/ Travel & Leisure

Earl Okin: the challenges of travelling with my guitar

Couple travelling with a guitar

Holiday hassles come in all shapes and sizes, especially when it comes to travelling with an instrument. Here’s singer-songwriter, musician and comedian Earl Okin on the trials and tribulations of flying with a guitar.

Apparently, a guitar is a serious problem for Western European airlines… or is it?

I’m an entertainer and now and then work abroad. Every time I check in at an airport, I seem to get the same nonsense… Having had my guitar smashed once (despite its flight case), by American Airlines, I now demand to have my guitar in the overhead in the cabin. Such a space can be found in 99% of flights.

This is how the conversation goes:

Air steward: ‘You’ll have to check the guitar in, Sir’.

Me: ‘No, it’s in a soft case. It needs to go in the overhead’.

Air steward: ‘It won’t fit in the overhead’.

Me: ‘Well, let’s try, shall we? Look it does fit, as I said’.

Air steward: ‘But it could fall out and hurt someone’.

Me: ‘No. Small round things fall out, not long flat things. That’s basic physics’.

Air steward: ‘Well, what would happen if everyone had a guitar?’

Me: ‘DOES everyone have a guitar? No, just two of us. So we’re lucky, then’.

I have to go through this every time. Some of the so-called ‘cheap’ airlines charge you money even to check the guitar in. Once I had to pay £65. It’s a rip off. They just want to charge passengers as much as they can. They always suggest I buy a seat for my guitar, of course. I repeat – it’s a guitar and not a cello!

This has to be stopped.

Here’s the thing, I flew in Russia, India, Singapore and Cambodia recently… all sorts of places in the Far East… and nobody even mentioned my guitar! Why can’t others sing from the same hymn sheet?

Have you encountered issues checking in unusual items of luggage? Or have you wanted to keep valuable items close by? Share your views and experiences as we investigate the holiday industry with our Stop the Holiday Hassles campaign

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from musician and comedian Earl Okin. All opinions expressed here are Earl’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.

Gerard Phelan says:
4 October 2014

I am reminded of the story of Canadian musician Dave Carroll whose guitar was damaged in transit by United Airlines in 2008. He made a music video “United Breaks Guitars” about the incident, and later two more, the first achieving over 14 million views. The initial result was a 10% reduction in the stock price of the airline and was a public relations disaster. You can see the videos on YouTube, read the story on Wikipedia or buy the book Dave published in 2012. Dave now has a secondary career as a speaker on Customer Service.

Unfortunately no-one seems to have been inspired by the story to offer secure guitar transportation.