislation to create consistent carriage safety and boarding policy within the aviation community, as well as between airlines.

Prior to purchasing tickets, traveling musicians should familiarize themselves with the Helpful Websites (below) to ensure a safe and uneventful journey. The Airlines for America link outlines policies for each major airline.

We anticipate additional conversations with the DOT and airlines. Please be sure to label your instrument clearly on the outside of its case. In addition, take a photo of both the outside of the case and your instrument in the case. Insure your instrument with a reputable insurance carrier that will provide you full replacement value. If you have issues, request a conversation with a first-line supervisor who can help resolve most matters and will be trained on this new ruling.

The statute language states, “such [as] a guitar or violin, etc.” Musicians should understand that these instruments are only cited as examples. On the first day of talks, a complete list of musical instruments and case sizes was distributed to airline and music stakeholders. We anticipate that air carriers will train employees on the full range of instruments.

Read the January 5 DOT Carriage rule in the
Federal Register at:

Airline Instrument Carriage Rule Summary:

  • Outlines DOT rules for large and small instruments as carry-on, cargo in the passenger compartment, as well as checked baggage, on major airlines, as well as regional and smaller carriers.
  • The rules also address seat purchases and specific information about the placement of large instruments in cabin.
  • When statute language states, “such [as] a guitar or violin, etc.,” musicians should understand that these instruments are only cited as examples.
  • Air carriers are required to adequately inform passengers and the public about the limitations and restrictions imposed.
  • Musicians should study and follow guidance outlined in federal and air carrier online policy statements.
  • When booking air tickets, musicians must inform carrier representative(s) that he or she will be transporting a musical instrument.
  • Rules relating to on-board stowage will apply to any instrument that meets FAA carry-on size requirements.
  • Information and periodic airline reminders or audits and training of counter agents, gate agents, first line supervisors, and baggage acceptance clerks and handlers is required.
  • Mandatory training is also required for general and operational managers, reservation agents, ticket clerks, first-line supervisors, laborers, and material movers.
  • There will be additional meetings between music stakeholders and airline representatives.
  • Rules include foreign air transportation.

Notes for Traveling with Instruments:

  • Musical instruments fall into the category of “unusual or fragile items,” hence must be considered for stowage.
  • Board early; ask ticket agent for priority seating when you book passage.
  • Overhead and under seat stowage is on a first come, first serve basis.
  • Once an instrument is stowed in-cabin, it cannot be removed or be replaced by other bags.

Helpful Websites:

National and Internet Press

Instrument Carry-on Rule for Flights Pleases Musicians 

DOT Harmonizes Rules for Musical Instruments on Flights 

Musicians Get Approval to Carry on Instruments When Flying 

DOT Final Rule on Musical Instruments in the Cabin 

DOT Updates Rules for Musical Instruments on Planes 

U.S. DoT Issues Final Rule – Air Travel with Musical Instruments 

Hey, Rockstars, You Can Now Legally Bring Your Instrument as a Carry On

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