Thanks to Mark Helias (via Mark Dresser ) for the latest update on United Airlines baggage policy.  The notes below are excerpts from United’s website as they pertain to musical instruments.  We recommend that you check United Airlines’ website before you fly so you know what’s happening.

United Airlines Baggage Policies for High-Value, Fragile & Perishable Items

High-value, fragile and perishable items

United recommends that you do not pack high-value, fragile or perishable items in your checked baggage. United will accept such items as carry-on baggage (subject to carry-on baggage allowances) or as checked baggage (subject to checked baggage allowances). If you choose to pack high-value, fragile or perishable items in or as checked baggage in connection with travel within the United States, United is not liable for the loss of, damage to or delay in delivery of such items. For most international travel, United’s liability for destruction, loss, delay or damage to checked and unchecked baggage is limited.

Examples of high-value, fragile or perishable items for which United is not liable (in the case of travel within the United States) or for which United’s liability may be limited (in the case of most international travel) include, but are not limited to:

  • CDs, DVDs and MP3s
  • Computer hardware/software and electronic components/equipment
  • Electronic and mechanical items, including cell phones, electronic games; and other related items
  • Irreplaceable items
  • Musical instruments
  • Any other similar valuable property or irreplaceable property included in the passenger’s checked or carry-on baggage with or without the knowledge of United

Musical instruments

Musical instruments can be carried on board or checked as baggage. If necessary, a seat can also be purchased for an instrument.

Carried on board

A small musical instrument can be carried on as a personal item. If the musical instrument appears too large or irregularly shaped to fit under the seat or in the overhead compartment, it will not be accepted for in cabin stowage.

Checked as baggage

  • Instrument should be in a hard shell case to protect it during normal handling.
  • Excess charges apply if checking more than the baggage allowance.
  • Oversize charges apply to musical instruments that measure 90 – 115 linear inches.
  • Overweight charges apply to musical instruments that are over 50 pounds.
  • Musical instruments over 70 pounds will not be accepted.
  • If the instrument is over 115 linear inches, contact the United Customer Contact Center.

In addition to the above polices, stringed instruments should have the strings loosened to protect the neck from damage due to expansion and contraction which result from temperature variations.

Cabin-seat baggage

United will allow a customer to purchase a ticket for a musical instrument which is too fragile or bulky to be handled as checked baggage. Upright basses and guitars will not be accepted as cabin-seat baggage.

Excess Valuation may not be purchased for musical instruments.