A Comprehensive Guide to Airline Surfboard Bag Fees in 2020

For better or for worse, surfing is more widespread than it’s ever been. Whether thanks to the WSL’s corpo approach in recent years, the explosion of wavepools, John Florence, the Olympics or some combination of all of those things, the world is taking notice.

And so are the airlines.

Fortunately, that’s a good thing. Gone are the days when nearly every airline was gouging the pockets of surfers, charging $150 per surfboard, if you were lucky. At one point, United Airlines actually doubled and tripled that charge for having more than one board in a bag, and many surfers actually paid over $1,000 to tote their boards from location to another. One way.

These days, while there are still some bad apples out there, most airlines are leaning toward being surfer-friendly, with some big carriers like American Airlines and Delta having recently cut surfboard fees completely. (Finally!)

After digging through the oversize/sports equipment charges for every major airline you might consider flying, we figure the three best/worst airlines (in terms of low-cost board bag fees) are as follows:

The Best:

Qantas, Air Tahiti Nui and Emirates, as surfboards fly free on all three, so long as they are one of your two checked bags, and stay under the standard allowed weight and dimensions. (Honorable mention to American Air and Delta for cutting surfboard fees in 2019. Now you only pay $30 for surfboards on both airlines, assuming you aren’t checking more than two bags.)

The Worst:

China Air, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic, as all three have unclear/sketchy policies on surfboards. While all three accept surfboards, they are all over the map with their charges, and both Cathay and Virgin Atlantic appear to take issue with boards over six feet (so basically every bag minus that of a 12-year-old supergrom.)

Below is a list of what the 45 most heavily traveled airlines (by surfers anyway) charge to carry surfboards, as of Jan 1, 2020. All prices are one way.

Alaska:

As long as your boards are one of two checked bags, they’ll only cost you $30.

American Airlines:

Same. As long as your boards are one of two checked bags, they’ll only cost you $30.

Asiana Airlines:

When the total weight of all baggage (including surfboards) does not exceed the free baggage allowance, no extra charges are applied.

Air Asia:

Free if flying to, from (or through) Australia (though restrictions still apply). Traveling somewhere other than OZ? Check rates here.

Air Canada:

Boards and wave skis are subject to a fee of $100 (WTF is a wave-ski?) That said, the details can get a bit convoluted. Click here for the fine print.

Air Emirates:

Free, as a part of your standard baggage allowance (Again, read the details here).

Air France:

Free (sometimes), but prior approval from Air France’s customer service department is required. You must submit your request at least 48 hours before your flights departure. And, as is the case with most airlines, restrictions apply.

Aero Mexico:

$75 on flights within Mexico, and $150 on International flights.

Aer Lingus:

For flights operating to/from North America, surfboards are carried as part of the standard baggage allowance. Excess baggage rates of $100 apply if you carry in excess of the standard allowance. Otherwise, $50.

Air New Zealand:

Free, as long as the bag fits under the size/weight restrictions, which you can read about here.

Air Tahiti Nui:

Free! These guys get it.

Avianca:

Up to 3 boards per bag are allowed, fees vary.

British Airways:

Surfboards are treated as a regular checked bag, which means they are free if they are under 75 x 29.5 x 25.5in and 50 pounds. Any applicable oversize and/or overweight fees apply. Fees appear to be location/date specific, so see here, or call ahead.

Bahamas Air:

Treated as a checked bag. That said, this is direct from their website: “One surfboard per case up to 6 feet in length; except items weighing more than one hundred pounds (100lbs) will not be accepted as checked baggage” No word on what happens if your bag exceeds 6-feet (which it will), so proceed with caution.

Cathay Pacific:

Free, but the fine print is sketchy: “If the length exceeds 62 inches and the total dimensions exceed 80 inches, 4 times of extra baggage charge applies.”

Cayman Airways:

$95, per board.

Copa Airlines:

Two boards per bag, must make a reservation (they actually claim they can only fit 4 bags on a 737). Charge is $150.

China Airlines:

Two boards per bag, but the details of exactly what they charge are unclear. Call before booking, and travel with surfboards at your own risk, as plenty of surfers have China Airlines surfboard horror stories.

Delta:

As long as your boards are one of two checked bags, they’ll only cost you $30.

EasyJet:

$40 in advance, $50 at the airport. (Only one surfboard allowed, and no word on how strict they are in enforcing this rule).

Emirates:

Free, so long as your surfboard bag is one of your allowed two pieces of checked luggage.

Fiji Airways:

Fees vary

Hawaiian Airlines:

Neighbor islands, $35; North America, $100; International, $150.

Interjet:

Fees vary, and they claim 6-feet as the maximum allowed length. Unclear on how strict they are in enforcing that rule.

Iberia:

On long haul flights surfboards are free, short/medium haul flights come with a charge. See here for more info.

Japan Airlines:

Between $50 – $200, depending on the route.

Jet Blue:

$100, one board per bag.

Korean Air:

Free, so long as your surfboard bag is one of your allowed two pieces of checked luggage.

KLM:

They charge a “special item fee” based on destination, in a range between $50 – $300. Call before flying.

Lufthansa:

Free, so long as your surfboard bag is one of your allowed two pieces of checked luggage, and you register your bag at least 24 hours before the flight.

Malaysian:

Free, so long as your surfboard bag is one of your allowed two pieces of checked luggage.

Philippine Airlines:

Surfboards are not included in the free baggage allowance, so expect to pay at least $150 each way

Qantas:

Free, so long as your surfboard bag is one of your allowed two pieces of checked luggage.

South African Airlines:

Free, so long as your surfboard bag is one of your allowed two pieces of checked luggage. (Although they say only one board per person is allowed.)

Singapore:

Free, so long as your surfboard bag is one of your allowed two pieces of checked luggage. (Although they say only one board per person.)

Spirit:

$100, two boards per bag max.

Southwest:

$75

TAP Portugal:

From $75 and up, depending on the route. Click here for details.

Thai Airways:

From free to $200, depending on the route. Best to call before you book.

United:

No excess charge if flying to/from California, otherwise $150.

US Airways:

$200

Virgin Atlantic:

Free, so long as your surfboard bag is one of your allowed two pieces of checked luggage.

NOTE: The baggage allowance only applies if your surfboards are under 190 cm (about 6’2”) in length. Unknown how strict this new-ish rule is being enforced, so we recommend calling ahead to confirm before booking.

Virgin America:

$50, two boards per bag max.

Virgin Australia:

Free, so long as your surfboard bag is one of your allowed two pieces of checked luggage.

Westjet:

$100 – $200. Call before flying.

This article originally appeared on Surfer.com and was republished with permission.

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