Small instruments such as violins are now legally allowed as carry-on baggage provided there is available stowage space
On 30 December the US Department of Transportation fully implemented section 403 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2012 – the law authorising musical instruments as carry-on baggage on board US airlines. The move follows discussions between the American Federation of Musicians and representatives of the airlines and industry associations over the past year.
It is now a legal requirement that airlines allow small musical instruments, such as violins and guitars, to be carried in the cabin and stowed ‘in an approved stowage area’ provided there is space available. The rule states:
‘With the exception of certain disability assistance devices, overhead bins or under seat stowage space is available to all passengers and crew members for their carry-on baggage on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Accordingly, carriers are not required to remove other passengers’ or crew members’ carry-on baggage that is already stowed to make space for a musical instrument. However, this also means carriers are not allowed to require a passenger to remove his or her musical instrument that is safely stowed to make room for carry-on baggage of other passengers who boarded the aircraft later than the passenger with the musical instrument. This is true even if the space taken by the musical instrument could accommodate one or more carry-on items’.
The report admits that although many airlines have already adopted similar policies, ‘frontline customer service agents and flight crew may not always be well-versed in those policies and may not communicate those policies accurately.’ Airlines are now required to train air crews, gate agents, counter agents, and baggage personnel in the appropriate procedures necessary to comply with all FAA musical instrument transportation policies.
The full rule can be read here: http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer/final-rule-musical-instruments