I flew WestJet from Calgary to San Francisco with a giant tulle ballgown. The plane was completely full so I’m glad that I was prepared, here’s what I did:
First of all I told my bridal store that I would be flying with my dress so that they would give me the extra heavy duty plastic garment bag as well as the flimsy one that the dress came in (I used both – for protection and also because the heavy duty plastic bag was clear and I didn’t want DH to see), then I also made sure to stuff the bodice in case it got squished somehow (this was probably over-kill tho).
I got to the airport with PLENTY of time. We had a ton of baggage (suitcases, golf clubs, carry ons, his suit and my dress) and I wanted to try and sweet talk the WestJet person at the gate. I talked to the representative and asked in the flight was full (it was, otherwise I would have asked if it would be possible to put my dress in an empty seat) and then asked if I could board early with my dress. He was okay with this, and most people will be okay with it as long as you’re nice about it.
When I got on the plane I laid my dress in the overhead bins on top of my hubby’s carryon and then shut the bin. Since it was a full flight there were lots of people looking to put there stuff in my bin, but any time someone would go to open it, I would jump up, shut it and say with a smile and a bridzilla look “sorry, this one’s full” (as if anyone would be stupid enough to get between a bride and her dress on her way to her wedding!)
My dress was perfectly fine, although I did bring a travel steamer with me (and steamed it the night before) just in case. Depending on how many days you’re there beforehand you might be ok to just let it hang in the humidity.
I also brought on the plane with me an EMPTY hard-shell carryon sized suitcase. This was in case the flight attendant made me shove it in a suitcase (some will) I wanted to be sure that it was hard-shell to minimize squishing. This is also how I got it home. Since I didn’t need it, I put my purse in it so that I would still be in line with the 1 carryon and 1 personal item rule.
Whatever you do DO NOT Check your dress. What if it got lost!? Also, if your plane has a closet and they let you hang your dress, make sure that you leave the plane with the right dress as well. Heaven forbid there were two brides on the same flight and you got your garment bags mixed up!
Lastly, try to relax, remember that the dress had to get to the bridal store somehow (most likely in a cardboard box squished in with other dresses) and you can always try to get the hotel to steam it once you get there.