Travelling with a musical instrument like a digital piano can be difficult. You want to ensure your prized possession arrives safely at your destination without any damage. This guide will provide everything you need to know about taking a digital piano on a plane.
- It is possible to take a digital piano on a commercial flight.
- You must follow TSA and airline policies on size, weight, and packaging.
- Small digital pianos may be allowed as carry-on luggage. Larger ones must be checked.
- Hard shell cases specifically designed for digital pianos are strongly recommended.
- Inform the airline ahead of time that you will be travelling with an instrument.
- Be prepared to pay additional checked baggage fees. Extra charges may apply for oversize items.
- Purchase travel insurance in case your digital piano is damaged or lost by the airline.
Can You Bring a Digital Piano as Carry-On Luggage?
Whether you can bring your digital piano onboard as a carry-on bag depends on its size:
- Small portable digital pianos may qualify as a carry-on item. They must fit in the overhead bin or underneath the seat.
- Standard 88-key digital pianos exceed carry-on size restrictions for most airlines. You will need to check them at the gate.
- Airlines have specific dimension limits for carry-on luggage, usually about 45 linear inches (length + width + height). Compare your digital piano’s case to make sure it meets these restrictions.
- Weight is also a factor. Carry-on bags typically cannot exceed 40 pounds. Your digital piano plus case will likely weigh more than that.
- Be prepared to check your digital piano at the gate if it does not meet carry-on requirements, even if you hoped to keep it with you on the plane.
If in doubt, contact the airline ahead of time to find out if your digital piano meets carry-on baggage policies. Don’t assume that it will.
Checking a Digital Piano: Airline Policies
Since most standard 88-key digital pianos exceed the carry-on size and weight limits, you will need to check your instrument at the ticket counter:
- Digital pianos must be transported in a hard shell case and tagged as fragile.
- Expect to pay regular checked baggage fees. These typically start at $25-$35 for the first bag but can be higher.
- Some airlines may impose additional charges if the checked piano is oversized or overweight according to their policies. Expect to pay $100-$150 extra.
- Size limits for checked bags are around 62-80 linear inches (varies by airline). The piano plus case must fit within these dimensions.
- Weight limits are typically 50-70 lbs before excess fees apply. Digital pianos often exceed these limits.
- Instrument cases containing digital pianos may be subject to manual inspection by TSA agents. Make sure you have any needed documentation.
When booking your flight, inform the airline you will be checking an 88-key digital piano so you are aware of all baggage policies and fees in advance.
Digital Piano Case Requirements for Air Travel
Investing in a high-quality digital piano case with protective features is highly recommended when checking your instrument:
- A hard shell case is required by airlines to prevent damage. Soft cases lack sufficient protection.
- Padded cushions or padding inside the case keep the piano from shifting and absorbing shocks.
- Durable exterior shells made of materials like wood, metal or thick plastic protect against drops, crushing forces, debris, precipitation and more.
- Weatherproof designs protect against precipitation on the tarmac.
- Interior straps hold the digital piano in place and prevent movement inside the case.
- Look for cases with locks, closures, handles and wheels for security and easier transport.
- You want the case to be lightweight but sturdy. Look for interior braces and panels that add strength against impacts.
A good digital piano flight case represents a significant investment, often $200-$500, but it is well worth it to protect your instrument during air travel.
How to Pack a Digital Piano for Air Travel
Once you have an approved flight case, follow these steps for packing your digital piano for transport on a plane:
- Wrap the digital piano in plastic for added moisture protection. Blankets or foam can also cushion it from impacts.
- Ensure the piano is centered and secured in the case to prevent shifting and banging around. Use restraints, padding and plastic airbags as needed.
- Do not pack anything else rigid in the piano case that could bang against it, even if you have room. Use a separate checked bag for other items.
- Detach any loose components like the music stand, bench, and pedals and pack them separately. The piano itself should fit snugly in the case.
- Place identification tags on the outside AND inside of your case. Include your name, phone number, home address, email, and destination address.
- Use fragile tape or stickers prominently on the outside of the case letting airline staff know the contents are fragile.
- Put TSA-approved locks on your case. The agents will inspect it and relock it. This deters theft.
Proper packing is crucial to keeping your digital piano protected in the aircraft cargo hold and during handling.
Using Hard Shell Digital Piano Cases from Brands Like Gator
Cases made by reputable brands offer ideal protection for air travel:
- Gator is one of the leading manufacturers of ATA-standard digital piano cases.
- Their cases have a hardy polyethylene plastic shell, steel valance, dense foam padding, and protective metal corners.
- Models like the Gator GC-DIGITAL-88 have wheels, handles, lockable closures, and interior straps to hold the piano in place.
- Look for ATA flight certification and “Airline Checkable” designation. Gator cases meet airline standards for checked baggage.
- These cases are available on Amazon and music equipment retailers for around $200-$300.
- The investment offers peace of mind that your digital piano will arrive safely.
Gator cases are one example of a high-quality solution. Do your research to pick the best protective case for your specific digital piano model.
Extra Precautions for Traveling with a Digital Piano
Beyond just purchasing a flight case, take these extra steps:
- Inspect the case for damage before packing, and take photos of your digital piano pre-flight so you can document its original condition.
- If possible, watch airline staff load your piano case on the aircraft to ensure careful handling. Document how it is stowed.
- Never waive liability with the airline unless required. This preserves your right to reimbursement if the airline damages your piano.
- Upon arrival, inspect your case immediately when removing it from the carousel. Note any damage before leaving the airport.
- Take photos of any damage to the case or piano immediately. Get an airline representative’s contact information and damage report. Follow up in writing.
- If possible, unpack your digital piano at the airport to inspect it before leaving. Inform staff of any concealed damage immediately.
- Consider purchasing airline travel insurance through a third party to cover possible damage or loss costs. Prices vary based on piano value.
Travel Insurance for Digital Pianos
Since airlines have liability limits for baggage, travel insurance is a good idea:
- Coverage ranges from broad luggage policies to specialized musical instrument insurance. Compare plans carefully looking for ideal coverage.
- Allianz, Travel Guard, Travelex, and other reputable insurers offer plans specifically designed for musical instruments.
- Read the fine print exclusions and requirements thoroughly. Some plans require using an approved flight case or reporting damage immediately.
- Document your digital piano’s current value through receipts and appraisal for the reimbursement claim process.
- Many policies offer reimbursement for repair costs, replacement value, or depreciated value diminished value, depending on the fine print.
- Expect to pay 2%-5% of your piano’s current value for coverage. More expensive instruments justify paying more for sufficient coverage.
- Even with travel insurance, follow all protocols for carefully packing your digital piano to minimize the risk of damage. Don’t take shortcuts.
Airline Policies: Size, Weight and Fees
Airline policies vary on checked bag size, acceptable weights, and additional charges for instruments. Always review your specific airline’s guidelines carefully during trip planning.
Checked Bag Size Restrictions
The standard checked bag size restrictions for major airlines are:
- American Airlines: 150 linear inches (length + width + height)
- Delta: 158 linear inches
- United: 158 linear inches
- Southwest: 157 linear inches
- Alaska 160 linear inches
- JetBlue: 165 linear inches
This means your digital piano case can be around 4 to 4.5 feet long as long as the other dimensions are proportionately smaller. Measure carefully before your trip to ensure compliance. Exceeding these restrictions often incurs oversized baggage fees of around $100 or more.
Checked Bag Weight Allowances
Typical airline weight limits for checked baggage (the point where excess fees apply) are:
- American 50 lbs before $100 overweight charge
- Delta 50 lbs before $100 overweight charge
- United 50 lbs before $100 overweight charge
- Southwest 50 lbs before $75 overweight charge
- Alaska 50 lbs before $100 overweight charge
- JetBlue 50 lbs before $25-$100 overweight charge
Digital piano cases commonly exceed 50 lbs even before you add items like pedals, power supplies and stands. Expect additional airline fees for overweight luggage when checking your instrument.
Fees for Checking Oversized and Overweight Bags
Most airlines impose additional checked baggage fees for oversize or overweight luggage:
- Oversized items outside standard dimensions often cost an extra $100-$200
- Overweight items incur fees around $100-$300 depending on how much they exceed 50 lbs.
- American, Delta, United and Alaska charge $100 for overweight bags from 51-70 lbs. The fee goes up to $200 from 71-100 lbs.
- Discounted rates for overweight bags may be offered if you prepay them when booking your ticket online.
Always weigh your packed case and measure dimensions to anticipate any overage charges you will face when checking your digital piano.
TSA Policies for Transporting Digital Pianos
The TSA has specific screening procedures and rules in place for musical instruments:
- All checked instruments must undergo screening for explosives and other prohibited items. This will likely involve opening your case.
- TSA agents may need to handle and inspect the digital piano mechanism, so tell them any fragile aspects. Watch them closely.
- You will not be able to lock your case until after screening. They will place a TSA-approved lock on it after inspection.
- Lithium batteries in digital pianos may need to be removed and carried separate if over a certain size due to fire risk. Verify battery policies.
- Have your ID and any required documentation related to the digital piano ready to show TSA staff if requested during inspection.
- Contact the TSA Musical Instrument Contact Center with any questions on requirements or screening policies ahead of your trip.
Leave plenty of time for checking your digital piano with TSA. It will require thorough screening and inspection before being cleared for your flight. Watch the process closely and speak up about any concerns.
Summary of Best Practices
To recap, follow these top tips for smooth travels with your digital piano:
- Use a rigid hard-shell case specifically designed for air travel. Invest in proper packing and protection.
- Weigh and measure the case to comply with size and weight limits before arriving at the airport.
- Notify the airline you are traveling with an instrument when booking tickets. Understand all policies, restrictions and fees in advance.
- Pack your digital piano securely so it does not shift around inside the case during handling.
- Affix fragile stickers and handling instruction labels to the exterior of the case.
- Supervise TSA inspections closely and speak up about handling concerns.
- Consider supplemental travel insurance from a third party to cover damage or loss.
- Document the pre-travel condition of your digital piano and case with photos. Inspect immediately for damage upon arrival.
By taking these steps, you can have peace of mind that your precious digital piano will survive its airplane journey in one piece. Safe travels with your musical equipment!
Hi, my name is Pallav, and I've been playing the piano for over 20 years. I'm also the proud owner of Digital Keyboard Piano, an online platform where I share detailed reviews of the latest MIDI controllers, digital pianos, and related equipment.