Flying with a Handpan | Tips, Advice & 150 Baggage Limits


Flying with your handpan pulls up more problems than the average traveler will face, not least how you protect your remarkable expensive and fragile instrument from airline baggage handlers.

Can I take my handpan on a plane? – You can always have your handpan checked in as luggage in the hold and in most cases even with a case, your handpan will fit in the cabin but you may have to negotiate this at the gate, especially with budget airlines and especially in Europe.

UPDATED: As of October 2019 in Europe, EasyJet, Ryanair and Vuelling have become very strict about hand luggage dimension checks. They have been refusing at the gate and charging an extra €60 to take your hand luggage away and place it in the hold – For this reason, if choosing one of these budget airlines, ensure your handpan is packed ready to cope with luggage handlers and hold travel.

The best way to take care of your handpan in-flight is to invest in some protective gear, specifically created for transporting your handpan by air. I provide the details below.

Read on for some more in-depth tips on what to do if you wish to take a flight with your handpan. Nationally or internationally, you will find some differences. You ill also find differences in how this is accepted on American Airlines compared to European airlines.

What to Expect When Travelling by Air with a Handpan

One of the most frequently asked questions in any handpan forum is what to do if you want to travel by air and take your handpan with you. You have 2 options.

  1. Checked-In Luggage in the Hold
  2. Carry-On Hand Luggage

The problem comes when deciding if you want to have your handpan in the airline cabin with you or if you want to have it treated as ‘checked-in’ luggage.

Each come with their own set of circumstance and concerns as I will explain. But I will also explain that I have never taken my handpan in the cabin and have always checked it in. As of yet, I’ve never had a problem.

Handpan in the Aircraft Hold

The biggest fear is having your handpan out of site as checked-in luggage and what will happen to it while your eyes are not on it. We have all looked out of the aircraft windows and seen how suitcases are mistreated by baggage handlers and the thought of our precious handpan being handled in the same way and flung around fill us with dread.

This is the one that frightens people the most, but I repeat, I have as yet, never had a problem, even when it has been opened by inspectors, which is yet another consideration in your handpans journey.

I have taken perhaps upward of 500 flights in the last 30 years, not all with an instrument of course, but I have witnessed, outside the plane, how hold luggage is moved from plane to transfer vehicle and vice versa, enough times to know that baggage handlers are not about to give any piece of luggage special attention. Least of all something considerably lighter than a standard suitcase and therefore easier to fling considerably further.

I almost certainly don’t need to tell you the importance of how you pack your handpan, you are aware of this already. I can, however, recommend the Evatek Fly Kit from Hardcase Technologies to keep your instrument as well-packaged and protected from heavy-handed airport baggage handlers.

Wrapping Your Handpan in Cling Film for a Flight

This is an option but, to be honest, it is firstly expensive, up to $40 or €50 Euro in Europe and then rather pointless. The main reason people do it is to prevent things from being stolen from their suitcases. With your handpan, this is highly unlikely and more likely that it will be opened by customs to find out exactly what is inside

Evatek Fly-Kit Information

The Fly Kit from Evatek is highly recommended. Full complete protection for hold luggage cases, the case also comes on wheels for convenient transportation too. Whilst this is an added expense, you will be quite secure in the knowledge that your handpan is fully protected for the journey.

Customs Inspections

There is a chance that customs may want to take a closer look at your handpan when it comes through the scanners. Handpans are not a regular item within the luggage and they will more often than not raise suspicion as to what’s contained therein. Hence the waste of $40 on clingfilm that’s going to be removed anyway in this case.

For this reason, it would be a good idea to add a note that will be found and clearly visible to ensure officials are warned immediately that they are about to handle a very expensive and fragile musical instrument and to do so with care, with some guidelines on how to treat it, hold it and inspect it.

Pay particular note to add that under no circumstance should the instrument be attempted to be played. There is a very handy sheet that can be printed out. Download this copy from dropbox here

Handpan flying notes
Add this note to your luggage when traveling on a plane with your handpan in the hold.

There is an even more elaborate way to protect your luggage with a firearm as highlighted here in lifehacker. I would advise not doing this in Europe for sure.

Handpan in the Cabin

In most cases it is possible to get your handpan in the cabin with you and again in most cases, even with a flight case, it will fit in the overhead lockers. So, I know this, you now know this. Unfortunately, despite a ton of experience, most flight attendants do not know this.

Besides, many budget airlines allow only a single piece of hand-luggage and enforce strict hand luggage dimension checks at the gate just before you board

  1. Ensure your Handpan is packaged to handle hold travel and baggage handlers in case it is refused
  2. Arrive early at the airport and explain you have an expensive instrument which you really need to take care of in the cabin
  3. Strike up a conversation with the flight crew at check-in, or at the gate. Try to get them on-board with the idea it is traveling with you.
  4. Be insistent and if all else fails but your handpan it’s own seat. It can often be cheaper than additional luggage charges anyway.

There are many claims that there is no issue in getting your handpan onto an aircraft and stored either in the overhead lockers or in the cabin storage cupboards, and there are plenty of hints and tips on how to ensure that it is not removed at the gate and placed in the hold.

However, for that ONE TIME that it does happen. Will your handpan be protected well enough to hold out on baggage handlers’ carefree loading skills? Not to mention the additional fees this will incur at the gate when you have no choice but to pay for the privilege of having it thrown on the hold!

Again, there are many incidents where handpans have been successfully taken into the cabin, stored and transported with no issues, but if an airline wants to work to rule, or the cabin staff is not having the best day, they can insist, and then you are stuck.

Below is a list of as many airline hand luggage dimensions I could find. Each is an example as you can tell that if the airline wants to stick to the rules, then there is little argument to be had.

Complete Airline Hand Baggage Dimensions List

Please be aware that the figures below were correct at the time of writing, and could change at any time, so I advise checking with the specific airline you are looking to fly with to get the exact and up to date numbers.

Airline Dimensions Weight
(H x W x D) (inches) (lbs)
   
Aegean Airlines 22 x 17.7 x 9.8 17.6
Aer Lingus 21.5 x 15.5 x 9.5 22
Aeroflot 21.6 x 15.7 x 9.8 22
Aerolineas Argentinas 21.6 x 13.7 x 9.8 18
Aeroméxico 21.5 x 15.7 x 10 22
Air Asia 22 x 14 x 9 15.4
Air Astana 22 x 17.7 x 9.8 17.6
Air Austral 21.6 x 17.7 x 7.8 22
Air Baltic 21.6 x 15.7 x 9 17.6
Air Canada 21.5 x 15.5 x 9  
Air China 22 x 16 x 8 11
Air Corsica 21.5 x 13.5 x 10 17.6
Air Europa 21.5 x 15.5 x 9.5 22
Air France 21.7 x 13.8 x 9.9 26
Air India 22 x 14 x 10 17.6
Air Italy 21.5 x 15.7 x 7.8 17.6
Air Macau 22 x 14 x 9 15.4
Air Malta 21.5 x 15.5 x 8 22
Air Mauritius 15.4
Air Moldova 19.6 x 15.7 x 9.8 17.6
Air New Zealand 15
Air Serbia 21.6 x 15.7 x 9 17.6
Air Tahiti 17 x 13 x 7 11
Air Tahiti Nui 22
Air Transat 20 x 16 x 9 22
Air Vanuatu 18.9 x 13.3 x 9 11
Alaska Airlines 22 x 14 x 9  
Alitalia 21.5 x 13.5 x 10 17.6
Allegiant Air 22 x 14 x 9  
American Airlines 22 x 14 x 9  
ANA 22 x 16 x 10 22
Armenia Aircompany 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 15.4
Asiana Airlines 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 22
Astra Airlines 19.6 x 11.8 x 7.8 15.4
Atlantic Airways 19.5 x 15.5 x 10 17.6
Atlas Global 22 x 17.7 x 9.8 17.6
Aurigny 21.6 x 14.1 x 7.8 22
Austrian Airlines 21.5 x 15.5 x 9 17.6
Avianca Airlines 22 x 14 x 10 22
Azerbaijan Airlines 21.6 x 15.7 x 9 22
Azores Airlines 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 17
Azul 22
Bahamasair 22 x 14 x 9 20
Bangkok Airways 22 x 14 x 9 11
Belavia 21.6 x 15.5 x 8 17.6
BH Air 23.6 x 15.7 x 11.8 15.4
Blue Air 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 22
Blue Panorama Airlines 21.5 x 15.5 x 8 22
British Airways 22 x 18 x 10 51
Brussels Airlines 21.5 x 15.5 x 9 26.5
Bulgaria Air 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 22
Cambodia Angkor Air 22 x 11 x 9 15
Cape Air 20
Caribbean Airlines 22 x 14 x 9 22
Carpatair 21.7 x 15.7 x 7.9 11
Cathay Pacific 22 x 14 x 9 15
Cayman Airways 24 x 16 x 11 15
Cebu Pacific 22 x 14 x 9 15.4
China Airlines 22 x 14 x 9 15.4
China Eastern 21.6 x 15.8 x 7.9 22
China Southern 11
Condor 21.5 x 15.5 x 8 17.6
Copa Airlines 22 x 14 x 10 22
Corsair International 21.5 x 15.5 x 8 26.5
Croatia Airlines 21.5 x 15.5 x 8 17.6
Cubana 11
Czech Airlines 22 x 17.5 x 9.5 17.6
Delta Air Lines 22 x 14 x 9  
easyJet 22 x 17.7 x 9.8  
Edelweiss 21.6 x 15.7 x 9 17.6
Egypt Air   17.6
El Al 22 x 17.7 x 9.8 17.6
Emirates 22 x 15 x 8 15
Ethiopian Airlines 21.6 x 15.7 x 9 15.4
Etihad Airways 19.6 x 15.7 x 9.8 15
Eurowings 21.5 x 15.5 x 9 17.6
Eva Air 22 x 14 x 9 15
Fiji Airways 21.6 x 15.7 x 9 15
Finnair 22 x 18 x 10 17.5
Flybe 21.5 x 13.7 x 7.8 22
Frontier Airlines 18 x 14 x 8  
Garuda Indonesia 22 x 14 x 9 15.4
Georgian Airways 17.6
GOL Airlines 21 x 13 x 9 22
Gulf Air 17 x 15 x 12 13.2
Hainan Airlines 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 11
Hawaiian Airlines 22 x 14 x 9 25
Helvetic Airways 21.5 x 15.5 x 8 11
HK Express 22 x 14 x 9 15.4
Hong Kong Airlines 22 x 14 x 9 15
Iberia 21.5 x 17.7 x 9.8  
Icelandair 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 22
IndiGo Airlines 21.6 x 13.7 x 9.8 15.4
Interjet 21 x 15 x 9 22
Japan Airlines 22 x 16 x 10 22
Jet Time 21.5 x 15.5 x 8 11
Jet2.com 22 x 17.7 x 9.8 22
JetBlue Airways 22 x 14 x 9  
Jetstar 22 x 14 x 9 15.4
Kenya Airways 21.5 x 13.7 x 9.8 26.4
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines 21.5 x 13.5 x 10 26
Korean Air 21.5 x 15.7 x 7.8 25
Kulula.com 22 x 14 x 9 15.4
Kuwait Airways 22 x 14 x 9 15.4
Lao Airlines 24 x 12 x 7 15.4
LATAM Airlines 21 x 14 x 9 17
LIAT Airlines 21 x 14 x 8 15
Loganair 15.7 x 13.7 x 7 13
LOT Polish Airlines 21.5 x 15.5 x 9 17.6
Lufthansa 21.5 x 15.7 x 9 17.6
Luxair 21.6 x 15.7 x 9 17.6
Malaysia Airlines 22 x 14 x 9 15
Mango Airlines 22 x 14 x 9 15.4
Maya Island Air   15
MIAT Mongolian Airlines 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 11
Montenegro Airlines 21.5 x 15.7 x 7.8 17.6
NokAir 22 x 14 x 9 15.4
Norwegian 21.5 x 15.9 x 9 22
Olympic Air 21.5 x 15.5 x 9 17.6
Oman Air 15.4
Peach 19.6 x 15.7 x 9.8 15.4
Pegasus Airlines 21.5 x 15.5 x 8 17.6
Philippines Airlines 22 x 14 x 9 15
Porter Airlines 17 x 13 x 6 20
Qantas 22 x 14 x 9 15
Qatar Airways 20 x 15 x 10 15
Ravn Alaska 18 x 14 x 10 20
REX Regional Express Airlines 19 x 13 x 9 15.4
Royal Air Maroc 22
Royal Brunei Airlines 22 x 15 x 8 15
Royal Jordanian Airlines 20 x 16 x 9 15.4
Ryanair 15.7 x 9.8 x 7.8  
S7 Airlines 21.6 x 15.7 x 9 22
SAS Scandinavian Airlines 21.6 x 15.7 x 9 17.6
Saudia Airlines 15.4
Scoot Airlines 21.2 x 14.9 x 9 22
Singapore Airlines 45.2 linear 15.4
SmartWings 22 x 17.7 x 9.8 17.6
South African Airways 22 x 14 x 9 17.6
Southwest Airlines 24 x 16 x 10  
SpiceJet 21.6 x 13.7 x 9.8 15.4
Spirit Airlines 18 x 14 x 8  
Spring Airlines 15.7 x 11.8 x 7.8 11
Sri Lankan Airlines 22 x 14 x 9 15.4
Sun Country Airlines 17 x 13 x 9  
SunExpress 21.5 x 15.5 x 8 16
Sunwing Airlines 20 x 16 x 9 11
Swiss International Air Lines 21.5 x 15.5 x 9 17.6
TAP Portugal 22 x 16 x 8 17
TAROM 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 22
Thai Airways 22 x 18 x 10 15
Thai Lion Air 15.7 x 11.8 x 7.8 15.4
TigerAir Australia 21.2 x 14.9 x 9 15.4
Transavia 17.7 x 15.7 x 9.8 22
TUIfly 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 13.2
Turkish Airlines 21.6 x 15.7 x 9 17.6
Ukraine International Airlines 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 15.4
United Airlines 22 x 14 x 9  
UTair 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 22
Vanilla Air 21.6 x 15.7 x 9.8 15.4
Vietnam Airlines 22 x 14 x 9 26
Virgin Atlantic Airways 22 x 14 x 9 22
Virgin Australia 18.9 x 13.3 x 9 15.4
VivaAerobus 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 22
Volaris 22.4 x 15.7 x 12.9 22
Vueling 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 22
WestJet 21 x 15 x 9  
Wizz Air 15.7 x 11.8 x 7.8 22
Xiamen Airlines 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 11
XL Airways France 21.7 x 13.8 x 9.8 22

SteveM

I enjoyed the unpitched appeal of percussion prior to discovering handpans in a 'moment' I was experiencing. I've been writing ever since.

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