Flying with a ‘harpa

Flying with a nyckelharpa is stressful. The best advice is to not make it any one’s problem and try not to be seen with the instrument. 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. Keep an eye on it and help manage other people to put their bags around it as efficiently as possible. ie rucksacks can fit in front of the instrument. (I need to draw a diagram).
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)

I am writing reports on my travel experiences post lockdown (it’s not many!) If you want to read indepth about my experience you need a password. Ask me for it.

Easyjet appear to be musical instrument friendly. Make sure you print their page off to prove you’re allowed! I flew Easyjet in September 22 and I did have to show them the print out from the website, which I had used highlighter pen to prove it. I also had highlighted on a print out of my ticket that I had completed their criteria.
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 and in order to get a large cabin bag allowance.” Make sure you also book speedy boarding.

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. To book a seat book the cheapest option with no baggage and then add the baggage later on in the booking process. Then you can choose to only add bags to your seat and not both. The extra seat must be named First name: Extra – Last Name: Item Seat.
If you want to check the instrument in using a flight case you must choose the musical instrument option, they will not accept it as a checkin bag and will make you pay extra at the gate. (We fell foul of that once)

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, then you are in the lap of the gods. Although you can book a seat, you have to phone them up to buy your flights. I flew in October 23 and was close to not being allowed the harpa in the cabin. On my flight there was no coat cupboard, but in September Johan did use the coat cupboard. For more details on these trips I will write them up and add them here.

  • 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 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 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.

SAS officially will allow an instrument as hand luggage as long as it is within these dimensions specified.

Maximum size: 55 cm x 40 cm x 23 cm (length x width x depth).
Maximum weight: 8 kg
Maximum size: 158 cm (length + width + height).
Maximum weight: 32 kg

However all Swedes I have brought over to the UK have used SAS and just taken their instruments with no problems. I personally have never flown SAS with a nyckelharpa.

KLM officially will allow an instrument as hand luggage as long as it is within these dimensions specified. That’s a tiny instrument though – so maybe book a seat for a harpa.

Instruments as hand baggage
You can bring your musical instrument on board with you if it has the size of a regular hand baggage item: maximum 55 x 35 x 25 cm and up to 12 kg in Economy Class and Premium Comfort Class, or 18 kg in Business Class. In that case, you don’t have to make a reservation.

Instruments on an extra seat
If your musical instrument weighs up to 45 kg, you can store it on an extra seat. The maximum allowed height of your instrument is 140 cm. On European flights operated by Embraer aircraft, this is 122 cm. Please note that you need to book this seat in advance by contacting us.