Flying a Nord Stage 2 EX88 Across Australia

So you decide to move from Perth to Melbourne and put the car on a truck. Should be easy to get the keys over right? I’ll preface this by saying I’m not a touring muso and I generally gig solo.

I have the standard Nord soft case for my Nord Stage 2 EX88 – a beautiful thing, but designed for your car. As with most companies, the interstate car transport I chose requires the car to be empty. Some charge $300 for the privilege of 80kg (?!) contents. Uninsured. Um… no.

As you imagine, sticking a ‘Fragile’ sticker on the road bag and taking it to the airport doesn’t seem to mitigate the risk.

A Nord Stage 2 Ex88 weighs 18.5kg. With the soft case, it’s about 27/28kg depending what else you have in there (music stand, leads etc.). I looked at a three hardcase options, one aluminium hardcase (second hand custom for a similar size keyboard) and two factory standard. If you want your baby on a plane, the limit is 32kg with domestic accompanied baggage*. And of course, trying out even the lightest hard case weighed in over 32kg’s. I’m sure alternatives are out there but spending an additional $700 AUD plus for a second case is a hard call.

I checked road transport – one estimate for a hard case of approximate dimensions was $110 and about a week to get interstate. Not bad, but it takes a week and you definitely need a musicians insurance policy as unaccompanied goods were not covered in a portable valuables policy I looked at. Weight isn’t an issue but a hard case is a must as more than likely it will be stacked up.

The airline couldn’t give me a straight answer over the phone so I took my keyboard in its soft case to the Perth Airport. And yes, parking at Perth airport was about $10 for 15 minutes…

The keyboard dimensions mean it won’t fit on the airport’s regular baggage conveyor. Good news was that the oversize luggage desk assures me their conveyor goes a short distance straight to a collection location without any turns on the conveyor belt. They were familiar with handling music gear from bands travelling in and out of Perth.

Here are the suggestions from the airline and the oversize luggage desk

  1. Buy an extra bag allowance online with your ticket – roughly half price by doing it in advance with Virgin ($35).
  2. Inside the soft case, wrap the keyboard with bubble wrap. It’s a snug fit but a bit of additional risk mitigation. I easily got in two layers and taped the ends over for extra end padding.
  3. Put a sign on top of the keyboard stating “Top Load Only”. This should ensure the instrument is loaded on top of other luggage and nothing placed on top. I used a plastic sleeve and a few rounds of masking tape around the case to ensure it didn’t get ripped off.
  4. You will be charged an overweight luggage fee of $70 above 23kg – go to the ticket desk on the day before you check your luggage. Aka total cost $105.
  5. (And I asked for Fragile tape when doing bag drop – Virgin were happy to oblige).

A couple weeks later I followed the airline’s advice, got on the plane and landed in Melbourne. The oversize luggage desk wheeled out my baby and put her gently on the ground for me to pick up. Quick inspection showed no damage to the bag. Getting home the corners showed no damage, all functionality is normal and seems to be in the same condition I dropped her off in.

All in all happy with the outcome but took more investigation that I would have liked. I hope this helps other Nord Stage owners weigh up the risks of accompanied air transport.

*Inquiries were made with Virgin Australia – I have no affiliation with this airline.