Flying with a cello...


OPTION 1 - Booking the Extra seat over the phone

The text below is also in the video.

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...


2 codes, 2 meanings, same function.





*The EXTRA SEAT for your cello  has to be booked by phone, asking for  "Special Service Request".


Even if the cello is a cabin baggage, there is one problem with the CBBG... it has dimensions limits.  When they created the dimension rules for the CBBG , they imagined that the cabin baggage would be on the seat. But unlike the other objects, a big part of the cello case rests on the floor

This is why, even when we book an extra seat for the cello we sometimes get in trouble because some companies have 90 cm as length limit for a CBBG / cabin baggage.

How to solve this issue? 

Give the length of the part of the cello resting on the seat only.

85cm x 40cm x 30cm (You are not lying, you give the length of the part which is over the seat)
Weight: 8kg (adjust depending on your case)


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)



  • 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 to EXST for the cello

about online booking

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.

Online booking process

Even if you love your cello,:

do not call your cello's seat "Mr./Mrs. Cello + your last name" only! 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 sometimes 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!.

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 you still have a regular seat for your cello at that point:

Go to the people at the desk before they start the Boarding process explain that you have a seat for the cello but it might be registered as a person in the system. Be nice and thankful because this is not how you are supposed to proceed since you don't have an extra-seat and you didn't stop by the check-in desk to solve this issue.]:


As soon as you get on board : After saying a happy "hello" to the flight attendant, tell them 

 The cello and I are on row "X", I will need extension for the belt, thank you!

Most of the time they tell you that they will bring you the seat-belt extension 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 with security instructions and you still 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 (Ryanair on the last row for example), 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:

But I got asked to install my 2 cellos with the head up once and did not argue...


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.

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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