I hoped to not have to write this ukulele rant, but the endless discussion doesn't seem to be going away, and people are STILL unwisely advising others on what to do if flying with ukes.
I suppose it started coming to head again recently when I shared pictures of the two Enya ukuleles broken down with their necks off to fit into cabin baggage. I will come on to why I did that and why it was my ONLY option below. It might have also been todays review of a travel uke which was met with people responding saying 'just get a soprano'.. What irritated me was it led to endless discussions about what you should do if you are flying. And the common answer from people is basically 'I flew with a tenor ukulele in the cabin and it was no problem, so therefore YOU should do the same'.... The issue I have with that kind of 'advice' is how generalised it is and how much bother you could get someone into if their airline carrier has a different policy to yours. And they all DO have different policies, trust me. They really do.
I also didn't want to write this as their cabin allowances change all the time so what is allowed by some today, may not tomorrow and vice versa. That will date this post quickly. But the point is this. I speak from the UK perspective because that is where I live! And in the UK, many, not all, but many airline carriers have cabin baggage limits that mean that even a standard soprano will not meet the measurements when inside a case in the cabin. That is just a simple fact, and it is completely irrelevant if you once flew to Bombay with a Bassoon in the cabin or took a whole brass band to Mombassa. You may have even sweet talked even the most restrictive carriers at the gate and had no trouble. Congratulations. I'm pleased for you. But that is going to be of no relevance at all when some poor sap is at the gate with a ukulele and the crew are refusing it to go into the cabin on policy grounds.
"But this chap on Facebook said he did it... "
"but but but..."
What do they then do? Argue? Hold up the flight? Yeah - good luck with that. Good luck with the reaction of fellow passengers wanting to leave, good luck with not getting kicked off the flight. Enjoy your massively stressful start to your trip.
So what do you then do? Put your ukulele in the hold? Good luck with that also if you want it to survive.
No - when we are travelling we want stress free experiences at airports. We are tending to go on relaxing holidays perhaps with family, and as I did with a young child, and don't need hassles or arguments at the gate. We want to meet the rules and know things should be ok. Going armed with 'but this bloke on the internet said it would be ok' is just crazy.
And THIS is why I took the Enya ukes apart as they are designed to. I recently flew Ryanair and they have a cabin baggage limit currently of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm. A regular soprano without a case would fit in that 'just' because they tend to be about 50cm long. But that means taking NO OTHER cabin baggage, not even an iPad or handbag. Cabin baggage is made specifically for these sort of dimensions but trust me - a regular soprano will NOT fit in one, not even on an angle. Thats because the exterior of the case fits the dimensions, but not the interior. A concert certainly won't fit regardless of bag and a tenor or baritone - no chance. I wanted to take two sopranos and the just didn't fit the bag. So I took them apart..
And here they are at the other end put back together - they were both in this case with towels, beach wear, shoes etc. This was the ONLY way to get them to meet the cabin baggage limit. In two pieces.
Easyjet are a bit more forgiving and will allow larger instruments up to about 100cm long in the cabin, but only if you sacrifice any other cabin baggage also - again no good if you want to take other stuff - the instrument IS your cabin bag. Jet 2 are as restrictive as Ryanair. Many others are too. Some are better, particularly on long haul - but that's the issue - it VARIES considerably. And even if you DO meet the dimensions they set, the airlines STILL have the power to force your bag into the hold if they are out of space. So either way it's just not as simple as saying you know better... you will not win.
It's really unhelpful and frankly also a bit dangerous to tell people who ask that 'you will be fine' just because you were fine, and without knowing what their carriers rules are. Are you going to take responsibility for an issue they then have at the airport? The ONLY answer to this sort of question is 'CHECK WITH YOUR OWN CARRIER'. That's it. That's the ONLY correct advice.. If you have a forgiving carrier - great (but do check every leg of your journey and read the small print too) but enjoy your trip... If the rules are clear that they dont fit or are vague in any way - BEWARE.
And if you dont have a uke you can dismantle? Get a smaller uke - get a sopranino. Heck some people I know have even sawn the headstocks of sopranos down to get them to fit.
Rant over.. And remember - this is a UK PERSPECTIVE. You may have different rules and laws where you are. At the time of writing we don't. And me mindful of that when advising others.
© Barry Maz
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