Alaska Airlines Traveling with an Instrument

Whether you are visiting Alaska for a dream vacation, heading to the great white north to start college at one of the great branches of the University of Alaska system, or moving for a new career/life opportunity, if you’re flying in a lot of things need to be left behind. However, if you love music and have an instrument, it makes sense you would want to bring this along with you.

However, air travel can be challenging and while you can ship your instruments or check them, it’s understandable that most musicians don’t love that idea and would like to know if there’s a workaround.

This is a good news/bad news based on the instrument, your budget, and how those options come together with Alaska Airlines’ instrument traveling policy. So let’s dive into all your options.

guitar case plastered stickers
A well-traveled musician knows the importance of instrument travel options before buying a ticket – especially on a budget!

Alaska Airlines Policy for Traveling with a Small Instrutment

When traveling with instruments, the airlines you’re flying with make a huge difference. This is because while there are some standard security rules that apply to all airlines, when it comes to things like carry on bags and checked baggage, the actual rules can vary greatly. Since Alaska Airlines is the major regional airline providing inexpensive service to and from Alaska, their specific rules on traveling with instruments is going to matter a lot.

We’re going to do a deep dive of the Alaska Airlines policies when traveling with instruments, including explaining what the general terms like “small” and “large” actually mean to clarifying rules that are on the books but aren’t necessarily helpful for many musicians.

According to the most recent Alaska Airlines Special Baggage Policy (which is what governs flying with musical instruments on Alaska Airlines) a musical instrument can be brought aboard as the second carry on bag (charges will likely apply) as long as the instrument can fit in the 22″ x 14″ x 9″ settings that are there for other overhead bags.

So as long as the instrument in-case can fit in those dimensions, it can be carried aboard as carry-on luggage. If you have another carry on bag you will need to pay the charge for a second carry on, but this is a completely viable way to travel with an instrument on Alaska Airlines.

bluegrass mandolin
Most of us definitely understand if you want to make sure a beauty like this is safe while you’re traveling to and from Alaska.

Alaska Airlines Traveling with a Large Instrument

Larger instruments are understandably more tricky. There is always the action of checking the instruments, but understandably many musicians are cautious of this no matter how many assurances on the site appear about handling baggage with care. There is one other potential option that would work for most instruments: treating it like an additional passenger.

While this isn’t ideal when flying to Alaska on a budget, it is an option the airline offers. If you want to keep an instrument close and not trust it to baggage handling, then as long as the instrument can fit into a seat then that is a viable option. Think cellos, bass, other large instruments like that.

Again, this requires the buying of two plane tickets however if you’re willing to pay that price this is a way to travel with oversized instruments on Alaska Airlines without having to check it.

This is likely the best way to keep your eyes on a large instrument if you are dead set against putting instruments through baggage check/baggage claim. For travelers who are paranoid or have nightmares from multitudes of destroyed instruments from air travel stories, this is the best route to go when traveling with Alaska Airlines whom, as of this writing, I haven’t found any widely circulated stories on destroying instruments associated with their airline.

traveling on plane with carryon bag
Most instruments don’t fit in a conventional carry on bag, hence the need for other options.

Musical Instruments as Checked Baggage with Alaska Airlines

The most common solution is to travel with musical instruments as checked baggage. While some musicians will balk at this, and understandably so with the spate of “instruments completely destroyed after musician forced to check them” stories online the past 4-5 years, the truth is that this is extremely uncommon and appears to happen much more on international flights.

I haven’t been able to track down a story of this happening with Alaska Airlines, which doesn’t mean it hasn’t, but it hasn’t been publicly rolled out as a consistent issue, though they have struggled with lost luggage complaints in recent years as outlined by this report.

The baggage fees for checked luggage change from year to year and additional charges can exist for weight or particularly large bags. This is a fully viable way for traveling with instruments for most types, and you can (and should) take all precautions including having the case labeled as fragile or handle with care to hedge your bets to make sure the luggage is handled with care and treated properly.

Common Questions When Flying to Alaska with Instruments

While there are plenty of options for flying with instruments to or from Alaska via Alaska airlines, several common questions tend to come up. Here are the most common ones and the answer to each!

Can you travel Alaska Airlines with a guitar?

Many hundreds of people every year travel Alaska Airlines with a guitar. You will either need to check the guitar as general baggage or buy a seat ticket next to you on a flight if you don’t want to check it, but traveling on Alaska Airlines with a guitar isn’t a problem.

You have options!

Can you travel Alaska Airlines with a violin?

Traveling with a violin is 100% viable on Alaska Airlines. The options do depend on the size as the full-sized adult violin is generally one to two inches too long for the carry-on space and therefore needs to be checked or have a ticket bought for it if you are using the adjacent seat method. The 7/8 size violin in-case should just fit within the guidelines for the overhead carry-on space.

Smaller violins, as are common with children or teenagers learning to play, are very often small enough in order to travel as a piece of carry-on luggage. Remember, this all depends on whether the violin while in its case can fit in the 22″ x 14″ x 9″ required space for overhead luggage.

Can you travel Alaska Airlines with a banjo?

Just as travel with a guitar is possible, so is traveling with a banjo on Alaska Airlines. However, it is not possible to bring a banjo as a carry on bag, but it can be checked with other luggage or you can use the same adjacent seat rule strategy if you don’t trust baggage handling (or seen the horror stories from musicians who traveled on other airlines).

For the most up to date information it’s best to go to the source of the rules: the airlines themselves. Here are the two major pages for how instruments are handled when flying Alaska Airlines for further information from the source itself.

Traveling with Instruments to Alaska: In Conclusion

While the options for traveling with instruments aren’t all-encompassing for every situation, there are multiple options for most musicians. Trying to get an entire drum set sent to the Last Frontier…yeah that might be a bit much. At that part you consider freight shipping or even selling the instruments at home to buy new ones up there.

However, most musicians will not need to to this. There are many options for flying to Alaska with your instruments, and small enough ones can even come in lieu of carry-on luggage or as a piece of carry on luggage.

With this article you now know all your options for flying with instruments on Alaska Airlines both to and from the great wild north of Alaska. Other airlines may have different policies on flying to Alaska with instruments, but generally speaking there will likely be some similar policies in place.

I’ve always had pretty good experiences traveling Alaska Airlines, so hopefully with this guide your experiences will be the same and you’ll arrive to and from the Last Frontier with your instruments in great playing condition.

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