Flying with a ‘harpa

Flying with a nyckelharpa is stressful. The best advice is to not make it any one’s problem. Have a soft case, hold the instrument low, even behind you. Eyeball the flight attendant, get on the flight fast and get it up in that overhead bin. If you need to book priority, to get on fast, do it! I’ll add different airlines below as I investigate their policies. I am getting fed-up of the stress of taking the harpa as hand luggage and am starting to go towards checkin using my flight case packed out with lots of socks, pants, foam and bubblewrap, (although at this moment I have only flown with it in the hold once)


Easyjet
Easyjet seem to be musical instrument friendly. Make sure you print their page off to prove you’re allowed!
From their website: “If you’ve booked a Standard seat or haven’t selected a seat, and want to bring on board a musical instrument that is larger than 45 x 36 x 20 cm (but smaller than 30 x 117 x 38 cm) you will need to book an Up front or Extra legroom seat in order to get a large cabin bag allowance.”


Ryanair
Ryanair have a bad reputation in general, but I’ve always quite liked to fly with them as I can buy a seat and it’s less stressful. You either have to put the instrument in the hold or buy a seat there is zero chance of getting it on as hand luggage. Note: I have not tested booking and then adding baggage yet.
To book a seat book the cheapest option with no baggage and then add the baggage at a later date. At the moment you can then add an extra carry 10kg on bag for £20 or a 10kg checkin bag for £26.99 or a 20kg checkin bag for £44.99. (per flight). You need to do this afterwards or you will end up paying for luggage for the extra seat. The extra seat must be named First name: Extra – Last Name: Comfort Seat.


British Airways
British Airways are very clear on their website about what they will and won’t allow. If your harpa case is less than 80cm, you’re good to go. If it is longer, than you are in the lap of the gods. Although you can book a seat, you have to phone them up to buy your flights.

  • An instrument in its bag measuring up to 80cm long can be carried in the cabin.”
  • “Instruments such as a guitar, a larger wind instrument or a cello can be taken in the cabin in a case up to 140 x 50 x 40cm [55 x 20 x 16in] as long as you buy an extra seat for them. These seats are subject to availability and cannot be booked online so contact us at least 24 hours before you fly.”

Lufthansa
Lufthansa are less clear as to what is possible. I have flown Lufthansa several times and got the harpa onboard as hand luggage. (Under the second point below I guess, but I followed the rules as laid out at the top of this page)

  • You can take your musical instrument with you into the cabin free of charge as long as its dimensions do not exceed 55 x 40 x 23 cm (height x width x depth) and its weight does not exceed 8 kg. Please bear in mind that your musical instrument thereby replaces a permitted item of carry-on baggage and that, where applicable, you may not take any further item of carry-on baggage on board with you.
  • In exceptional cases, dependent on aircraft load factor and aircraft type, you may also take slightly larger instruments into the cabin with you as long as these fit in the overhead locker above your seat. However, please understand that we cannot guarantee this.

Norwegian
Norwegian will allow an instrument up to 90cm in length as hand luggage, which is 10cm better than British Airways. If you want to book a seat you can only do so by phoning them up.

  • If you’re travelling with a larger instrument, such as a violin or viola, then you can bring this instead of a carry-on bag. The instrument can be slightly bigger than a regular carry on bag, but must not exceed 90 x 35 x 20 cm and the carry-on weight limit for your fare type. We will make every effort to accommodate your instrument in the cabin, but we do recommend you arrive at the gate early for boarding to ensure there’s space in the overhead compartments. If there isn’t adequate room, your instrument may have to be checked into the cargo hold.
  • If your instrument’s bigger than 90 x 35 x 20 cm and you’d like it to travel in the cabin, you must book a separate seat for this (max. size 140 x 46 x 30 cm). Instruments in this size range may include guitars and cellos. The booking for both you and your instrument has to be made through our Contact Centre at least 48 hours before departure.

List of flights I’ve taken post lockdown (it’s not many!) If you want to read indepth about my experience you need a password. Ask me for it.

October 2022 – Lufthansa, harpa as hand luggage.