If you surf, you will travel. Simple as that. Once you’ve exhausted the road trips in Europe you’ll need to get some wings. International travel is your key to warm water and board shorts but it’s not without its trials.
Once upon a time you could rock up at Heathrow with a travel bag and a hefty board bag and be waved through with a smile. These days it’s a rare trip that doesn’t involve you getting taxed for your ‘sports equipment’. So if you’re booking a trip with us check out the airlines and compare and contrast policies as it might be worth buying a more expensive flight if it avoids hefty board charges.
In Europe EasyJet and FlyBe are great, Ryanair seem to be pricing surfers off their planes. Internationally Virgin rule for being cool. The Middle Eastern airlines play fair. Australian and NZ carriers are workable, as you’d expect and the US airlines and some European are just plain nasty. If in doubt of vague website wording always call the airline for the latest policy as they are prone to change.
The standard policy, as with normal checked baggage, is a weight limit of 23kg. Anything north of this and you’re risking excess baggage fees. EU policy states that no bag over 32kg can be carried, due to it putting the baggage handler chaps backs out, so pack light, pack smart. If your bag is over 32kg the airline will ask you to freight it instead. All the airlines ask you pack your boards well, take off the fins if possible, and pad them well with bubble wrap/cardboard. Makes sense as they’ll generally ask you to sign a waiver removing them of responsibility in case they damage them … charming eh?
The main thing when checking in awkward, heavy board bags is to be nice as pie to the check in person. A smile goes a long way and if you brighten up someone’s day with your glowing personality they might not interpret the rules to the letter. Fees, with the non-budget airlines at least, can be optional. On the flip side don’t let yourself be ripped off. Know the airline policy to the letter and don’t fear asking for a manager if they’re trying to rinse you.
Travelling with a board isn’t as free and easy as it was but with prior planning and good packing it should still be breeze. Here’s the current state of airline fees/policies as surveyed by us in January 2014. This is what’s on all the airlines sites right now. These things change so please let us know your experiences of travelling with boards and the fees in the comments below.
We want this to be a resource that grows so none of us get stung. Which carriers get your nod as the most board friendly airline and who are the villains?
£50/€50 each way if booked online, £60/€60 at airport, max weight of 20kg. So your board bag will probably cost more to get to your destination than you.
£35/€45 each way if booked online, £45/€60 at airport, but there are now ‘small’ and ‘large’ sports equipment tariffs and it’s not clear where surfboard bags fit. If it’s ‘small’ the weight limit is 20kg. If ‘large’ it’s 32kg. Also note for groups: only six board bags can be booked per online booking. EasyJet do have the awesome ‘no weight limit’ policy on carry on luggage which is a huge plus. As long as the bag fits standard dimensions and you can lift it over your head.
£30 per board bag per flight. Paid in airport or via the call centre; can’t be booked online. FlyBe’s small plane’s are cute be easily congested with loads of board bags.
Part of your checked baggage allowance. Fee of around £12 for under 25kg each way. Payable in airport, generally very accommodating staff. Your go to guys for getting around SE Asia.
€30 per bag, per leg when pre-booked. €40 paid at airport. Boardbag for long haul must be under 110 inches, short haul under 80 inches.
Maximum length 80 inches, counts as part of your checked baggage allowance. $50 per board, per leg and the small print states two boards in the same bag will incur two fees! Pity as Air Canada use to be board friendly.
Anywhere between €55 and €100 per leg depending on destination.
AIR NEW ZEALAND
Free as part of checked baggage allowance if under 2m. £100 if over size/weight. Generally regarded as being pretty decent about taking boards.
Same daft ‘one board’ limit as Iberia. $150 regardless of whether it’s your only checked baggage.
Part of checked baggage allowance as long as bag is under 190x 75 x 65cm (75 x 29.5x 25.5in) which is a <6’3″ board bag! So unless you roll with a real short quiver you’re knackered. Pity as BA is a class outfit to fly with.
Really useful article – thanks Roger. For what it’s worth, my experience is that BA aren’t actually sticklers for the rule about the length of the bag. I have taken a 6’6″ bag with them twice a year for the past five years and never had a problem. So don’t rule them out!t
Scott Jamie Allen
Vague wording but ‘sports equipment’ such as board bags charged as excess baggage over 23kg. From $10 to $60 per kg depending on destination. So if it’s your only check in bag you might be okay.
Nightmarish small print, charging for excess size and weight. Board bags automatically ‘too big’. Best avoided.
Accepted as part of checked baggage allowance if under 10 feet. Excess fees apply if over 23kg. In our experience always cool.
Part of checked allowance, excess fees apply if over weight. Like all the Middle Eastern airlines that are your main carriers to Indo/Maldives/Sri Lanka they’re all reasonable as long as your bag isn’t crazy heavy.
There is a limit of two boards per bag; charges are assessed per container each way. Fees from $100 per leg. Getting boards out of Hawaii is a royal pain with airport as well as airline fees.
If you are travelling anywhere apart from from/to London then a board bag under 8 feet long is allowed. The small print states ‘one piece of equipment per passenger’ and Iberia are renowned as being the least surfer friendly airline in the world so expect them to stick to the small print. So one board in a bag. Prepare to be stung €150 for each leg. Best avoided. Beware of code shares with BA. But then BA are useless for surfers so avoid BA/Iberia all together. They’ve been known to charge full seat price for a board bag.
Max two boards per bag. $150 booked in advance.
$50 per board each way AND count as part of your checked baggage allowance.
Charge if more than one piece of checked baggage and overweight/size charges. Website not very helpful but experience suggests they’re to be avoided.
Part of checked allowance providing it doesn’t go over weight/size guidelines.
Board bags up to 2m. €50 for regional flights. €100 for international. Need to register within 24 hours of booking.
One board up to 3 metres accepted as checked baggage and always subject to excess baggage charge. £25 per 5 kilos.
Board bags under 109 inches and additional bags treated as excess. $120 per bag.
Free but weight limit for board bag of 10kg. If you’re going to the tropics it’s doable.
Part of checked baggage allowance excess fees apply if exceeding free allowance.
SOUTH AFRICAN AIRLINES
Free as an additional piece of luggage if below 23kg and 2 metres. Over 2 metres ‘strictly’ cargo.
Accepted as checked baggage for $75 each way.
Free as part of your checked allowance in our experience and very helpful friendly staff.
Three board limit in a bag up to 3.7m long. $100 charge.
Up to 20kg bag, charges, per leg, between €35 and €90 depending on route.
If under 2.7m charged as 5kg of excess baggage. Which depends on route. Figure at least $100.
$100 each way for US destinations, $200 international. Like most of the US airlines increasingly anti-surfer.
Accepted for $200 per leg. One board only.
Free as long as it’s under 2.7m and <23kg. If you’re heading to the States and beyond Virgin has to be first choice.
Errant Surf can provide ATOL bonded flights to all our surf destinations throughout the world. Check out our destinations on our travel site. Need something to keep your pride and joy safe? Quiver produce a range of boardbags at a price that won’t break the bank.