What are current U.S. airport security policies for musical instruments as carry-on baggage? Do you have to open your case and assemble your flute and play it for them? Or does it just pass through the x-ray machine and they say, "Okay, that's just an instrument. Move on..."?
I really don't want anybody handling my flute or inspecting it during my upcoming flights in May. But I also don't want to check my flute as checked baggage and have it leave my sight.
Do not under any circumstances check your flute as baggage (unless you play a Bundy ). TSA regulations allow you to have one musical instrument as carryon baggage. It's up to each airline whether that counts toward your carryon limit.
For a carryon instrument, you do not have any choice but to allow the TSA inspectors to examine the instrument either by x-ray or physical inspection. It may pass on the x-ray alone, but it's really a judgement call on their part whether they choose a physical inspection. But the TSA is sensitive to the special needs of musicians. Here's an excerpt from the official TSA Guidelines for transporting musical instruments:
Security officers must x-ray or physically screen your instrument before it can be transported on an aircraft.
Security officers will handle musical instruments very carefully and will allow you to be as involved as possible in any physical screening.
I have had nothing but head aches with it. If I have to travel with my flute, I will first over night it by USPS to it's destination. It is much safer that way. They do NOT know how to open French style cases and will open it the wrong way. They won't let you touch it either. If you must travel with it, then I would put a sticker on the top of the case saying this way up or something to tat effect. Let them know how much the flute is worth so they have some kind of respect for it. The LR airport is a night mare with this and I refuse to take a musical instrument through that airport ever again. Sorry, I don't mean to scare you, that is just my own experience with it. Flying has become so terrible that I would rather drive 5 days in a car.
Some airports or more lenient, and you won't have to deal with this.
Our orchestra travelled to several European countries and UK many times, and I always carry 3 flutes with me in my back-pack, no problem, they never open or check my flutes in airport. Our violinists are the same, no problems. I alway think of those flute mechanism shaft and violin strings could be lethal weapons in the wrong hands, couldn't they?
I'm not sure about the US airport, never been there again after 3yo and don't want to go there, but I heard from my friends that they check very seriously, and even search your body thorough on the foreigners. And if they suspect you are carrying dangerous items, they are very rough on you immediately: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcCmmaCqZhg
Airport security in the US is full of thugs who really have no intention of keeping you safe from the "terrists." Sure, it puts on one heck of an inconvenient show, but it's really no more efficient than any other country.
Story time! A few years ago, my grandparents were flying down to Florida as senior citizens are apt to do. While going through airport security, they were taken into separate rooms, made to empty their pockets/purse, and interrogated. (Apparently, terrorists are known to pose as old people so as to not arouse suspicion. I, too, distinctly remember the 9/11 hijackers flashing their AARP cards.) After they were deemed to be no threat whatsoever, they got their stuff back.
Well, not all of it. Most of the cash from their wallets was missing. They complained and went through all the proper channels, but the response was pretty much "You can't prove anything, tough."
You'd probably be better off mailing your flute, especially if you happen to be flying out of Logan.
Hey, TBTUBE, there was a news here many months ago, that an American woman complained $2000 was missing from her baggage after security check, later survellence video shown some airport official took the cash while checking her baggage, and he was put in jail now already. See, there is less official power or cover-up in other countries.
I took my backup flute on a flight to Denver in 2004 or so.
They weren't worried about the flute, because in the x-ray it was obviously a flute, but they did take a close look at the metal cleaning rod.
I think that people are no longer allowed to take metal, pointed knitting needles on planes, and that is what the cleaning rod looked like to them.
I would suggest that you take a plastic or wood cleaning rod, and respectfully ask that they be very careful handling your expensive flute.