Can I Take My Guitar On a Southwest Airlines Flight? (Explained!)

You’ve just landed a gig in a different state and realized you need to take your guitar on the airplane.

Or, you’re about to take your dream vacation to Hawaii but don’t want to leave your guitar behind. What are your options? Can you bring a guitar on a Southwest Airlines flight? Read on for all the details.

Can You Bring a Guitar On a Southwest Airlines Plane?

You can bring your guitar on a Southwest flight as long as it is in a hard case and it fits in the overhead bin. Your guitar will count as a carry-on bag if placed in the overhead bin.

If your guitar doesn’t fit in the overhead bin (when you have a jumbo guitar for instance) you can check it in for free, in that case, make sure to follow the packing tips below!

Upgraded Boarding

To make sure there is still room in the overhead bins for your guitar. You could consider paying a fee starting from $30 for upgraded boarding.

So you can be sure you’ll be one of the first on the plane. This way your guitar doesn’t accidentally end up in the hold of the airplane because there was no room left.

To upgrade you can ask Southwest personnel at the departure gate or ticket counter for availability.

With United Airlines this upgrade starts from only $15.

Size Requirements of Your Bags

On the website of Southwest Airlines, it is stated that your carry-on bag can only be 24 inches x 16 inches x 10 inches.

For musical instruments, an exception is made and the only requirements are that your guitar is in a hard case and that it fits in the overhead bin.

Maximum Weight Requirements

Your Guitar case can have a maximum weight of 50 pounds with Southwest Airlines just like a normal carry-on bag.

So unless you plan to put some rocks in the case with your guitar, you’ll be fine.

How Much Does It Cost To Check a Guitar On Southwest Airlines?

With Southwest, you can take two carry-on bags, two checked bags plus a personal item for free (your guitar counts as a carry-on bag). A fifth bag (or guitar) will cost $75 per item.

I would recommend taking your guitar with you as carry-on luggage so you can be sure it’s safe. You don’t want airport personnel to throw your guitar around.

Does a Guitar Fit In The Overhead Bin?

The overhead bins on a Southwest flight are about 50 inches wide, a standard guitar case is about 44 inches. So it’s big enough to fit regular guitars. You have to put it in sideways so that the neck is pointing towards the cockpit or tail.

Your guitar is likely going to take up three suitcase spaces, but this is allowed on an airplane. You just have to make sure you’re one of the first to board the plane so that there is still room.

How To Pack Your Guitar For a Flight.

When you are taking your guitar as a carry-on you only really need a hard case, and that’s it. But if you’re going to check in your guitar you want to protect it a little better. We’re going to cover a few things you could do.

You could consider packing your guitar like this even if you take it as a carry-on. Just in case there is no room in the overhead bins and you have to put it in the hold of the airplane.

Invest In a Good Hard Case

With Southwest airlines, you HAVE to travel with your guitar in a hard case. But that is not the only reason you want to use one.

A hard case also protects your guitar from being damaged. So make sure you buy a sturdy one!

On the other hand, you also don’t want your guitar case to be too heavy. Since you’ll be traveling with your guitar and you have to carry it around with you.

A sturdy light hard case like this one is perfect to travel with.

You Don’t Have to Loosen Your Strings

Everyone thinks that you have to detune your guitar before a flight, but that is a myth.

It is true that steel strings can create a lot of tension on the guitar, but this doesn’t really matter because all modern guitars have what we call ”adjustable truss rods”. So when there is too much tension on the neck/strings you could just adjust the truss rod.

Plus, the cabin that the luggage is stored in is climate-controlled and pressurized.

There are guitar manufacturers that ship their guitars worldwide and this is mostly done by air travel. When a guitar arrives in the store or on your doorstep it is still somewhat tuned to standard.

Use Bubble Wrap To Protect Your Guitar

Use some bubble wrap to protect your guitar inside the case. Do this especially if the case you are using is not made for the model of guitar you have, then you may have a lot of extra space around your guitar.

Make sure that your guitar sits tight and has no room to move around in the case. So stuff it with bubble wrap and put some cloth under the neck for some extra support.

Use a Lock On Your Guitar Case

It’s a good idea to use a lock on your guitar case particularly if you have an expensive guitar.

A lock doesn’t prevent people from stealing the whole guitar case but it does prevent people from peaking inside and checking if your guitar is worth stealing.

Label Your Guitar

Make sure you put a ”Fragile” label on your guitar letting the airline’s personnel know they have to be careful with your guitar.

Also, consider putting a name tag with your phone number on your case. For the rare instance that someone else carries a guitar case like you, or for when your guitar gets lost.

Fragile Label

General Tips For Flying With Your Guitar

Don’t Bring Your Best Guitar On The Plane

This may seem like a no-brainer, but don’t bring your best guitar on the plane.

That means a guitar that is a collectible or one that has sentimental value to you or a guitar that is signed by your favorite guitarist.

You never know when something might happen to it and you really don’t want to damage your most expensive guitar.

So unless you’re a professional musician who needs to take their best guitar with them, consider leaving it at home.

Pack a Humidifier With Your Guitar

Depending on where you’re traveling the air could be very dry. Your guitar is a wooden instrument and it could get damaged if it dries out.

You can get these small humidifier bags that can fit in your guitar case. Some of the really cheap ones tend to get moldy quickly, so consider buying one of better quality like this D’Addario Two-Way Humidification System.

Book a Seat Near The Front of The Plane

If you’re going to check in your guitar and you’re not taking it as a carry-on. Make sure you’re booking a seat in the front of the plane.

That way you are one of the first to get off the plane and you’re one of the first to get to the luggage belt so you can grab your guitar right after it lands on it.

Get a Travel Guitar or 3/4 Guitar

Journey Instruments make some of the best travel guitars that can snap into two parts so it has the size of a normal suitcase.

This makes it very convenient to travel with. Plus you don’t have to go through that awkward moment when other people on the plane get irritated because you are taking up three suitcase spots.

Another option is buying a 3/4 guitar. These guitars are a bit smaller than a regular guitar, also making them more convenient to travel with.

Conclusion

Yes, you can take your guitar on a Southwest Airlines flight if it’s in a hard case and fits in the overhead bin. You also have to make sure you’re taking the right precautions so your guitar doesn’t get damaged or stolen.

Use a hardshell case, pack some bubble wrap, put a label on it, and consider using a lock. Flying with your guitar should be a fun and easy experience as long as you take the necessary precautions.