The extra seat and the airlines...

Sharing my own experience.

*An EXTRA SEAT is like an extension of your own seat,  it is exempt of airport taxes*, but has to be booked by phone as "Special Service Request" 

(For low cost companies , they often tell you to buy 2 seats, then go to option 2. (I choose option 2 as well when the fares they offer on the phone are too expensive).

(* still, many compagnies still charge you for airport taxes, you can always ask for a refund of those taxes after you flight, it sometimes works)




Option 1
Option 2















(Before calling, have a look online and know which flight you want to book and the airfare, you will gain time & money...)
It can last long... I have once spent 1h30 on the phone but usually it takes about 30 min.

Inform the Representative that you would like to book a ticket with a
"Special Service Request for an extra seat for a cello as Cabine Baggage"

Clic here to see what they will do

Clic here for Amadeus  procedure SSR
 from Amadeus Quick Reference Guide 

They might ask you for the dimensions of the cello case and the weight.
Give those numbers : 120cmx40cmx30cm and it should be fine.
(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, your extra seat should be called " Your surname / 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 your "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 because they have to give a window seat to the cello.
(Make sure they do, this CBBG rule is applied by all crews, in case of evacuation, the cello should not be on the way of anyone.. logic ;) )
Swiss airlines explains it very well here:


Note that some airlines might charge you a small fee for booking through the phone (Air France), 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 very nice policy : you pay 75% of your ticket before taxes for the extra seat. (see bottom of the page)

You have your tickets?

Go to the plane...  

(at your own risk...)  

A lot of cellists choose this option (I often do too), you book 2 full price tickets online. 

Note that the correct way is to book the seat of the cello by phone as a "SSR" special service request. 

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

I do it as well when the fare offered on the phone is a lot higher than what found on the web. (Many time I get absurd rates like 7000€ for the cello on tourist class when a regular ticket is 600€ but sometimes I do succeed and get a real extraseat...)

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, don't call your cello's seat  "Mr. or Mrs. Cello + your last name " it can make things more complicated and it is not the code for a cabine baggage.
You want to have the CBBG code in your cello's ticket, it is something any agent later will understand as an extra seat. 

I got this advice by Delta airlines 10 years ago. CBBG is the code used for Cabine Baggage/extra seat. (do not use EXST, as the EXST code is used for extra seat for comfort but not for a baggage, but it's still better than your cello's first name ;) )

  • Last name : CBBG
  • First name: Cello +  your last name
  • So, in my case it's CBBG Cello Dumas

If you do 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 NOT the emergency exit).

For example: A plane with a layout of 3 seats/aisle /3 seats : Choose A or F and if it is 2 seats /aisle/ 2 seats : it choose A or D.  but with a layout 1 seat / aisle / 2 seats  book the cello into the C seat and you on the B. And for bigger planes, look at the map of the plane when you choose your seats. For example you can find United Airlines seat maps online



Option1 : you booked an extra-seat for the cello 

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...!

Then, you can go to the plane!

Option 2 
You have 2 full price ticket  

Two possibilities:
1- You stop by the check in and have the cello seat transformed in official extra seat (you need to arrive a little more in advance), I choose this option most of the time (so you can try to gt the taxes back later). You should choose this option is your cello doesn't have a window seat.

Here is what I usually say:

Hello, I have an extra seat for the cello, just stopping buy to make sure that everything is fine.

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, smile :)

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, could you check that everything is fine?" 

They usually make a phone call (if they don't know how to proceed), will transform the ticket and you're all set, always smile, don't put any pressure on the person in front of you... :)

Same as usual, some people 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. 

If you buy two full price tickets, I highly recommend you 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.

Go to next step...

2- You go to the gate with your two tickets, if you have a window seat for the cello, it should be all fine... (even if it is always better to have a real extra seat ticket for the crew, when they count passengers, if the cello is registered as a person they should know it. If they don't they will be one person short in counting.)


Most of the time they will tell you that you can pre-board. (If they don't, just ask them if you can board when they call people with special needs so it will be easier to install the cello for you (and for the crew). Most of the time they agree, you will board when they call people with special needs / extra assistance / w/ kids.)


If at that point you notice that your cello doesn't have a window seat, be super nice because if you would have booked an extra seat this would not have happened... ;) As soon as you get in see the flight attendant, smile and say something like "hello! I have an extra seat for the cello, but they did not give a window seat for the cello and thought you could solve this problem once on board, I am sorry for the inconvenience".

Be kind and smile, (she or he will check if the flight is full. They might have  to move you and the cello to another rank, or move someone: be thankful :))

Now, next step...



Proceed to boarding when they call people with small children / needing extra assistance.


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. If you are used to travelling, tell them you are a frequent flyer, you can also ask them if they have preference about upside down or not.

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, it can happen that they forget because they have been busy dealing with other things. If you see that they are about to start the security instructions, remind them...


I have heard from many flight attendants that your cello should not go too much over the head of the seat. Some flight attendants don't mind if it does a little, other do. Do not hesitate to ask them if they prefer head down or up. Rules are not the same depending on countries, crews, compagnies etc. do not argue ;)

Some 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 the head down it shouldnot be a problem...

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.

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? Then, that's it, you are ready! 

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 ;) ...

Why is it important to share this post? 
Because if we all know the rules, it will make things easier for all of us.
March 3rd 2016

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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