We all have luggage that we carry with us when we travel. Sometimes it can be a hassle to carry it along, however we have it easy compared to some others! Have you ever wondered about the people who travel with odd-sized items? Think of cello players, guitarists or other people who have to travel with an odd-sized or very fragile item. How do they transport these items without putting them at risk?
Most of the airlines have contracts of carriage which will determine what the airline will and will not be responsible for and what the maximum amount the airline will be responsible for if an item is lost and/or damaged. Typically, the airlines use verbiage like this:
“ABC Airline will not be liable for loss of money, jewelry, cameras, negotiable papers/securities, electronic/video/photographic equipment, heirlooms, antiques, artifacts, works of art, silverware, irreplaceable books/publications/manuscripts/business documents, precious metals and other similar valuable and commercial effects. ABC Airline prohibits the foregoing items being placed in checked baggage for travel wholly between points in the U.S. as well as for international transportation.”
They are fairly specific about a number of items, yet they have left themselves a nice out with the phrase “other similar valuable and commercial effects.” Exactly what qualifies under that vague phrasing is left up to the airline.
Also, even if the airline accepts responsibility for the item, you may find that the airline won’t reimburse you the full value. Here is an example of the typical verbiage: “For travel wholly between U.S. points, liability for delay, damage or loss to checked baggage … is limited to a maximum of $3,300 USD per ticketed passenger.” As you can see, the maximum amount isn’t very much if you are traveling with a couple of nice suits, let alone a cello or guitar.
So what can you do? Many musicians check their instruments in hard cases and hope for the best. Or you could purchase a separate seat for your fragile item and it would fly in the cabin with you. This greatly reduces the chance of damage and subsequent loss of income, however it does have the downside of being expensive. Another option would be to take out an insurance policy on the instrument, specifically one that covers loss and damage up to the full value of the item. While this won’t do anything to prevent damage, it will allow one to get things taken care of quickly, as opposed to having to spend time, energy and money trying to negotiate a settlement with the airline.
Good luck, and for those of you doing business travel without being accompanied by a fragile item… consider yourself lucky!