Flying with a cello...





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*The EXTRA SEAT for your cello will be an extension of your own seat, and it has to be booked by phone, asking for  "Special Service Request".

Alternative option:


  • Low cost companies often tell you to buy 2 normal seats, then go to option 2. 
  • I choose option 2 as well when the fares offered on the phone are too expensive, I then make the changes at the check-in desk.

OPTION 1 The official way 
Booking by Phone


Before calling, have a look online and know which flight you want to book and the airfare, you will gain time & money...

Inform the Representative that you would have

"Special Service Request" for an extraseat for your cello as Cabine Baggage"

it takes time but be patient...

Once you agree with the airfare you will have to give the dimensions of the cello case...

 Give dimensions for the cello
120cm x 40cm x 30cm

Weight: 8kg (adjust depending on your case)

  Do not give a number over 130cm, as the height shall not exceed the seat height, except for seats next to or ahead of the cabin wall

After booking your tickets by phone, you will receive an email with your reservation for both tickets, similar to:

Passenger(s) : 

Ticket 1:   last name / first name MR/MRS

Ticket 2:   lastname / CBBG


The online check-in is usually not available when you have an extra seat. 

On the day of travel you will have to do the "check in" at the airport with your booking references in order to get your boarding pass. They will print your tickets.

Avoid arriving at the last minute!

 Make sure you have a window seat for the cello, this CBBG rule is applied by all crews.

 (In case of evacuation, the cello should not be on the way of anyone)

Swiss airlines explains it very well here:


Note:  Sometimes airlines charge you a small fee for booking through the phone (Air France for example), but you won't pay the taxes of the ticket and you will not have to make any changes at the airport (not like with option2). 
And for example, Air France/KLM has a policy for the extra-seat: you pay 75% of your ticket before taxes for the extra seat. (see bottom of the page)

You have your tickets?


Online Booking


A lot of cellists choose this option (I often do too): you book 2 full price tickets online. Do it at your own risk.

I choose this option with low cost airlines because they usually ask you to buy 2 seats in their online policy.

I do it as well when the fare offered on the phone is a lot higher than what found on the web. 

Your cello cannot be officially a frequent flyer, see Lynn Harrel's experience with Delta , do it at your own risk...

It is better to buy an extra seat by phone and ask to have the miles credited to your frequent flyer account.


Even if you love your cello, do not call your cello's seat "Mr./Mrs. Cello + your last name"

You need to have the CBBG code in your cello's ticket, it is something any agent will understand as an extra seat.

CBBG is the code used for Cabine Baggage/extra seat. (it is better that EXST, as the EXST code is used for extra seat for comfort, not for a baggage, but it is also used somtimes by airlines agents for the cello)

  • Last name :  your last name 
  • First name:  CBBG cello 

When doing the the check-in online, put your passport / ID number for the seat of the cello, and if you can choose your seats, choose a window seat for the cello (with you next to it of course... and of course NO emergency exit).

For example: 

  • A plane with a layout of 3 seats/aisle /3 seats: choose A or F 
  • A plane with 2 seats /aisle/ 2 seats: choose A or D.  
  • A plane with a layout 1 seat / aisle / 2 seats  book the cello into the C seat and you on the B. 

Always look carefully at the seating map of the plane, be careful with the emergency exit  zone: no cello there!.




You have an extra-seat

On the day of travel you will have to do your "check-in" at the airport with your booking references in order to get your boarding pass. They will print your tickets. 

Everything should be fine, but just in case, always make sure that the cello has a window seat...


You have a regular ticket

If you buy two full price tickets, it is better to do the online check-in and choose the window seat for the cello before travelling, even if you have to pay extra for choosing the seat. 

> If you wait until the day of departure and the plane is full, they will have to move people to find 2 seats together with a window... You don't want to cause any problem at the check in....

At the airport, 2 possibilities:

  • You have your boarding cards  with a window seat for the cello but no time, you go straight to the Gate, but this is a risky way...
  • Go to check-in to let them know that you have an extra ticket for the cello, better for the crew, if your tiket already has the CBBG code from your online booking, it should go well. Remember about the window seat...


 You must choose this option if your cello doesn't have a window seat.

Here is what I usually say:

"I am flying to XXX and I have an extra-seat for the cello.

Have your tickets ready, and whilst they are looking at your tickets, they might tell you that it is registered as a person, say yes with a smile and let them deal with it peacefully.

If your cello doesn't have a window seat, add something like:

 I remember that for security reasons the cello must have a window seat...

If they don't know how to proceed, they usually make a phone call, then they will transform the ticket and give you new boarding pass, and you're all set! Always smile, don't put any pressure on the person in front of you... :)

Some people don't know how to deal with the extra seat/window situation and might leave your ticket as it is. Never argue, you will solve that issue with the crew with a nice smile :) 

Go to next step...


Proceed to boarding when they call people with small children / needing extra assistance; if they don't let you pre-board don't argue, but it is usually not a problem...


If at that point your cello doesn't have a window seat, be super nice because if you would have booked a real extra-seat this would not have happened... go to the people at the desk before they proceed to boarding. 

Tell them that you bought an extra seat for the cello and you noticed the cello is not at the window seat. Be kind and smile...

Now, last step!



Board and install the cello


As soon as you get on board : After saying a happy "hello" to the flight attendant, tell them "I have a ticket for the cello, we are on row "X", I will need an extension to strap it in, thank you :) ".

They might ask you if you need assistance, be honnest if you are not sure how to proceed, because they are here to help you out.

Most of the time they tell you that they will bring you the seatbelt exension to your seat so you don't block the entrance meanwhile they get it. 

Sometimes they forget because they have been busy dealing with other things. If you see that they are about to start the security instructions and you don't have the belt extension, remind them ;)


Sometimes flight attendants might tell you the cello must touch the floor, other will tell you it should not touch the floor... or other special request, AVOID ARGUING, airlines don't have the same policy on board...

If there is not enough space between the seats, you can move the seat cushion (scratch) to a vertical position; but if you choose to put the case upside down it should not be a problem...

this is from British ariways, clic here for the whole file

I always choose "head" down for the cello, unless the crew tells me something different. It is often the best solution when there is not a lot of leg space (& because the height of a CBBG shall not exceed the seat height except for seats next to or ahead of the cabin wall). But again, if the crew tells you head up, don't argue... see picture below on a flight with Transavia with my 2 celli, I never argue, the most important is to be on board ;)

Here is a picture of the cello case touching the floor of the plane:

Here is a picture with both of my celli head up:


Sometimes the flight attendant might ask you if you "secured the cello", this means that the belt goes through the handle of your case, so in instence of turbulence the cello doesn't slip away ;) [always think positive when you are on a plane ;) ! ] 

Here a picture of the belt going through the handle of the case:

All set? Seat in upright position? Armrest(s) down?

Enjoy your flight! 

A few points you might want to consider :

-Humidity level in the cabins is very low, you might want to prepare your cello case with a humidifier  for long flights and don't forget to drink water, you need it more than the cello...

-You cannot book an extra seat with your frequent flyer miles, or do it at your own risk, it will only depends on the person at the check in desk. (I got unlucky once with Airfrance, they unloaded my luggages and cancelled my flight... )

I only flew a few times with Lufthansa, everytime I bought 2 full tickets online because the fare I got offered on the phone was too high, I didn't have any problem at the airport (but may be I got lucky). I remember that once in Frankfurt someone came specially with a huge rope to attach the cello to the seat, and during the flight the rope felt ;) ...

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Because if we all know the rules, it will make things easier for all of us.
August 31 2020

Update April 11th 2016

Purchasing a Seat for your Musical Instrument with Air Canada

AIR CANADA  50% discount on any published fare

If you wish to purchase a seat for your musical instrument, you will receive a 50% discount on any published fare (including the lowest available fare)* to accommodate the instrument in the same cabin you are travelling in.

Exception: If you are seated in Business Class on a flight offering Business Class pods, your musical instrument will, for safety reasons, be placed in Economy Class.

Also for safety reasons, extra seats may be purchased for musical instruments not exceeding 162.5 cm (64 in.) in height/length or 36 kg (80 lb.) in weight. The number of musical instruments that can be accommodated on each flight is limited.

Update 12/01/2017

Cabin baggage reservation procedure

1. Book two seats during the same entry

2. Add name element as follows;


3. Add SSR-element with dimensions in order length x width x height and weight


4. Price the passenger normally and then make manual TST for the CBBG. Remember to add YR and/or YQ taxes.

TTI/P2/BPFLEX-CB/A00K/FEUR1395.00/XEUR26.00YR/CHEL AY STO329.23NUC329.23END ROE5.796111

CBBG rules with Cathay Pacific:

  • Advance notice of 72 working hours is required for CBBG request

  • Below table is the summary on the condition of carriage, size and weight limitation and tie-down method of CBBG. For CBBG request which beyond the acceptable limitations shall be rejected

About Air France 


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