AFM communication on Delta Airlines

AFM communication on Delta Airlines

I just came across this on another music list and thought it might be of interest to some here. It’s a message from Thomas F. Lee, the President of the American Federation of Musicians, about Delta Airlines and how they deal with musicians. I understand the article is in the newest International Musician (June, 2006), the official organ of the Union.



For many AFM members, air travel is an integral part of their work —
they simply have to fly in order to pursue their careers. And they
have to carry their instruments with them.

After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, however, Congress was asked to
place heavy restrictions on carry-on luggage. That effort, if
successful, would have created serious problems for traveling

The Federation worked feverishly to educate legislators and their
staffs on musicians’ need to place fragile and expensive instruments in
overhead compartments, not in the cargo area. Congress eventually
rejected significant carry-on restriction.

But we did not stop there. Although Congress did not enact any
restrictive legislation, a problem arose when security personnel began
insisting that all instruments be checked as baggage.

The Federation’s legislative office aggressively took action and
addressed the issue through the Transportation Security Administration
(TSA). After many meetings, which I attended, Thomas Blank of the TSA
agreed to write a letter that AFM members could present to security
personnel to facilitate carrying on instruments. This letter was
effective with security personnel and convinced many airline personnel
to allow the instruments in the overhead.

Airlines, however, have their own regulations regarding instruments.
Thus, despite the success of our efforts with government officials,
musicians continued to have difficulties getting their instruments on

Hal Ponder, director of the AFM Office of Government Relations; Eric
Beers, Symphonic Services Division contract administrator; and I met
with airline representatives on several occasions to explain the damage
that can happen to instruments that are stored in cargo. All were
sympathetic and vowed to help musicians.

The AFM, over the past two years, has worked diligently and crafted
proposals that create standards applicable to all airlines. This would
ensure that musicians would only need to be familiar with one policy
that applied to all airlines. And this policy could be reviewed by the
airline industry and the AFM if modifications were needed.

Although the airlines have never expressly agreed to the terms of this
policy, most have cooperated with musicians when there has been a need
to stow expensive, fragile instruments. Regrettably that is not the
case with all of the airlines.

I have received many complaints that Delta Airlines officials and
representatives have consistently prevented musicians from carrying
instruments on board. While I have no way of knowing whether every
allegation is true, I have received enough complains to convince me
that Delta is either not properly instructing its personnel regarding
this matter, or that it simply has no interest in the problems facing
musicians. Not surprisingly, there have been many reports of
instrument damage from Delta’s placement of instruments in the cargo

The Federation has spoken with Delta’s representatives, but without
success. It appears that Delta has no concern about instrument damage.
As a result the AFM, its members, and all musicians must take a
different approach to this problem. We must publicize this unfair

I am asking all musicians and performing artists to boycott Delta. The
AFM will continue to attempt to convince Delta to change their
policies. In the meantime, we must use our economic power to
demonstrate to Delta officials that their policies will not be
tolerated and that we will count on the power of 100,000 members to
spread the word that Delta is unfair to musicians.

I urge all local officers and members to speak with newspaper editors,
radio personalities, and civic groups to create awareness of the
problems that musicians encounter with delta. The AFM will notify
other unions and their members about these problems and will encourage
local labor councils to assist in passing the word.

It is not our desire to damage relations with our brothers and sisters
who work for Delta. However, when Delta officials ignore the problems
that musicians encounter, we are left with no choice but to bring this
to the public’s attention. Please do everything possible to assist
your fellow musicians in this effort.

Re: AFM communication on Delta Airlines

Do they even include fiddles and such smaller instruments that COULD fit in overhead? Do they routinely just take and stow all instruments. what about a flute….could be a pipe bomb I suppose.

I wonder if there could be a separate in cabin area specifically for instruments, not in cargo holds. Pets too should be kept up in the main area.

I was thinking to build a removeable neck travel guitar (not that I go anywhere far, LOL) that would fit in a backpack in two pieces, but what’s the point if they will make you check it anyway.

Way back, I got a letter from the airline along with my ticket, saying I was to carry on and hand the large guitar to the stewardess, and she put it in a closet, and then gave it back on my way out. This was very pre- 9/11 however.

Strings of course should be loosened in any case I think, no matter where the instrument is kept. I’d also worry about theft off of the baggage carousels. Proper insurance is in order too. That does no good if you have to play and something is broken though.

Do you know of any airline that is cooperative or moreso? You’d think it would be easy enough to stick them in a closet on board if too big for overhead. And can’t the x-ray machines see if any bombs are within the body?

Re: AFM communication on Delta Airlines

I just flew Delta between White Plains and San Antonio, changing in Atlanta, with my accordion. No questions asked. Maybe because the case isn’t shaped like a guitar.

The x-ray machines are run by TSA, not the airlines. The airline sees the luggage you check when you check in, at which point they may notice what you are carrying and not checking, and sees what you are carrying when you board at the gate. I very much doubt that their actions relative to instruments are security-related. They are probably just looking for large, odd-shaped carryons that make it hard to cram so many suitcases into the overheads.

Off the subject

I know I’m going off the subject, but does anyone have a link for Instrument Makers in Europe, preferably Ireland and England and Western Europe?

All help would be greatly appreciated.

Re: AFM communication on Delta Airlines

thanks Gary! An accordion shaped guitar will be next in the list, LOL!. I guess an accordion case can look like a regular small suitcase on first glance.

Re: AFM communication on Delta Airlines

I’m pretty sure they couldn’t care less about what’s in the case as long as it’s rectangular and not too big.

Re: AFM communication on Delta Airlines

Gary,,,,,true…. That’s why I want a guitar with a detachable neck. In a small boxy suitcase in foam padding. Re-assemble on the other end with two bolts.

I have not flown since…don’t laugh 1989. I hate flying. Planning a row-boat trip to Ireland! LOL!

I was in a near crash when very young, and have flown since that, but for some reason it haunts me now, everything flying around the cabin, people screaming etc. I would fly but only if I really want to go somewhere really badly! I would like to go back to Ireland and will. Whenever!