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.
- Checked-In Luggage in the Hold
- 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.
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
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
- Ensure your Handpan is packaged to handle hold travel and baggage handlers in case it is refused
- Arrive early at the airport and explain you have an expensive instrument which you really need to take care of in the cabin
- 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.
- 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.
|(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 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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|