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US is late on airline regulations on musical instruments

WASHINGTON — Federal transportation regulators are striking a sour note with musicians and their supporters in Congress.

Two years ago, Congress directed the Transportation Department to write regulations requiring airlines to accommodate musicians traveling with their instruments, so that the instruments are not damaged or lost.

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Final regulations were due Friday, but the department has not even started writing them. Transportation spokeswoman Meghan Keck said the agency has not had enough money to do the work needed to write the regulations.

‘‘We’re working to find funding to support the kind of regulatory evaluations that are required to do the rule making,’’ she said.

The department, which regulates airlines on matters that affect consumers, asked for money in this year’s budget for four more staff members to write new regulations but was turned down by Congress.

The rules are supposed to implement a law requiring airlines to store instruments in closets and overhead bins where they fit. Travelers would be allowed to buy seats for larger instruments weighing less than 165 pounds.

Musicians have long complained that airlines frequently require that instruments be checked as baggage, with the result that they are often damaged or lost.

Guitarist and singer Dave Schneider watched as Delta Airlines employees yanked, pulled, and ripped at his smashed 1965 Gibson ES-335 guitar, trying for more than an hour to free it from where it had been wedged between a service elevator and a loading dock in an airport baggage claim in December 2012. Schneider had begged Delta to let him carry the guitar on a flight from Buffalo, N.Y., to Detroit, but airline employees denied his request.

One such guitar was listed Thursday on eBay with a bid of $3,851.

Canadian musician Dave Carroll had a guitar smashed after a flight in 2009, and wrote a song and book about it, both called ‘‘United Breaks Guitars.’’ Carroll’s online video of his song was so popular — and so damaging to United Airlines — that it has become a business case study on how social media can harm a company’s image.

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