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How do you safely pack a guitar for a flight?
What are the air travel regulations for guitar cases?
We dive deep into the best budget to premium cases for flying
Planning a flight can be stressful, and figuring out how to get your guitar onboard is the last thing you should have to worry about.
However, if you only have a gig bag for your guitar, you’ll have to consider your travel plans and your options for getting a hardshell travel guitar case instead. Whether it’s an acoustic guitar or electric guitar, it’s important to properly protect your precious cargo during a flight.
Therefore, your best option is a guitar flight case. While some hardshell travel guitar cases are still plenty durable, a flight case rated for air travel with TSA-approved locking latches will ensure that your guitar makes it to your destination in one piece.
What Are The Best Guitar Cases For Flying?
Our best pick for guitar cases for flying is the SKB SKB-66 Deluxe Universal Electric Guitar Case. It has newly improved latches with a TSA-approved lock and can fit six-string and seven-string guitars of any body shape.
If you’re on a budget, we recommend the Sound Town Lightweight ABS Road Case for Electric Guitar with TSA Approved Locking Latch and EPS Foam Plush Interior (STEC-500). This affordable flight case fits all double-cutaway model electric guitars and has a foam plush interior so your guitar fits snugly.
If you’re not concerned with price and can spend a little more, the Gator Titan Series Waterproof Guitar Case with Power Claw Latches for Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters is a road-ready workhorse with a waterproof plush interior, so you know it’ll hold up.
Below, I’ve rounded up seven of the best guitar cases for flying and reviewed each of them based on quality, price, and style.
Depending on the type of electric guitar or acoustic guitar you have and your needs, there are many options available.
Here’s the list:
SKB SKB-66 Deluxe Universal Case (Our Pick)
Sound Town Lightweight ABS Road Case (STEC-500) (Best Value)
Gator Titan Series Waterproof Guitar Case for Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters (Best Premium)
Gator GTSA-GTRELEC ATA Molded Guitar Case
ProRockGear TSA-Latch ABS Les Paul Style Guitar Case
Gator ATA Molded Guitar Case for Acoustic Guitars
SKB Injection Molded Acoustic Guitar Case
1. SKB SKB-66 Deluxe Universal Electric Guitar Case (Our Pick)
SKB is well-known for making robust yet lightweight guitar cases to fit electric and acoustic guitars of any shape, and this one is no exception.
It’s reasonably priced and will protect your guitar while remaining TSA-compliant with its locking latches.
Interior aluminum valance to keep away moisture and dirt
One of the best things about this guitar case is that even though it fits six and seven-string guitars of all body shapes, the cutout for the neck is molded so that no matter how your guitar is shaped it won’t shift around and the neck will be properly protected.
The outside is made of molded plastic which is rugged but still quite lightweight, as the case itself only weighs nine pounds. The inside has a moisture-tight aluminum shell to keep your guitar clean and dry, and the TSA-approved latches spring open so they’re easy to close without having to force the case shut.
2. Sound Town Lightweight ABS Road Case for Electric Guitar with TSA Approved Locking Latch and EPS Foam Plush Interior (STEC-500) (Best Value!)
Sound Town makes a variety of touring and pro-audio equipment racks and storage cases for studios and road warriors alike. This simple flight case won’t break the bank or your guitar, and they have a 1-year warranty which includes repair coverage.
Affordable price point at under $200
Most hardshell guitar cases cost at least $200, which is not always affordable for musicians on a budget. That’s where Sound Town guitar cases come in, as they’re a little cheaper but still have the same features as other flight cases by other brands.
This case fits most Stratocaster and Telecaster-style guitar bodies (double cutaway bodies) and has a neck cutout so your guitar won’t shift around. There’s also an accessories compartment, and the case weighs only 10 pounds.
3. Gator Titan Series Waterproof Guitar Case with Power Claw Latches for Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters (Best Premium!)
Gator knows how to build a case that will withstand all sorts of touring conditions. From adverse weather to inexperienced van drivers, to 3 am games of Trailer Tetris.
When it comes to air travel, they’re still at the top of their game with this plywood case that’s rock-solid (well, wood).
Waterproof and dustproof rated at IP-67
Includes TSA-approved locks and pre-punched holes on the quick-release latches
Comes with wheels for easy transport
If you’re able to spend a little more, this Gator tour case is not only great for road travel in a tour bus or van but on a plane as well. While the latches do not have TSA-approved locks on them, the locks are included with the case so you can install them yourself.
The case is the heaviest of all our recommendations at 22 pounds, but the protection it offers is worth its weight, and the case has wheels so you don’t have to carry it everywhere.
Best of all, the Gator Titan Series is dust-proof and waterproof with a rating of IP-67, which means it can be submerged in up to a meter of water (we recommend avoiding this if possible, though!) and the interior of the case will stay dry.
4. Gator GTSA-GTRELEC ATA Molded Guitar Case with TSA latches for Strat & Tele Style Electric Guitars
Military-grade polyethylene exterior shell for ultimate durability
Plush interior with neck cutout to protect your guitar
While this Gator case is intended mostly for Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters, it can fit other double cutaway-style electric guitar bodies too. Its exterior shell is made of military-grade materials, so you know it can take a beating.
One of the nice details is that only the center latch locks (and is TSA-approved), so it will be easier to open the guitar case for inspection if necessary, yet it’ll still be protected. At 13.6 pounds, it’s a little hefty, but its rugged construction makes up for the slight weight increase and the ergonomic handle offsets it as well.
5. ProRockGear TSA-Latch ABS Les Paul Style Guitar Case
It can be harder to find an electric guitar case to fit a Les Paul-style guitar body since double-cutaway guitar cases are a lot more common. This lightweight durable option will protect your guitar in flight without having to spend too much.
The raised bumpers on the feet help keep the case from tipping over, adding to its stability. Depending on your guitar, you might find that the neck cutout is slightly wide, but many players had success with wrapping their fretboard cleaning cloth around their guitar neck so that it fits snugly. It also fits easily in an overhead compartment.
Recessed wheels on the bottom of the case that won’t break or wear down
Pressure valve to protect against humidity and dirt
While the price on this one is a little higher, a lot of acoustic guitar cases tend to be lighter and less durable, so this is a great option if you have an expensive acoustic guitar you want to protect.
While the case itself is pretty heavy at 22 pounds, it has wheels, so this is a non-issue.
The pressure valve will help to seal the case against humidity and the elements. The case has a lot of extra storage for accessories, so everything you need for your gig will be in one place. As a plus, the interior of the case can fit left-handed and right-handed guitar models.
While this is intended for dreadnought acoustic guitars, depending on the body shape, it might fit a smaller model as well. If in doubt, check with SKB to see if your guitar will fit.
Is it OK to take my guitar on as hand luggage?
Generally, the regulations for carrying on acoustic guitars or electric guitars to a flight will vary according to which airline you’re flying and where you’re going.
In a perfect world, they shouldn’t; since 2012, there’s been a Department of Transportation rule in effect in the US which states in part that if your instrument is too large for an overhead compartment you can put it in a seat next to you in the cabin (and purchase that seat).
However, this rule still depends on how crowded your flight is and what type of plane you’re in, so it’s best to contact the airline and check specifics.
Another option is to use the storage closet aboard the plane where the crew puts their personal belongings; if it’s not a very crowded flight, talk to airline personnel and they’ll likely be willing to work with you.
If you’re flying internationally, there are no regulations, so be sure to check with the airline first and plan to arrive at least an hour earlier than usual in case something comes up.
If you’re planning to carry your guitar onto the plane rather than checking it as luggage, you should actually use a gig bag rather than a flight case, as it will give you more flexibility.
Can a guitar fit in an overhead bin?
This will depend somewhat on the size of the plane, the size of the guitar, how crowded the flight is, and the size of your gig bag or guitar case.
Generally, however, a guitar will fit in an overhead bin and take up about as much room as three carry-on suitcases.
Can you take a guitar on a plane without a case?
It’s not recommended, as then your guitar won’t be protected against bumps, drops, and scratches. Airline regulations regard guitars as carry-on luggage, so they should be in a gig bag or case just like any other piece of luggage.
Is a guitar considered oversized baggage?
Technically yes. However, unlike a snowboard or skis, for example, you’re now allowed to purchase a seat for your guitar.
Should I insure my guitar before I fly?
Insurance for your gear- whether or not you travel or tour- is always a great idea. See if you can find a policy that covers accidental damage and loss or theft.
We recommend taking photos of your instruments beforehand and noting any serial numbers or unique features in case of loss or theft.
What if my guitar gets damaged in-flight?
If your guitar is not insured and something happens to it, you’ll still be able to file a claim with the airline and might be able to get the cost of a repair or replacement covered by the airline.
However, processing might take a while and it’s not guaranteed that the repair or replacement will be covered in full.
If your guitar gets damaged, stolen, or lost during the course of your flight and you end up in your destination with no guitar or with a broken guitar, there are still things you can do. Look up local repair shops or music stores and see if there are any musical instrument rental shops in the area.
It never hurts to hit up local Facebook groups, Craiglist, or local classified ads either; you might be able to at least find a replacement for your upcoming gig, even if it’s not the same type of guitar.
You can also ask any other bands you’re playing with that night; these things happen to the best of us, and most other musicians are more than willing to lend a hand.
As much as we’ve all heard the horror stories about guitars getting damaged by TSA agents or luggage handlers, airlines are becoming more conscientious of regulations for musical instruments, and many musicians who have lost or damaged guitars during a flight have gotten them recovered or repaired.
How do I pack a guitar for a flight?
When you pack your guitar for the flight, remember that not everyone inspecting it will be as familiar with it as you. Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take to prevent mishaps and make other people’s lives easier too.
First, take any accessories out and store them in your suitcase if you feel they might shift around during the flight.
Second, if your guitar has any specialized hardware or modifications that might get placed back in the case incorrectly during an inspection, remove them if possible or put padding around them (such as strap locks).
Third, due to shifting air pressure and altitude during the flight, the tension on your guitar’s neck might change, which can be alleviated somewhat by detuning the strings. Especially if they’re new strings, this will definitely save you some grief when you arrive.
What To Look For in a Guitar Case for Flying
In general, whether it’s an acoustic guitar flight case or electric guitar flight case, look for a case with either included TSA-approved latches or an optional add-on kit. Make sure the neck of the guitar fits snugly and is protected by a foam interior.
If the guitar case is heavier than 12 pounds or so, you might want to look for something with wheels. Thankfully, the airline regulations are on our side and there are many options out there for guitar cases for flying.
If you do your research based on our recommendations, you’re bound to find something which suits your needs. Safe travels and rock on!