When traveling with a guitar in Australia, each airline has its own policy. While most of the domestic airlines have similar policies, it’s worth checking to make sure you don’t get caught out with unexpected fees when checking in.
You can take a guitar on a plane in Australia, but each airline has different policies. The size of your guitar case will determine whether you need to check it in, buy a seat for your guitar, or you may be able to take it as carry-on luggage.
I recently had to take my acoustic guitar on a flight to Sydney and was surprised to see that each airline has slightly different rules on what you need to do to take a guitar on a plane.
In this short guide, I’ll explain each airline’s policy for musical instruments. The policies and fees covered in this guide can change, so I’ve included a link to each airline’s policy so you can double-check the figures.
Note: the below information only applies to domestic flights. If you will be flying internationally, you need to check the policies as there are different rules depending on which country you are flying to.
Check out this guide on Travel Guitars and Accessories for different options to consider when you want to travel with a guitar.
Taking a Guitar on a Jetstar Plane
You have two options when taking a full-size guitar on a plane with Jetstar. You can either take it in checked luggage for an extra fee, or purchase an extra seat on the plane for your guitar. If your guitar and case weigh more than 15kg, it must travel in checked baggage.
If you want to take your guitar into checked baggage, there are a few things to understand.
For each guitar you take with you, you need to pay an ‘oversized item’ handling fee which is currently $25. This fee applies if your case is longer than one metre. If you have a travel guitar that measures under this, you won’t have to pay this fee.
On top of this oversized item fee, you also need to make sure you have purchased enough checked baggage allowance to cover your guitar. The weight of your guitar and case will be included as part of your total allowance.
For example, if your checked baggage weighs 10kg and your guitar and case weighs 4kg, you need to purchase 15kg of checked baggage allowance to cover both items. You will still need to pay the $25 oversized item fee on top of the checked baggage allowance.
Purchasing a Seat
If you have a small travel guitar under 85 x 36 x 23cm, you can take it as part of your carry-on luggage. Jetstar have a 7kg limit to carry-on luggage and make sure your guitar is well within the size limit. Be prepared to show the staff their policy if they question you.
If your guitar is larger than this, you need to purchase a seat for it. The guitar case must have a handle to strap it into the seat.
Jetstar has limits on how many large items can be taken in the cabin, so I highly recommend contacting Jetstar early if you plan on purchasing a seat for your guitar.
Here is the link to Jetstar’s policy if you need to check the details or ask Jetstar for advice: https://www.jetstar.com/au/en/help/articles/can-i-bring-my-musical-instrument
Taking a Guitar on a Qantas Plane
If you have a small travel guitar that measures under 85 x 34 x 23cm and weighs under 7kg, you can take it on the plane with you as carry-on luggage. It must be placed in the overhead locker.
If your guitar and case is larger than the above dimensions, you need to check it in or purchase an extra seat.
You automatically receive checked baggage allowance with your ticket up to 23kg for economy and 32kg for business class. This is only for one item, so if you will also be taking luggage, you’ll need to purchase a separate luggage allowance for your guitar.
Purchasing a Seat
You can purchase a seat for your guitar, which is considered a ‘bulky item’ in their policy. The case must have a handle to strap the guitar into the seat and it must not exceed the below dimensions.
Qantas measure items in ‘total linear dimensions’ which adds the height, width, and length together.
For economy, the total linear limit is 158cm, business class is 169cm, and first-class is 178cm.
For example, if your case measures 105 x 35 x 15cm, the total linear dimensions would be 155cm and can be taken on economy. Make sure you measure your case before you go to the airport to avoid hassles.
Here is the link to Qantas’ policy on musical instruments: http://www.qantas.com/travel/airlines/carry-on-baggage/global/en#musical-instruments
Taking a Guitar on a Tiger Airways Plane
Tiger Airways’ policy on musical instruments is vague, which makes me worried. When a policy isn’t clearly spelled out, it can cause problems depending on how it is interpreted.
Their policy says that large items including guitars in hard cases cannot be taken on the cabin and must be checked in. Then it says that items under 30 x 117 x 38cm can be taken on as cabin baggage. It even says that this includes guitars in soft or hard cases.
So we are told that guitars must be checked in, then immediately after, told that we can take guitars in the cabin if they fit the above measurement.
If you are planning on traveling with your guitar on a Tiger Airways plane, I highly recommend contacting them to clarify their policy and ask them to send you a confirmation via email if they say you can take your guitar with you. If you are questioned at the gate, you can show them evidence that they were happy with what you were planning.
Here is the link to Tiger Airways’ policy on musical instruments: https://tigerair.com.au/prepare-to-fly/baggage/musical-instruments
Taking a Guitar on a Virgin Australia Plane
Small musical instruments that measure under 85 x 34 x 23cm (total linear dimensions of 142cm) can be taken as carry on and count towards one of your carry on items.
If your guitar is larger than this, you must check it in or purchase an extra seat for your guitar.
All economy fares included checked luggage up to 23kg, but this is only one item. If you plan to take luggage with you, you will need to purchase a separate allowance for your guitar.
Business-class fares include an allowance for 2 x 32kg items.
Here is the link to Virgin Australia’s policy: https://www.virginaustralia.com/au/en/plan/baggage/oversized-fragile-items/
Tips for Taking a Guitar on a Plane in Australia
Know the airline’s policy: each airline has a different policy, so don’t assume that what worked for one airline will work with another. For example, Jetstar charge an oversized item fee in addition to your checked baggage allowance, so know about it before you arrive at the airport.
Be polite: as somebody who worked a long time in customer service, polite customers usually get far better treatment than pushy customers. Some people think that being pushy gets them better results, but when you work on the other side of the counter, you quickly learn that it’s a poor strategy.
I’ve seen it time and time again where aggressive or pushy customers didn’t get what they wanted simply because the staff became defensive. If you get something wrong or the staff gets their policy wrong, be polite and calmly talk to them like a real person. Calmly show them the policy and work with them towards a solution rather than against them. Airline staff are sick of dealing with entitled passengers and they deal with a lot of abuse, so don’t be one of those people.
Pack your guitar well: we’ve all heard horror stories of guitars arriving smashed, so do everything you can to properly store your guitar in a good hard case. I wasn’t confident about my hard case latches, so I used cable ties and duct tape to make sure there was no chance the case would open up.
If you regularly travel, consider getting a travel guitar. You may notice from the above policies that all flights allow small musical items to be included as your carry-on luggage. There are quite a few different options for travel guitars that fit within these size requirements.
Check out this guide on Travel Guitars and Accessories to see if there is a travel guitar you can buy to avoid hassles while traveling.