Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Tennessee Members Demand FAA Action to Protect Musicians

February 12, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) joined U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and U.S. Representatives Jim Cooper (TN-05) and Marsha Blackburn (TN-07) and 29 other Members of Congress in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx demanding action that would protect musicians and their property in flight.

“For any consumer, damaged or missing luggage can be a terrible inconvenience,” Congressman Cohen said. “But for musicians who rely on both their instruments and travel to earn a living, damaged or missing instruments can harm their ability to succeed and be detrimental to their careers. The FAA owes guidelines that adequately protect all passengers’ cargo to these hard-working individuals, and they are past due.”

Inconsistent airline policies fail to protect musical instruments, which are often lost or damaged when musicians travel from show to show. In 2012, Congress approved language meant to help musicians by requiring the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to set standards for the transport of guitars, flutes and other instruments. Suggestions included permitting passengers to stow their instruments in closets or purchase an extra seat for their musical cargo.

“Musicians from Nashville and other parts of Tennessee fly all over the world to perform, and they shouldn’t have to worry about not being able to bring their instruments, or having them damaged along the way,” Sen. Alexander said. “I supported the law requiring the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue regulations enabling musicians to bring their instruments aboard planes in 2012, and it’s time the federal government complies with that law.”

The regulations were to be completed by Valentine’s Day – this Friday. Citing funding issues, the FAA hasn’t even started the rulemaking process. In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, several Tennessee lawmakers said they understand the FAA’s challenges, but urged the agency to do more with less.

“We don’t expect our airlines to carry a tune, but we do expect them to carry our precious instruments safely,” Rep. Cooper said. “Any damaged guitar is a tragedy. As a banjo player, I believe the same is true of banjos (although some might disagree).”

“It’s not always easy being a musician,” U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn said. “When flying away, musicians shouldn’t have to depend on a wing and a prayer with their guitars, banjos and ukuleles. I commend Congressman Cooper and Senator Alexander for taking the lead in resolving this issue.”