- Leo's | Oakland, California
Three days of bands in the San Francisco Bay area. Probably the only time you ever will be able to see us on the West Coast. See the official Web site for more bands and other info.
A Note About Flying with Guitars
This was the first time that we flew to a gig and I thought I might say a few words about taking guitars on a commercial flight. Here's the gear we took with us:
Having seen that viral video about United breaking guitars and knowing quite a few people who have had guitars either broken or stolen while flying, we were a bit paranoid about traveling with our instruments.
The only consistent advice we could find about flying with guitars was to loosen the strings. As far as getting your stuff safely on the plane, everyone has a their own story. John and I took two different approaches. He got the industrial strength hard case you see in the photo above with the plan of checking it through the whole way. I brought my smaller, lighter bass in the beige hard case and added some extra foam padding around the neck and body of the guitar.
The airline's terms of service for both United and American say you can take instruments with you to the gate. My plan was to just walk through security like I knew what I was doing and hopefully get my bass in the plane's coat closet. At O'hare this plan worked for the most part. No body hassled me and I made it to the gate. However, John's plans were thwarted when he tried to check that monstrous case. It was both over-sized and over-weight (aluminum necks do have their drawbacks). According to the baggage clerk, the cost to check the road case would have been more than $400! This being Chicago, the clerks were more than willing to bend the rules a bit and told John that since it technically was an instrument, he could carry it through security and gate check it for free (our fine City's culture of corruption does have its advantages).
Once at the gate John talked to the flight staff and a manager came out and let him gate check the road case. My plan to just walk on to the plane with the bass sorta fell apart here as I also had to gate check my case. This I expected. Now, as much as I hate United (they completely ruined a long-planned family vacation for me last year by bumping us off our flights), I have to admit the gate staff at O'hare was very accommodating and friendly. They assured us that instruments are handled very carefully and would be unloaded separately from normal luggage at baggage claim in San Francisco. To their credit, they arrived in good shape without any problems.
At the show John played our first song then promptly broke three strings and borrowed The Gary's guitar for the rest of the set.
Things did not go quite our way on the trip from San Francisco to O'hare. This time we both tried to walk right through American Airline's security and were promptly told by the staff that the only guitars they allow through are those that are in gig bags or in a shaped case like you'd have for an acoustic guitar. The inconsistency of policies miffed us and we tried to invoke the passenger's bill of rights. Turns out that there is no article in that bill of rights covering ungodly overweight boutique guitars. Next thing you know they're gonna be allowing TSA agents to quartered in our houses!
We were then escorted to the over-sized item line fearing the major hit the band fund was going to take for checking through that huge-ass road case. Fortunately, John's guitar only cost $125 to check and my bass was the standard $25 fee. But Tony was able to charm his way into carrying his drum and cymbal cases with him.
Again we were assured that instruments got special treatment. Even still, we watched in despair as the two guitars were conveyed through the strip doors into the bowels of SFO airport.
Once we landed we raced to the baggage claim down the seemingly endless length of the American Airlines terminal (has anyone ever landed at Gate #1?). Again, the bags were hand delivered to the over-sized baggage area. After a quick inspection everything looked to be in one piece and we let go a sigh of relief. Well, I did anyway. John still had a train ride back to Logan Square where he hoped the hand truck he had locked to the bike rack would still be there:
It was! Next time we are only flying via chartered Leerjet (merch sales in Oakland were quite good).