Friday, September 25, 2009

Flying with a cello, part 2

On my return flight, I arrived at the airport three hours early expecting more ticketing fun and games.  Sure enough, even though everything (according to the Southwest ticket agents) was done correctly, the ticket agents ended up calling Southwest's Dallas headquarters to get a special dispensation to release my tickets.   Everyone at Southwest was very helpful; at one point a ticket agent was holding a phone in each ear at the same time.  The whole process took about 30 minutes to issue a boarding pass.  Southwest has an open seating policy, so I was told to talk to the gate agents when boarding.  

Going through security was uneventful.  The case fit through the xray machine with a little room to spare.  I was not asked to remove the end pin.  Walking through the airport was kind of fun; people smiled and parents would tell their children to look at the cello.  I might as well have been leading a llama through the concourse, because as everyone knows people love llamas.

At the gate, I asked the boarding agent about when to board and what were Southwest's regulations concerning the transport of cellos.  She didn't know if there were any regulations, but she let me board with the families with small children so I could find a pair of seats more easily.  Once on board, the stewards and stewardesses knew that I was flying with a cello and led me to the last row of seats. I also asked for a seat belt extender to secure the cello case.  The space between the seats was not large enough to fit the cello case so I had to pull up the seat cushion.  

I've always been hesitant about pulling up seat cushions on a plane ever since my cell phone slipped between the seat crack on a flight soon after 9/11.  When I pulled up the seat cushion that time, I found a number of bullets in the seat presumably left by an air marshall.  Long story short, the flight was delayed and I received the evil eye from the other passengers. 

Happily there were only stale peanuts and I secured the cello by sliding the seatbelt through the handle.  The flight was uneventful and the cello arrived safe and sound.

I would say that the important stuff about transporting a cello on a plane are:

  1. Give yourself lots of time to deal with ticketing problems and to avoid the stress of trying to make a flight when there are long security lines.
  2. Talk to the ticket agents and gate agents, they will help expedite the process.
  3. Take a direct flight if you can.
  4. If you have to take connecting flight, give yourself plenty of time between connections.
  5. Smile a lot, it really does help make things go smoothly.

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