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Howdy from Cyprus, traveling with guitars, etc.


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We've moved to Cyprus, where my wife has a job teaching. We've been in Nicosia since Tuesday and really like the place. The weather is great and our neighborhood is filled with narrow, winding streets and is so danged quiet. Kuwait was noisy ALL the time. The most constant noise during the day here are the cicadas. Reminds me of my home in East Central Illinois.

The two guitars I brought -- the J-35 and my new Farida OT-22 -- made the trip in fine shape. But here's a yarn about that.

We flew from Dallas/Fort Worth to Doha to Larnaca (the airport nearest Nicosia) and I carried the J-35 in a Gator lightweight case as carry-on and checked the OT-22. Taking it along was a last-minute decision spurred, in part, by the fact the local Guitar Center was selling Gator ATA-approved classical/00 molded cases for $51, marked down from $160. It seemed a sturdy case and has TSA locks, and the OT-22 is a perfect fit.

We flew Qatar Airways (I’ve found them to be guitar-friendly in the past) and I had zero problems with the J-35 as a carry-on. No frowns from the gate agents or cabin crew, and it fit in the overhead just fine. (The DFW-DOH leg was in an Airbus A350-1000, while the DOH-LCA leg was on an Airbus A320.)

Now for the weird. I don’t know how they did it, but somehow, TSA and/or Qatar Airways managed to twist the OT-22’s case. The neck part is noticeably out of alignment with the body.

When I checked the guitar at DFW, the agent at the ticket counter suggested I take the case to the Oversized Luggage window; she said that path had “fewer loops” than the normal luggage conveyor. I took it to the window, where some TSA guy asked me if it was locked. I told him it was but that it had a TSA lock so he could unlock it and lock it back up. He seemed put out by that, so I unlocked it for him. The lesson here is to never assume, like I did, that TSA will go to the trouble of locking your case back up. I unlocked it and handed it to him and I have to admit he was not the least bit reassuring.

Our layover in Doha was 15 hours, and Qatar Airways puts you up in a hotel if your layover is that long. Our luggage was checked all the way through from Dallas to Larnaca so we didn’t have to collect it when we landed in Doha.

When we landed in Larnaca and made our way to baggage claim, the guitar was already in the oversized luggage area. The first thing I noticed was that it looked like the TSA used half a roll of their special tape to wrap the case shut. The next thing I noticed was the twist along the case's horizontal axis. Fearing the worst, I ripped off the tape and went to unlock the case, but it wasn’t locked. (Gee, thanks, TSA…) I opened the case and did a quick inspection. Everything was in one piece. No cracks or dings. The case did its job. But it's still has its twist and I have no idea how it got there.

I was reminded of one lesson and learned one other. I was reminded that a real flight case is going to cost you more than $160. Ron Tracy at St. Paul Guitar Repair, where I have all my work done, said a passable flight case will start at around $600. He’s repaired plenty of guitars broken by baggage handlers so I guess he would know.

The second lesson is that in the future, if I’m checking a guitar, I will gate check it instead of trusting it to TSA’s baggage people. I’m sure their job is a tough one, but I’m just not going to trust a guitar to them again. Gate checking avoids the conveyors and being battered -- and twisted -- by other pieces of luggage.

Now, I just have to find out what the music scene is in Nicosia....

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