Airlines and surfers must be involved in some secret war, because how else can you explain why airlines are targeting them so savagely right now? Sure, snacks cost us $9, bags are $50 each, and seat belts will probably soon be auctioned off during the preflight check—but if you’re a surfer, you can expect to pay up to $200 each way to bring along your board, pretty much blowing out the budget of any surfer who isn’t Patrick Swayze.
Based on the chart provided at Surfline.com, the U.S. carriers are some of the worst culprits. Delta charges $150 each way, United charges between $100-$200 each way depending on board length, American charges $100 each way, and Continental charges $95 each way. (As you might expect, Jet Blue and Southwest are both more affordable, at $25 and $50 each way respectively.)
According to the Los Angeles Times, Delta says surfboards require too much special handling, and of course they blame fuel prices:
The surfboard fees are high because the boards require special care and extra handling, Delta said. They don’t go through the normal baggage carousel but must be carried on special elevators to the claims area.
“There are handling costs associated with surfboards that we have to account for,” Delta spokesman Kent Landers said. The hike in charges also reflects a general increase in fees to “cover and reflect the unprecedented increase in fuel costs,” he added.
But surfers contend that the fees for their boards are unfairly high compared with other items. Although they are large and need special handling as an oversize bag, a typical short board weighs about 4 pounds while a larger board may swell to only 15 pounds.
“It’s not the weight thing,” said Marcus Sanders, a Huntington Beach surfer and editor of surfing website Surfline.com, whose airline fee guide received 20,000 hits in the first two days it was posted last month. “They just think that it’s an extra pain on their employees, that the boards take up extra space on their planes and that we make up a small percentage of its passengers.”
The article points out that the combined fees from Delta and Hawaiian airlines cost one traveler about half what a new kite board (think smaller surfboard) would cost:
“You know, I just realized I’m going to be paying $360 to take my board along,” Cowan, a Ridgway, Colo., resident, said after checking in his board, which was 4 feet, 9 inches long and weighed about 11 pounds.
Both the LA Times and Surfline.com suggest you look at foreign carriers if you want to avoid or minimize fees.
“Airlines’ Fees for Surfboards are Dinging Surfers” [Los Angeles Times] (Thanks to David!)
“Breakdown of boardbag charges by airline” [Surfline.com]