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Fly With Your Frets: Navigating Airplane Guitar Rules

Strumming through security? Before your six-string's flight debut, let's unravel the TSA's fretful guidelines—making sure your guitar's journey is as smooth as your favorite riff.

Tobi Miles
August 3, 2022

Whether you are a professional musician or play the guitar as a hobby, you may need to travel with it one day. If you’re traveling by air, you want to make sure you can bring a guitar on a plane.

You can bring your guitar on a plane as long as it adheres to TSA guidelines and passes security. The guitar cannot cause injury to others, and it must be less than 165 pounds, including the case. It must be able to fit in the overhead bin; if it doesn’t, you must purchase an additional seat.

To bring a guitar on the plane or check it with other luggage is your decision. This article will discuss traveling with a guitar on a plane and the regulations surrounding this. We will also briefly discuss guitar accessories and those travel guidelines as well.

Credit: ingimage

A Quick Look At The TSA’s Rules For Musical Instruments

Before booking your flight, you will want to know the exact rules for guitars for that airline. The TSA recommends doing the following when bringing a guitar on an airplane.

  • Calculate the guitar’s size in linear inches, including the case.
  • Print a copy of the airline’s policy on guitars for the day of travel. If there is any confusion, you can show the airline its policy.
  • The guitar and case together must be less than 165 pounds.
  • The guitar must fit in the overhead bin. If you know it won’t fit in the overhead bin ahead of time, you must purchase an additional seat.
  • All musical instruments, including guitars, must undergo a screening when being transported as a carry-on or in checked bags.
  • Musical instruments brought as a carry-on require a physical inspection at the security checkpoint.

Can I Bring My Guitar On A Plane?

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Yes, you can bring your guitar on a plane due to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. US air carriers must allow passengers to bring musical instruments on flights as carry-on luggage or checked baggage. In order to do this, specific requirements must be met, such as TSA rules and the airline’s guidelines.

This does not mean the airline must allow your guitar inside the plane cabin with you. There are some instances in which the guitar cannot fit in the cabin. You may have to check it at the gate if this is the case.

Related Read: Can You Bring AirPods on a Plane?

Can You Take A Guitar On A Plane Without A Case?

Always check with your airline for their policy for carrying a guitar on a plane. Guitars transported as carry-on and checked bags require an inspection at the security checkpoint. If you want to protect your guitar, you should pack it in a case.

Airlines may have you sign a liability waiver when bringing a guitar on a plane. This waiver will remove the airline from any responsibility if your guitar is damaged in flight. To ensure that your guitar arrives at your destination in the same condition, it’s best to pack it in a secure case.

Does My Guitar Count As My Carry-On?

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If your airline states that you can only bring one carry-on on board, your guitar will count as such. TSA states that passengers may only bring one musical instrument as a carry-on. When booking your flight, make sure you ask the airline representative if there will be enough space for your guitar.

Smaller planes often have smaller overhead bins, and your guitar may not fit in them. If this happens, flight attendants will require you to check the guitar in the plane's cargo area.

Related Read: How to Choose an 18x 14x8 Bag

Can I Pack Extra Items In My Guitar Case?

There are no explicit rules regarding packing extra items in your guitar case. However, you should remember that the weight cannot exceed the limit set by the airline. You will have to open the case for security, so be aware of the additional items in the guitar case.

Musicians often keep certain tools in their guitar cases like Allen keys, screwdrivers, instrument cables, or strings. To avoid security confiscating these items, you will want to remove them before you get to the airport.

Does A Guitar Count As Checked Baggage?

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It will count as your checked baggage if you decide to check your guitar. Depending on the airline, you may have to pay an additional fee to check another bag. Otherwise, you should be able to bring an additional carry-on.

Checked baggage does have a weight limit, typically 50 pounds. If you check your guitar, the weight will most likely be over the limit, so you will have to pay the overage fee. Depending on the airline, this fee can be up to $200.

Keep in mind that if you do check your guitar, it does put it at risk of damage and even theft. It’s recommended to pack your guitar in a sturdy case if you have to check it. After your flight lands, go straight to the conveyor belt to pick up your guitar.

Related Read: Can You Bring a Speaker on a Plane?

How Much Does It Cost To Bring A Guitar On A Plane?

When bringing your guitar with you on a flight, you have two options: check it or bring it as a carry-on. If you’re checking your guitar, the first checked bag is free for some airlines, but for others, it’s $30-$50 per bag. The airline you fly with will determine the cost of bringing your guitar on the plane.

If you’re bringing the guitar as a carry-on, you may want to do priority boarding, on average, $15-$25 per flight. Priority boarding will ensure enough room in the overhead bin to store your guitar.

Can You Carry A Guitar On An International Flight?

The same rules for guitars for domestic flights also apply to international flights. As stated before, each airline is different, so you should know those rules before departure. All musical instruments undergo screening when transported as a carry-on or checked bag.

When flying internationally, there may be more screenings due to customs. Be prepared to have your guitar checked several times throughout the travel process.

Can You Play Your Guitar On A Plane?

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While TSA does not have any rules about playing your guitar on a plane, it’s probably not the best idea. Most airlines will not allow you to remove such a large object from the overhead bin. Secondly, anything that disrupts other passengers on the flight will not be tolerated.

When bringing a guitar on a plane, you want to be as inconspicuous as possible. This privilege could be taken away, so you will want to do your best to comply.

Can You Bring A Guitar Amp On A Flight?

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The short answer is yes; you can take a guitar amp on a plane. However, you should check with the airline before bringing it. You will most likely need to check the amp as it will not fit in the overhead bin.

If you have to check your guitar amp, be prepared to pay a fee. Depending on the size, you may have to pay an overage fee. Also, to prevent damage to the amp, you will want to pack it in a sturdy case.

Related Read: Can You Bring A Skateboard On A Plane?

Still Not Sure? Ask the TSA

The TS doesn’t have concrete rules when it comes to guitars, only that they are allowed on airplanes. If you are unsure of the rules about bringing guitars on a plane, ask the TSA directly. There are several ways to contact the TSA ahead of your departure: social media, email, or phone.

You can reach the TSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger or chat live with a TSA officer from 8 AM to 6 PM ET. If you are requesting more information, want to submit a compliment or complaint, or have a PreCheck issue, it’s best to email. Automated information is always available anytime you call the TSA.

Live TSA representatives are available from 8 AM to 11 PM ET on weekdays or 9 AM to 8 PM on weekends and holidays. The TSA website has a page of commonly asked questions by travelers and answers from the TSA.


The TSA allows guitars on airplanes, but each airline has specific rules, so it’s best to check with them beforehand. The guitar and case must be less than 165 pounds. If you’re bringing your guitar in the cabin, it should be able to fit in the overhead bin.

If your guitar doesn’t fit in the overhead bin, your best bet is to purchase an additional seat. Otherwise, the airline will make you check your guitar in cargo. To avoid confusion, print a copy of the airline's guitar policy for the day of travel.

Article updated:
January 5, 2024

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