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Airlines and Surf Riding Vehicle Checking Costs
The following list is a partial selection of airlines and their charges for carrying surfboards at the time of writing. Always check the "Contract of Carriage" for the airlines you are considering flying with your wave riding vehicles (available at most airlines' web sites but not always easy to find or interpret). Always call before booking to confirm the going rate, number of boards per bag and any embargoes. Since 9/11, airline travel has become increasingly difficult and expensive when flying with wave riding boards, and luggage in general, imposing additional weight and size charges. Rapidly increasing fuel prices throughout 2008 has made trip planning and budgeting more challenging especially when navigating the confusing list of charges and surcharges for baggage of different types, sizes, weights and quantities. Kayak.com has a baggage fee chart that is a useful aid. These days you need to consider the whole enchilada: you need to calculate: ticket price + luggage fees + board fees = $$$, plus check on embargoes and consider the reliability and solvency of the airlines.


Note the following shipping options (this information has not been updated for a few years as of Aug 2008, unless otherwise noted):
  • Sports Express Luggage & Sports Equipment FAQs.  DHL, FEDEX, UPS and USPS are also options, but check for their current policies and prices.  Other options are:  Boards 7ft 2inches and smaller can be shipped via Greyhound Package Express (GPX) for $55. Boards 7ft 3inches and bigger can be shipped via Forward Air (FWA) for $79. These are terminal-to-terminal shippers, meaning you will have to pick the closest terminal to you and pick up the board there."
  • Pilot Air Freight. One user reported that the price was good ($99 including insurance). They also have experience with boards so that made me feel more relaxed. FedEx gave me a quote of $250 and UPS gave me one quote of $125 and another of $7,000! Of course the woman laughed at that quote but it is their system that spits out the numbers. I told her I could probably pay the shaper to fly out here, put him up in a hotel, buy the materials, etc for that money!!!
  • Greyhound Bus Freight.
Useful sites for learning about baggage fees:
  • An CRSurf reports on flights to Costa Rica. AirFareWatchDogBlog has a chart on checked baggage fees (as of 5/08) and shipping alternatives (USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc.).
  • Surfline.com has been posting fairly current information (as of Dec 2008).
  • Kayak.com provides a link to check on airline fees, including basic baggage fees
  • FlyingFees.com has a slick interface for calculating baggage fees. Lots of other useful info for the flying traveler.
  • An informative rundown of airline rules at SurferToday.

Is the Airline Surfboard and Bodyboard Friendly?
Super Friendly
Somewhat Friendly
Not Friendly At All
Where have they all gone? FL  Air Tran (bodyboards)
AL Alaskan Airlines (bodyboards)
BA  British Airways (bodyboards)
CO  Continental Airlines (bodyboards)
CM  Copa Airlines (bodyboards)
HA Hawaiian Airlines (bodyboards)
B6 
Jet Blue (bodyboards)
SWA  Southwest Airlines (bodyboards)
NKS  Spirit (bodyboards)
TA  Taca Airlines (bodyboards)
US  US Air (bodyboards)
GWY 
USA3000 (bodyboards)
AA  American Airlines (bodyboards)
DL  Delta (bodyboards) (paipos?)
UAL  United (bodyboards unclear)

Fees For Checking Selected Sporting Goods On Your Airline Flight
(charges are for each way unless otherwise noted - also see notes at bottom - please send me new or broken links or notice of updates!).
Airline Surfboard Bodyboard Golf Clubs and Other Items
Air France
Has not been updated

$55 . .
Air New Zealand
Has not been updated

Free as part of your two-bag limit; otherwise $80 . .
Air Tran
updated July 26, 2011

Semi-Friendly Surfing Baggage Policies.

Semi-Friendly Bodyboarding Baggage Policies.
Surfboards will be accepted when packed in a case designed to prevent damage to surfboards, and only upon completion of a Limited Release Tag, for a fee of $79.

For each fare-paying customer, first checked bag is $20, second checked bag is $25. Carry-on item: must not exceed 24” long + 18” wide + 13” tall for a total combined linear measurement of 55 inches.

Boogie boards are no longer explicitely noted. Used to be that one (1) boogie board would be accepted when packed in a case designed to prevent damage to boogie boards. The boogie board will be accepted only upon completion of a Limited Release Tag. Ditto for snowboarding equipment (now a 70 lb limit).

Oversize baggage rates are based on overall dimensions (length + width + height): $49 for bags with dimensions from 62 to 70 inches and $79 for bags with dimensions from 71 to 80 inches. Baggage over 80 inches in dimension (with the exception of some sporting equipment) will not be accepted.

Selected sporting equipment may be a part of the free baggage allowance when checked in lieu of the first piece of luggage acceptable under this allowance, including:Golfing equipment - one (1) bag including fourteen (14) clubs, twelve (12) balls and one (1) pair of shoes. If the weight of the equipment exceeds sixty (60) pounds, a $50 fee will apply. Standard overweight fees for hockey and lacrosse equipment.

Skiing Equipment: 1 pair skis, 1 set poles, 1 pair boots. $69 overweight fee applies if over 70 lbs. Snowboarding Equipment
Snowboard in specially designed case, with Limited Release Tag. Same 70 lbs condition.
Alaska
updated May 9, 2011

Semi-Friendly Surfing Baggage Policies.

Friendly bodyboard policies.

Contract of Carriage.



Each checked piece of sporting equipment listed below is subject to our standard checked baggage service charge, overweight fee or oversize fee: Boogie boards, Surfboards. Probably surfboard fee would be $75. Up to two boards in the same case may be checked for one charge.

Regular luggage:

Passengers flying Alaska Airlines are subject to a $20 one-way charge for each of the first three checked bags. Charges are assessed to the destination or first stopover of 12 hours or more. Checked baggage charges must be paid again by passengers who continue their journey and check bags after a stopover of 12 hours or more.

Additional fees per bag:
51-100 lbs. - $50
63-80 in. - $50
81-115 in. - $75
Looks like a bodyboard gets slapped with the same fee as two short boards in a bag if they are under 6'8". Probably bodyboard fee would be $50.
Each bag must weigh 50 pounds or less and have a maximum dimension of 62 linear inches (length + height + width) to avoid additional charges.

Some sporting equipment may exceed 50 pounds or 62 linear inches without being charged an overweight or oversize fee. Refer to our Sporting Equipment page for additional information.

Oversize Sporting Equipment Fee Exceptions
Each checked piece of sporting equipment listed below may exceed our size allowance (not to exceed 115") without incurring an oversize fee. Standard checked baggage service charge and overweight fee (51-100 pounds) apply for each piece checked.
-- Golf
-- Skis/Snowboards

American Airlines
updated December 2, 2010

Un-Friendly Surfing Baggage Policies.

Friendly bodyboard policies.

AA has joined the "unfriendly" nickle and dime business with baggage including measuring and charging for carry-on bags and having reduced the outside dimensions of those.

PDF of Baggage Allowances as of Oct 29, 2008.

$150 for each board in addition to the applicable checked baggage fees, based on the number of checked bags, up to 70 lbs. and 126 inches. One surfboard. If lightweight boards and bag is under 50 lbs. then more boards are allowed.

Vagueness: For information related to travel outside of United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and USVI, please contact Reservations.

Regular luggage:
Your first checked bag is $25 and the second checked bag is $35. That is a quick $60 each way per person. $100 per piece for the 3rd, 4th and 5th checked bags. No charge for your carry-on bag, yet.

Two bags checked to the Caribbean, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Central and South America: No charge

Baggage fees waived for some frequent flyer tickets or elite status.

Boogie boards: Charged the applicable checked bag fee for the 1st or 2nd checked bag. Ditto for ski/water/snow boards and camping equipment. All 50 lb. limits. Golf Clubs are allowed a 70 lb. limit.

No fees for travel to Central America if it is the 1st or 2nd checked bag.

I have never had a problem checking my paipo board w/gear in bag except for one time that I was charged. [As of March 2011, make that two times. My board was charged $150 for an over-length item. No charge on the return trip.] Kneeboards count as an item of luggage. Free in place of one 62 inch bag. Snowboard: Free in place of one 62 inch bag, 50 lbs. Surfboards Exception: Kiteboards and wakeboards and containers that are less than 62 linear inches and under 50 lbs. are free in place of one 62 inch bag in the free allowance.
Certain items, such as skis and golf clubs, will be accepted as one item under your free baggage allowance.  The free baggage allowance varies by international destination. Please contact an American Airlines representative at 1-800-433-7300 for specifics.

Good passenger seating legroom. NOT anymore. MD-80s have leather, built-in head sleep rests.

British Airways
updated July 5, 2011

Improved policies.

Old news: Not accepted.
New news: $51 fee with size limitations.

See under surfboards. Free as an allowed single checked bag, or for an extra fee of $51.
.
Continental
updated December 2, 2010

Semi-Friendly Surfing Baggage Policies.

Friendly bodyboard policies.

Merged with United Airlines.
Surfboard charges for one bag and
- 1 or 2 boards, $100.00;
- 3 boards, $400.00;
- 4 boards, $700.00
Plus any excess baggage fees that may apply and NTE 70 lbs.

Surfboards and Wakeboards will not be accepted during an excess baggage embargowhen no excess baggage is allowed. Exception: Surfboards and Wakeboards will be accepted to Costa Rica during an embargo period. Note: On Continental Airlines flights, surfboards, surfboard bags or wakeboards over 115 inches (292 cm) in length will not be accepted as checked baggage. On Continental Express* or Continental Connection flights, surfboards, surfboard bags or wakeboards over 80 inches (203 cm) in length will not be accepted as checked baggage.

Regular luggage: $25 fee for first bag and $35 fee for  a second bag when traveling on economy fare tickets in the U.S., PR, VI and Canada; no fee for first bag and $30 for 2nd bag when travel is to international destimations. Some exceptions apply.
Boogie/Skim/Speed Boards:  one Boogie/Skim/Speed board or one board bag containing up to two boards per customer as checked baggage. Ditto for kite boards, camping and golf equipment.

One bicycle with single seat or up to two bicycles packed in one case as checked baggage, up to
50 lbs and/or 62 total linear inches (L + W + H), otherwise a $100 service charge applies each way.
One surfboard bag w/up to two boards as checked baggage. Different rules for int'l travel. Excess Valuation may not be purchased for the board.
Note: Surfboards/surfboard bags over 115" long will not be accepted as checked baggage. May not be carried on commuter flights. Surfboards will not be accepted during an excess baggage embargo.
COPA
updated December 2, 2010

Semi-Friendly Surfing Baggage Policies.

Friendly bodyboard policies.


Surfboards (max two/bag), $75 to all destinations, excluding São Paulo and San Jose (SJO) which are charged only USD $50.


Regular luggage: To/From United States, San Juan and Mexico  Except Brazil-Up to 2 pieces, not to exceed a maximum individual weight of 50 lb. Additional size and weight fees. Many embargoes.

No charge as part of regular luggage allowance. (Note: Sports equipment not listed above or other special equipment cannot exceed 62” or 100 lbs and are permitted as part of the allowable baggage limit / carry-on luggage or as excess baggage.) .
Delta
(see Delta note below)
updated December 26, 2010

Anti-surfing baggage policies.

Anti-bodyboarding policies.




Domestic and International per board each way:  $200.

Surfboards are one board per bag; additional boards in a bag will be charged, per board, the excess bag rate.

Regular luggage: $25 fee for first bag and $35 fee for  a second bag when traveling on economy fare tickets in the U.S., PR, VI and Canada; no fee for first bag and $50 for 2nd bag when travel is to many international destimations, except no fees for Central and South America. Some exceptions apply.
Too vague for comfort. The closest comparable sporting goods listed are snowboards and golfing, although bodyboards & paipos certainly fall within the 50 pound and 80 inch guidelines.

Boogie boards smaller than or equal to 43 inches (107 cm) will be accepted as part of the free allowance.

Ski or Snowboard Equipment:  One ski/pole bag or one snowboard bag, and one boot bag is accepted per person. The combined weight of the ski/snowboard bag and the boot bag may not exceed 50 lbs. or excess weight charges will apply. Linear dimensions may exceed 80 inches (203 cm), no excess size charges apply.

See my cautionary note correspondence with Delta on boogie boards/kneeboards.

One golf bag is acceptable up to 50 pounds as the passenger's one free checked bag. Oversized baggage fees will be waived for golf bags that exceed 62 linear inches.
Hawaiian Air

Contract of Carriage

Updated April 20, 2011
Surf, Kite, Paddle, and Wake boards are accepted as checked baggage with a fee, and will not be included in determining the free baggage allowance.

$35 between any two points in Hawaii and $100 between Hawaii and the Continental USA.

Regular luggage:

Inter-Island:  $10 & $17, bags 1 & 2. Overweight/size each $25.
US-HI: $25 & $35.

Coach Plus is no charge.
Coach Plus: Passengers connecting on the same reservation to another Hawaiian Airlines Inter-island flight will be exempt from 1st and 2nd checked baggage fees.
Boogie boards and Skim Boards will be accepted as checked baggage. Normal baggage fees apply. When in excess, each item of Boogie board or Skim board will be subject to the excess baggage charge for a single piece. A round trip at a slightly higher cost qualifies as Coach Plus.
Japan Air
Has not been updated

under108", $42; over 108" $84 . .
Jet Blue
updated December 26, 2010

Semi-Friendly Surfing Baggage Policies.

Friendly bodyboard policies.

The following equipment will be accepted as checked baggage, and will be included as part of your baggage allowance: bicycles, surfing equipment, and windsurfing equipment. These items will be subject to a charge whether or not presented as a single piece, but are exempt from an additional oversize fee.

What is accepted: one surfboard per case; we recommend that surfboards travel in a hard-sided (rather than soft-sided) case to prevent damage.

Domestic & Int'l Flights: Surfboards are accepted for a fee of $50 per board each way and will count as one of your checked bags. Same fee for sail boards. Not accepted to to/from Bermuda, Santo Domingo and Santiago. 

Regular luggage: One bag, not to exceed 50 lbs, may be  checked free of charge. Second bag will be $30. Overweight, oversized, and excess baggage may be checked on a load-availability basis, per the guidelines detailed below. Please note, fees will be assessed for each category that applies.

Ski and snowboard equipment are not accepted on flights to/from the Dominican Republic due to checked baggage size restrictions. There is no additional charge for ski and snowboard equipment on domestic flights; however, one item of equipment will count as one of your checked bags. Ditto for water skiing and wakeboard equipment.

Policy is not explicit about bodyboards and kneeboards, but these items are comparable to snowboards and wakeboards.

Golf equipment is accepted on all domestic flights, as well as on flights to/from Aruba, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cancun and the Dominican Republic. There is no additional charge for golf bags; however, a golf bag will count as one of your checked bags.

Manual and battery powered scooters will be accepted for transport. A manual scooter is a razor-type scooter without a battery. It is operated by the rider physically pushing the scooter. There is no battery attached. A battery powered scooter can be one of three types:
    * razor-type scooter
    * powered chair-type scooter (for disabled customers)
    * Segway Human Transporter (HT).

 
 
Korean Air
Has not been updated
$100-$150 depending on the destination . .
Lan Chile
Has not been updated

$120 . .
Lufthansa
Has not been updated

$50 . .
Malaysian
Has not been updated

$109 . .
Mexicana
Has not been updated

$45 . .
Northwest
updated October 26, 2008

Anti-surfing baggage policies.

Anti-paipo board policies.

From the CEO of NW Airlines:

"Dear Northwest Customer: 

As a valued customer, I wanted you to be among the first to hear that we have announced an agreement to merge with Delta Air Lines. Subject to regulatory review, our two airlines are joining forces to create America's premier global airline which will be called Delta Air Lines."
Boogie Boards: For International travel (including travel US/CA/Mexico/Caribbean as well as trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific), Northwest will accept a boogie board in lieu of one piece of baggage included in the baggage allowance provided the board does not exceed 43 inches (107 cm) in length. A boogie board longer than 43 inches (107 cm) or in excess of the allowance will be subject to excess baggage charges. .
Quantas
Has not been updated
free as part of your two bag limit; otherwise, $33 each way; or $92 for boards over 10'

. .
Singapore
Has not been updated
free as part of your two bag limit; otherwise, $109 each way

. .
Southwest
updated August 13, 2008

Semi-Friendly Surfing Baggage Policies.

Friendly bodyboard policies.

Maximum weight is 50 pounds and maximum size is 62 inches (length + width + height) per checked piece of luggage.

Overweight items from 51 to 70 pounds will be accepted for a charge of $25.00 per item. Items weighing from 71 to 100 pounds and oversized items in excess of 62 inches but not more than 80 inches (i.e., surfboards, bicycles, vaulting poles) will be accepted for a charge of $50.00 per item.

Regular luggage: two-pieces of free baggage allowance for each fare-paying passenger. Overweight and/or oversize charges may apply.

Boogieboards may be checked in substitution of one piece of the free baggage allowance for each fare-paying customer at no charge on a one-for one basis. Overweight charges may apply. No charge. Does not count against the two piece free baggage allowance.

Leather seats, ok; grouped boarding IAW check-in order.

Spirit Airlines
updated December 26, 2010

Semi-Friendly Surfing Baggage Policies.

Semi-Friendly bodyboard policies (fees as regular baggage).
Surf Boards: The charge for these items is $100 each way and may include 2 boards in a single bag.

Regular luggage:  A carry-on bag cost ranges from $20, $30 or
$45.  Checked bags: first bag ranges from $18 to $45 and the second bag ranges from $25 to $45. NOTE: 40 lb limit for checked bags or extra fees apply (e.g., $25 for up to a 50lb bag). All overweight or oversized items are weighed and sized at the airport, and applicable fees are collected at Check-In.

Spirit Airlines can only guarantee the transportation of one (1) item as checked luggage per fare-paying customer at the airport. Additional bags are accepted only when reserved in advance online. Holiday embargoes.

Spirit allows only one (1) sporting item per customer. A flat fee of $75.00 each leg will apply for all sporting equipment (scuba tanks, bicycles etc.) with the exception of golf clubs and surfboards.
Golf Clubs may be checked as a standard bag.
TACA
updated December 26, 2010

Semi-Friendly Surfing Baggage Policies.

Semi-friendly to unfriendly bodyboard policies.


If you check board bags as part of your free baggage allowance (2 pieces), you may take up to 3 surfboards within one same bag per passenger, up to 70lbs. The charge for this bag is US$125 each one, each way - with the following exceptions:
* Between Miami and San Jose, the charge is US$100 each bag, each way
* Any route from or to Brazil, the charge is US$50 each one, each way.

Surfboards are not allowed on our Embraer aircrafts.

If you check them as extra luggage, they are considered standby bags, and an additional charge of US$175 applies, each one, each way.

Two bags fly for free.
The language on the TACA site is confusing, or maybe it isn't.

This equipment must be checked as one of the 2 pieces permitted in your free baggage allowance. Included in this policy are wakeboards, golf clubs, bicycles, fishing gear, archery equipment, and skiing equipment.

United
updated May 3, 2010

Anti-surfing baggage policies.

Semi-Friendly bodyboard policies.

Lugeboards, surfboards, wakeboards. One case holding one or two surfboards, luge boards or wakeboards. Maximum 2 boards per case. Fee is per board. $100 each board. (Local currency used in countries or origin.)

Caveats: Cannot be accommodated on Airbus A320 or Airbus A319 aircraft. If your itinerary includes United Express, please contact United for information regarding aircraft cargo hold limits.

Regular luggage: In the USA, one bag is $25, second bag is $35. Travel between the U.S. or Canada and the Caribbean or Mexico: first bag free, second bag $30. Travel between North America and all other international destinations: two checked bags without charge.

Kite boards. 1 case holding kite boards. Allowed in place of one checked bag. Snowboarding equipment. 1 snowboard bag, plus 1 boot bag containing boots and bindings only, are allowed in place of one checked bag.

Silent on bodyboarding type equipment although corresponding more closely to kite boards and snowboarding.

All fees shown below are for one direction of travel only, and apply only when checking in with United. When checking in with a United codeshare partner, please contact that carrier regarding its oversized, overweight and excess baggage policies.
Golf equipment. 1 standard sized golf bag with clubs and 1 pair of shoes. Must be enclosed in full-length protective cover (vinyl/cloth/nylon/or hard-sided case). Allowed in place of one checked bag.

Other Notes: USA inlcudes PR and USVI. Overweight and/or oversize charges may apply.
USA3000
updated August 13, 2008

Semi-Friendly Surfboard policies.

Semi-Friendly bodyboard policies.

$50 each way

Regular luggage: One bag is no-charge, second bag is $25. Overweight and/or oversize charges may apply.


$50 each way

They charged me! Never again. Board damaged as well on the return leg.

Golf bags also $50.
Operated primarily as a charter... used it w/Apple Vacations to Costa Rica. My friends packed 3 boards in a bag and paid the same as my single paipo. Not currently flying to Costa Rica (Summer 2008).  Passenger seating was lousy.
USAir
updated February 7, 2010

Semi-Friendly Surfboard policies.

Friendly bodyboard policies.

Rumors are that USAir may merge with United Airlines.

Surfboards will be accepted as checked baggage for a charge of $100 per direction. One item of surfing equipment consists of 1 surfboard.

Regular luggage: One bag is $25, second bag is $35. Overweight and/or oversize charges may apply. Applies to US, Caribbean, Latin America.

Periodic embargoes to Lantin America locations.

Boogie boards will be accepted in the normal baggage allowance in lieu of a piece of baggage.

I have never had a problem checking my paipo board w/gear in bag.

Golf equipment will be accepted in the normal baggage allowance in lieu of a piece of baggage. A pull cart may be included if it is attached to a golf bag.
Could not find info.

Hockey equipment will be accepted in the normal baggage allowance in lieu of a piece of baggage. One item of hockey equipment consists of: Hockey pads, Helmet, Hockey pants / jersey, Gloves, Skates, 12 hockey sticks.
Virgin Atlantic
Has not been updated
under 109", $50; over 109 inches, $100

. .

Notes:


American
Delta Old News: Caveat emptor. Information on surfboards as checked baggage can be found here. A surfboard or boogeyboard, which is less than 62 inches will be accepted as a part of the customer's free baggage allowance and boards in excess of that size will be charged as excess baggage. Please be advised that when booking a flight on Delta Connection Carrier Atlantic Southeast Airlines such baggage would be accepted subject to availability of space at the time of check-in.
 
Sincerely,
Online Customer Support Desk
http://www.delta.com
Hawaiian The Boogie board will be included in determining the free baggage allowance and when in excess, each item will be subject to the excess baggage charge for a single piece.  Surf and Paddle boards will not be included in determining the free baggage allowance and will always be subject to charge. Note: For the purpose of this provision, each container may have up to a maximum of two (2) boards. Each container will be charged at the above rates. No limit will be set to how many containers each passenger may check.  Bicycles will not be included in determining the free baggage allowance and will always be subject to a charge, whether or not presented as a single piece:  i) Between points within the State of Hawaii: $20.00 USD;  ii) Between Hawaii and points in the Continental USA: $50.00 USD; iii) Between points within the Continental USA: $50.00 USD.
Southwest Sporting Equipment - One (1) of the following items of sporting equipment may be checked in as one of the two (2) piece free baggage allowance for each fare-paying passenger at no charge:  Snow ski equipment encased in a container or containers acceptable to Carrier and including no more than one (1) pair of skis or one (1) snow board, one (1) pair of ski boots, and one (1) pair of ski poles; Scuba equipment, provided air tanks are empty and all accompanying  equipment (BCD, mask, flippers, weight belt, etc.) are encased together in a  container acceptable to Carrier.  Charges apply for bicycles and wind surfing boards.
TACA
US Air I have never had a problem checking my paipo board w/gear in bag. 











BOARD BAG BLUES:

Surfers' least favorite song is more popular than ever
by Matt Walker of Swell.com
March 21, 2001

It's every traveling surfer's fantasy. You're at the airport on the way to some far-flung surf destination. Beside you is a triple board bag filled with gear. On your back is a light carry-on. The agent calls you to the counter and asks how many bags you wish to check.

"Just one," you reply, and point to the bulging cocoon.

"That will be $75 per board. Could you open the bag for me please?"

You look next to you and see some plaid-panted fogey checking three fifty-pound trunks plus a golf bag for free and -- snapping beneath the sheer injustice of it all -- grab the agent's little pin-on wings and stab him repeatedly until he realizes the error of his ways and with his last breath of life decrees all excess board charges illegal until the end of time.

Well, keep dreaming. Surfboard charges aren't going anywhere. In fact, they're getting worse.

"Everything's really changing," explains Carol Holland, mother of former 'CT pro Todd Holland and owner of Cocoa Beach travel company Surf Express. "Lacsa, [a Costa Rican airline] who has historically offered free surfboard baggage, no longer does so. Other airlines are increasing the cost. People are traveling with more shit than you've ever seen before. But it doesn't matter. It's their option how they pack. And it's the surfer's option to pack as defensively as possible."

It's not just surfers. For those of you haven't been paying attention, there's an airline crisis in the United States. There are more travelers than there are flights.  Gone are the days when you could check as many suitcases as you wished. Most airlines now limit passengers to two checked items. If you're lucky, maybe they'll count your board bag as one -- but not in the US. And with everything from Thanksgiving turkeys to medical supplies making their way on these same planes, less space is being allotted for passenger luggage. So, if you want a bigger chunk of real estate you better be prepared to pay for it.

"Surfers are not being mistreated," insists Holland. "Airlines are just charging because they have to. We're asking for special handling. Remember: a suitcase, you don't care if it goes on the bottom or the top. All you want is for that thing to go up the little conveyor belt and you stack them all up. We want surfboards on the top. Plus, there are other problems. With some planes you can get them in the baggage door but you can't turn them. And in some cases, you can turn them, but not if the plane is 50% full. Meanwhile, the public is saying they want low fares, the cost of labor's going up, cost of fuel is going up, and airlines are growing more streamlined. Loading a surfboard doesn't fit with what the public is telling them to do. Do you want everyone's airfare to go up to balance the cost of your bag?"

The good news is, whereas before it seemed surfboards were the only items subject to the charges, the rest of the free world's paying now as well, including scuba gear, sailboards, golf clubs, and even antlers. The general rule for American and international carriers is be prepared to pay extra for anything that has more than 62 linear inches (that's length plus width plus height) and weighs more than 80 pounds. On international flights, expect a fluctuating scale depending on the destination and to pay even more for items over 109 inches.

Of course none of this explains a few traditionally pesky matters. One is the airlines' notorious indifference to surfers' complaints. (Of the five American airlines contacted, only TWA responded immediately to an interview request. The remaining companies only replied upon leaving messages that the article may not come off favorably if we didn't get a response.)

But a snooty airline representative is hardly news. The most annoying detail is figuring out why some airlines ask to pay individually for boards inside a single container. After all, you don't pay per article of clothing in your duffle bag.

"I don't know if people are taking it too literally because it says 'Surfboard:  $75.00'," guesses TWA's representative, one of few airlines willing to discuss the subject. "But we're aware of the case and how it's going to be the same size whether there's three boards or just one with lots of socks around it. As far as we're concerned, one container equals one piece of luggage equals $75 dollars."

On the other hand, when asked why you have to pay for two boards in the same bag, Southwest's spokesperson says, "Because there are two -- that's why."

Clearly, reason is about as common in air flight as a decent meal. But once you accept that you will be paying some amount, the best approach is to determine which airlines are going to give you the best deal by calling ahead of time, and then take the proper steps.

"If you travel with two shortboards packed together carefully in one soft-sided board bag, you'll probably travel at the lowest cost with no hassle," offers Holland. "Adding that third board seems to be a gray area. Four? Hang it up, they're gonna say unzip the bag."

"If you want to be assured that the board's going to get there then take up the least amount of space with the greatest amount of protection," she continues.  "Keep in mind that there are embargoes during certain times of the year, so you may show up at the airport and find you have to sign a statement that says you are aware that your board may not go on the same flight as yours, so check in way early."

Any finally?  "Don't get too smart. On a tight flight, somebody is eyeballing that thing trying to figure out how to get it on the plane. If you want it on the plane, pay the fee."
--Matt Walker


Changes to the original article made by the author and subject to future change -- no party to this web page
is responsible for any charges you may or may not incur.  Always double-check for the latest tariffs, fees,
charges, "Conditions of Carriage," etc.  Feel free to send me updated info and include references, please.


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