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From Facebook - Saga of Flying with a Tuba

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  • davewerden
    Administrator
    • Nov 2005
    • 11138

    From Facebook - Saga of Flying with a Tuba

    Thanks to everyone for your advice about flying with my horn from Newark to SFO on United. Here's how it all went, in case this is useful to someone else.
    I started off on Sunday evening calling United to get their guidance as to how to best transport the horn. Their phone options don't take into account "I'm traveling with a tuba", so it took me a while to get someone on the line. The call took an hour.

    The phone representative first wanted me to buy a seat for the tuba at a cost of $492. But when I asked if the tuba would be next to me, they couldn't do that. So, without my requesting it, the agent told me that they were waiving the requirement that I buy a seat and instead would charge me a $200 baggage fee because the tuba was oversize and another $200 baggage fee because the tuba was overweight, for a total of $400 (The previous owner had told me that the tuba plus case weighed about 80 pounds). My instructions were to take the horn through normal security to the gate, at which point they would check it there.

    After this call, I actually weighed the horn, and it was only 56 pounds. This was still overweight, but it reduced the overweight fee to $100, meaning $300 in total baggage fees for the horn.

    Before going to the airport, I took a lot of pictures of the horn, capturing it from every angle.

    I got to the airport three hours before my flight so that I would have time to work through any problems that might arise.
    When I arrived at the airport, the United desk workers confirmed the course of action that I was given by the phone representative: take the tuba through the TSA security for carry-on bags and check it at the gate. They also said that there might be closet space for the horn in the main cabin, hinting that there might not be any baggage fees at all if this were the case.

    Next stop TSA! But the TSA checkpoint didn't even want to look at the horn. They said it was too big. So the TSA ID screener talked with their manager, who then bumped it up to the manager's manager. At each level the answer was the same: "Your horn is too big, it can't come through here."

    "But United said I was supposed to take it to the gate." I told them. Their response was to tell me that I needed to get someone from United to come to talk with them.
    So, I went back to the United baggage counter. At this point the people I'd talked to before were gone, so I had to start over. I told the counter person that TSA screeners wanted someone to come and talk with them before they would let me through the security checkpoint. In response, the counter person told me that they would have to take the horn as checked baggage there. They then charged me a $145 baggage fee for the tuba.

    I didn't have a chance to get AirTags before getting on the plane, but the United app on my phone allowed me to see when the tuba made it onto the plane.
    Arriving in SFO, the tuba was delivered to the "odd-sized luggage" area.

    Before leaving the baggage claim area, I took the horn out of the case inspected it, and played a chromatic scale to make sure that everything seemed good. I did find a dent in the horn that I hadn't seen before, but checking the photos, I verified that the dent had been there before.

    The good news: I got the horn home safely, and they only charged me $145 extra for it. All of the United and TSA employees were courteous and helpful.

    The bad news: I got a lot different stories from United employees and the TSA about how things work and what it would cost. It felt a little like a "choose your own adventure" book where there wasn't one set path, but I and the tuba could be sent in radically different directions based on whichever choices the United and TSA folks chose to make that day.

    My takeaways:
    1) Avoid flying with your horn if you can. One of my horns and its case were severely damaged on a previous trip.
    2) Talk with the airline people ahead of time and get clear instructions. I found it helpful to be able to say, "I talked with your representative for an hour on Sunday and this is what they said to do." Even though things went in a different direction, I think it helped me at baggage counter that I was trying to do what United had told me to do.
    3) Give yourself lots of time at the airport to navigate whichever adventure they might choose for you that day.
    4) Get airtags. That would have been a nice thing to give me a little peace of mind.
    5) Take lots of pictures of the horn from every angle before the trip.
    6) Don't leave the baggage claim area without inspecting and testing your horn. This was a big mistake that I made on a previous trip. By the time I realized that my horn had been damaged, I was outside of the period during which the airline would take any responsibility for what happened.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece DC3, Wick 4AL, Wick 4ABL
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium
  • iMav
    Senior Member
    • May 2011
    • 1322

    #2
    While not tuba-related, I recently had a conversation with Mr. Mead on how he flies with his euphonium.

    He now uses the new Wiseman case that he’s been promoting. He places that case, along with his clothes, in a bag like this: https://www.flymaxluggage.com/produc...18269237018720

    He then just checks the bag.
    Groups
    Valley City Community Band
    Valley City State University Concert Band
    2024 North Dakota Intercollegiate Band (you're never too old!)


    Larry Herzog Jr.

    All things EUPHONIUM! Guilded server

    Comment

    • enhite
      Senior Member
      • May 2012
      • 270

      #3
      I’m sure that you’ve heard German tubist Andreas Hofmeir’s story about his experience with TSA and his tuba. TSA agents took his tuba out of the case to examine it, then proceeded to replace it in the case wrong. He then watched in horror as three agents sat on the case lid in order to close it, ignoring his protests. He said he no longer flys with a tuba (at least in the US) but borrows one when needed.

      Comment

      • iMav
        Senior Member
        • May 2011
        • 1322

        #4
        Originally posted by enhite View Post
        I’m sure that you’ve heard German tubist Andreas Hofmeir’s story about his experience with TSA and his tuba. TSA agents took his tuba out of the case to examine it, then proceeded to replace it in the case wrong. He then watched in horror as three agents sat on the case lid in order to close it, ignoring his protests. He said he no longer flys with a tuba (at least in the US) but borrows one when needed.
        YIKES!!

        Was he financially compensated?
        Groups
        Valley City Community Band
        Valley City State University Concert Band
        2024 North Dakota Intercollegiate Band (you're never too old!)


        Larry Herzog Jr.

        All things EUPHONIUM! Guilded server

        Comment

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