Advice needed for flying a harp transatlantic

Posted In: Coffee Break

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    Maya on #184220

    I’m transferring to Berklee in January and will be flying from London to Boston in a few weeks. I am leaving my pedal harp behind and will be using a rental in Boston. However I have recently bought a Camac DHC 36. I have travelled once with an electric guitar and it had to be checked; though it was in a hard case, there was minor damage done to the instrument. I have not travelled with an instrument since. I am buying a seat for my harp but British Airways have not been particularly helpful as to confirming whether this ensures it will actually be allowed in the cabin. I do not have a hardcase for it yet as the harp only arrived recently despite being ordered well over a year ago, due to it being damaged via shipping…

    I assume the harpcolumn community will have people who have experience with harps and air travel. Any advice on what to say or request from the airlines before hand, when to show up at the airport, do I need to print out extra paperwork, whether paying for early boarding is necessary, how to secure the harp into the seat etc, would be incredibly helpful. Up to this point, phone calls with BA have not provided any reassurance.

    I am aware that in America there is some legislation that ensures instruments can be taken into the aircraft cabin but I do not believe Europe has such legislation yet. If anyone has any information/experiences with EU/British airlines, particularly BA or Virgin, it would be much appreciated.

    patricia-jaeger on #184343

    I have no experience so I hope someone else will log in to this important question. Two comments, however, may help: First, get in touch with Carl Swanson, a very reliable renter of harps in Boston, to inquire about renting a harp of your choice. He posts often on this site so if you registered here and type in his name, you will obtain his e-mail. Also, many years ago when the well known harpist from Wales, Osian Ellis, was transporting a pedal harp back to the U.K. from the U.S.A, in a large wooden case, it was dumped into the Atlantic Ocean by a crew member in the cargo section of the plane, by mistake, thinking it was a coffin intended for “burial at sea”.

    Alison on #184357


    Alison on #184367

    Maya, ask Gabriella and Jacquez for advice and also the student at the RAM from San Diego, Richard knows him…….. I would say that the cellists usually succeed in strapping a cello into adjacent (paid for seat) but a cello is slimmer – I would wrap it very carefully with good padding and a dirt-proof polythene wrapper & let the strings down so that it’s prepared in case you are told that it has to be put in the hold and loaded last thing (so that means you take it to the gate but they might not let it into the cabin)
    I had a student who took a tiny lap harp, so small that it would slide into the overhead lockers but unless the flight is emptyish and you can secure it upside down over 2 spare seats, as the harp is wider, the airline might say no.
    Failing that Pilgrims could get you a small ply crate with a foam cutout interior -look on their second-hand list
    Be quick because they are closed for two weeks over Xmas. If you haven’t actually bought a seat, or they refund you, then haulage might be slower but cheaper…….
    Whatever – wrap it, measure it and weigh it and speak to the airline again beforehand.

    Tacye on #184414

    Even having bought it a seat, and knowing that it will fit (will it?) it is at the captain’s discretion whether the harp is permitted to fly and if it is in the cabin. Pretty much everything about flying is at the captain’s discretion. It must have the window seat – you don’t want any concern about clambering over it being a problem during evacuation, and definitely not an exit row! Make sure your case has securing points the belt can go through or work out your own strap system that can be secured by the usual single belt. For the sake of goodwill and practicality, don’t stretch the cabin baggage allowance in other ways and check your spare strings, they have been known to be refused by security, and be prepared for security to take longer.

    Are airport taxes per person? Can you buy it a seat without the taxes?

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