U.S. Airlines Now Charging As Much As $400 To Carry Surfboards

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.

Surfers disagree:

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]


Edit Your Comment

  1. henwy says:

    Mail it.

  2. IphtashuFitz says:

    $400 is enough to buy a new surfboard. Maybe US Airlines should break out into a new field and start renting them at popular surfing destinations.

  3. thrlsekr says:

    What does it cost to FedEx? Must be less expensive way to get the board there!

  4. SkokieGuy says:

    But are they charging similar rates for skis that are also bulky, despite their light weight?

    To single out one specific type of cargo seems a bit unreasonable, but then this is the airlines.

  5. johnva says:

    How much would it cost to ship it in advance to wherever you’re going? Once you’re getting into these sorts of cost, that looks like a more viable option to me.

  6. MercuryPDX says:

    @johnva: The same if not more:


  7. ironchef says:

    Well Patrick Swazye did rob banks to fund his surfing habit. Now we know where the money went.

  8. wildbill says:

    Skis are free depending on who you fly with.


    I smell a conspiracy.

  9. legwork says:

    Recover the costs? $400? One more bit of evidence the execs are golfing their way out of touch with lower rungs of (mis)management.

    Does consumerist have a “wall of shame” for wildly unrealistic charges? You know, like returned check fees, tow/storage fees, surfboard shipping? It’d make a great browse.

  10. johnva says:

    @MercuryPDX: Why would you need to go through a specialty company to do it? I’m sure that’s more expensive than FedEx or UPS.

  11. urban_ninjya says:

    Considering boards are long and fragile. They’re harder to fit and stack. You can’t just cram them into a small nook like you would a suitcase full of clothes.

    I’m sure for that very reason it’s also hard to ship a bicycle unless you were to break it down and box it.

    You’re probably better off UPS the board there.

  12. TechnoDestructo says:

    Both the LA Times and Surfline.com suggest you look at foreign carriers if you want to avoid or minimize fees.

    And if you want to have a better flying experience in every possible way.

    Christ, the only thing that’s going to keep US carriers alive at this point is protectionism.

  13. savvy999 says:

    When will golfers be charged an equivalent by-the-pound fee for their bags?

  14. Sudonum says:

    And what about golf clubs? They’re considerably heavier, but not quite as bulky?

  15. @ironchef: Whoa!

  16. Zeniq says:

    “They don’t go through the normal baggage carousel but must be carried on special elevators to the claims area.”

    What the hell is so special about these elevators? If they go up and down, and they aren’t form-fitted to a surf board, then it’s just a regular elevator.

    As many have said before, it would be such a better deal to ship it to yourself. Priority overnight it to your hotel or whoever you are staying with. it would probably cost less than 170 bucks total, for shipping there and back.

  17. johnva says:

    @Zeniq: My guess is it probably depends on where you’re going whether it’s a better deal that way. If it’s to Hawaii, it’s probably got to go on a plane anyway. If you’re going to California from Arizona, there might be a cheaper option.

  18. TCameron says:

    Fare’s up dude.

  19. davebg5 says:

    This jsut kills me, as I’m an avid snowboarder and I have seen similar policies being applied to my gear. It used to be no extra charge. Then some airlines began charging the oversized/overwieght baggage fee. Now some airlines are charging additional fees on top of that.

    Here’s something for these no-talent assclowns at the airlines to consider…THE ONLY REASON I’M FLYING IS TO GO SNOWBOARDING! If you make it that much more expensive for me to take my snowboard and gear, then I might not go on the trip at all, which means you will not see my business or any of my money.

  20. triplehelix1919 says:

    aren’t there surfboard rental shops in hawaii? I wonder if that would be more cost effective.

  21. MeOhMy says:

    Holy crap for $400 R/T you’re probably better off just buying used at your destination or renting!

    Or buying a seat for your board!

  22. chiieddy says:

    How much to ship UPS or FedEx to your location?

  23. Nighthawke says:

    It sounds like the accountants and bean counters have taken over operations at the airlines.

    Can I shoot a few of them, please? Maybe someone might grow a brain stem and start righting the wrongs they have created.

  24. Trai_Dep says:

    US Airlines hates beautiful people. And Spicoli.
    I get the feeling that ten-times-heavier and equally unwieldy golf clubs got exempted from this surcharge since all the waddling, overweight US Air execs play golf and cried foul. Gods forbid THEY have to pay their way.

  25. privateer says:

    It seems likely that golf clubs and skis/snowboards are going to show up even more than surfboards in airplane luggage holds. Do the airlines really plan to treat golfers and skiers/boarders equally and hammer the crap out of them on extra baggage charges, too? Do they really think most travelers will just cave to the “convenience” and pay these ridiculous amounts?

    The airlines must think they are the only game in town for shipping these items. If FedEx, UPS and other shippers are smart, they’ll start offering an affordable way to accommodate sending travelers’ big luggage items. They could get them to the door of the traveler’s destination, also helping people avoid carrying as much luggage through airports.

    If the airlines thought that way, maybe they would actually attract business, instead of scaring it off.

  26. MercuryPDX says:

    @johnva: I know Surfboards (and Skis) fall outside of the “standard package dimensions” for UPS, so there are “Over Maximum Limits charges” right there. LuggageForward isn’t the only company out there though.

  27. ??v???ë???v? says:

    Dude! gotta get one of these inflatable boards:

    This one’s just a concept, but if we get Swayze to make the pitch to some venture capitalists…

  28. Jevia says:

    Definitely use a foreign airline if you are flying outside the US. I don’t think you can fly on foreign airlines if you are flying from one US city to another.

  29. MercuryPDX says:

    @johnva: Here’s a

  30. MercuryPDX says:

    @MercuryPDX: …surfboard company that ships new boards via Fedex Ground for $65-95 dollars, so maybe Fedex is the way to go:

  31. @thrlsekr: Probably quite a bit, due to the dimensions. Especially if it’s international, or to Hawaii.

  32. Marshfield says:

    Could you just buy a seat for the board in the back in Coach and get by any cheaper?

  33. Marshfield says:

    @MercuryPDX: surfboard company that ships new boards via Fedex Ground for $65-95 dollars, so maybe Fedex is the way to go:

    They may have a “deal” since they ship so many, and they may also eat some of the cost or work it into the price. Your cost may be quite a bit higher, it’s calculated on “dimensional weight” that can get really crazy for odd shaped packages.

  34. khiltd says:

    Maybe if they start charging an extra $1,000 for babies I’ll actually fly somewhere again.

  35. CRNewsom says:

    If you have a Fedex account (free), you can get 25% off shipping rates. It saves me a ton of money over just about every other shipping option, but I do not ship surfboards.

  36. sketchy says:

    @khiltd: Best idea I’ve heard all day.

  37. SaeedaVolusus says:

    I remember the good old days! I delivered my 11’9″ windsurfer ™ to San Francisco Airport at a freight terminal in 1982 and hand carried it between two terminals at LAX for delivery to Los Cabos with no problem….Okay, almost no problem! No one at the airline had seen a board that size and they wanted to treat it as freight. And coming back, I had to drag it thru Customs. $30 more and it was delivered

    Let’s face the facts. Any surfboard is “long”, “fragile” and “special”. Sorry if you are travelling to HI, or CA, or AUS, but you need to accept the fact that you should pay more for the privelege of taking “your” board to the destination. Not willing to pay the extra fees? Don’t go!….

  38. ilovemom says:

    Fedex will only insure if you have them package it, at $200, on top of the $200 shipping cost (from HI to the East Coast). Ths USPS says they will ship it, but it has to be a pretty small surfboard (the USPS has a size limit) and it will still cost you over a hundred.

    I’ve always been annoyed at this policy becuase it seems so discriminatory (not that the airlines aren’t within their rights). They apparently make you sign a waiver that says if they mess it up it’s not their fault. So what’s the charge for:
    1. Extra effort due to size – WRONG, Why isn’t there an extra charge for skis?
    2. Extra weight – WRONG, What about golf clubs?
    3. They’re fragile – WRONG, What’s the waiver for? If they have no responsibility, there shouldn’t be a handling charge and it’s not like the fee is going to an insurance policy.

  39. drftjgoj says:


    Thanks for that. I was gonna ask about snowboards since that’s what I would travel with. And since a snowboard + boots + helmet + other related gear probably weighs more than a surfboard, I could only assume they’d tack on a ridiculous surcharge if it really was due to fuel prices…

  40. Canino says:

    If you want a laugh look up the regulations for fishing gear. They are almost the same at every airline because one airline found one exec who fly fished only for trout only and got him to write the regs for them and the rest all copied them.

    Most count a rod case, reel case/tackle bag, pair of waders and a net all as one piece of luggage (at least they used to until very recently when all this charging extra started).

  41. ironchef says:

    @Git Em SteveDave displays attention-grabbing vanity:

    Didn’t you watch the movie Point Break? Swayze headed a gang called the Dead Presidents?

  42. shufflemoomin says:

    What in the name of tap-dancing-christ has the fuel cost got to do with carrying a surfboard? First it’s special handing then it’s fuel cost? If you’re going to have a scapegoat, just pick one. I’d love to know how they could justify either. I don’t see a surfboard needing that much extra fuel to carry. Aren’t they super light? And special handing? How special is it to sit it aside and take it to the aircraft with the rest of the cargo & baggage? Lies. And all in the name of making extra money. Why are only US carriers doing this? Airliners need fuel and staff over here in Europe too, you know.

  43. shufflemoomin says:

    As an addition, I’m flying a European flight with BMI in a few days and paid extra on-line to book to carry a guitar in a flight case in the hold and paid a whopping £15 for the privilege. Approximately $30 USD and I bet it’s about the same size as a small surfboard and considerably heavier.

  44. yevarechecha says:


    Yeah, my brother has checked a full-size cello in a big flight case before and never been charged more than the overweight bag fee despite the fact that the thing is about five feet tall, three feet wide, and contains a $10,000 fragile hollow wooden object. This smells.

    Though I’ve been surprised at the ease with which I’ve been able to carry my violin on board for years now. The case is a little suspicious-looking and although the total weight and volume are perfectly small enough, it is a little long. I always get a few odd looks from other passengers, but security and gate personnel have never had issues with it. I hope that doesn’t change with the new finicky standards, because if it has to be checked it’s almost sure to get broken with the way the baggage handlers throw things around and my insurance policy doesn’t cover the damage if you are stupid enough to put it in a cargo hold.

  45. wickedpixel says:

    unless you’re a pro surfer, rent a board when you get there.

  46. trucha says:

    Foreign airlines on international flights. Some give free booze!!

  47. redheadedstepchild says:

    @urban_ninjya: Actually, it’s really expensive to check a bike, even if it is broken down. Call it a bike, and yer in trouble. Sporting goods, and it’s less.

  48. Snakeophelia says:

    Really, really ridiculous.

    As an aside, I’ve actually been to Bell’s Beach, outside of Melbourne. I bet Quantas doesn’t charge a ridiculous price if you want to take your board with you. Heck, I flew from LAX to Melbourne with a big 40-inch poster tube in addition to my carry-ons, and the flight attendants were happy to stow it behind my seat.

  49. trucha says:

    @redheadedstepchild: I used to fly with a mountain bike once a year in the early 90’s and the airlines would provide a special bike box if you needed one. I had to pay a minimal charge for the box and that was it. Can’t remember how much but it wasn’t in the hundreds. What’s the situation now?

  50. Lizard_King says:

    A surfboard is light but ungainly. Yes it is more expensive to fly with a surfboard or snowboard because it is more difficult to transport and pack. I’ve both paid to ship and take bikes with me on the plane (carton size in inches – 44L x 30H x 11W, about 28 lbs) and usually pay $75 – $100 each way.

    With the peanuts and movie cuts lately on flights, what else would you expect. Honestly, I would be UPSET if I saw someone check something as long as a snowboard and NOT get charged. Since the weight fee for over 50 lbs, I have not been able to use plastic hard cases, but even then they were only 48″L x 34″H X 14″W.

    I would venture a guess that a nicely packed bike would be easier to pack into a plane than a longboard with a crappy packjob. Oh and BTW, just about EVERY snowboard I’ve seen on a plane has been in a nylon bag – I’m pretty sure you should lose any right to bitch about damages with such a job packing.

  51. Coles_Law says:

    Wow. If you catch a fare sale, it may well be cheaper to buy a second seat for your board.

  52. kepler11 says:

    I would like to suggest a new idea to Consumerist readers:

    Stop thinking that the price of things has to be related to what they cost a company to provide. While an airline may be partly justified in saying that they need to cover the cost of special handling for unusual items (which can be expensive if you need to have an additional person on top of normal staffing to move this stuff), I can assure you that they charge this because people will pay it. It is what the market will bear, and what you, despite your grumbling, will continue to pay. Until you refuse to pay it, it will stay this way.

    Surfers/skiiers/hunters/etc are a captive market. They travel for the purpose of what they planned to do on their vacation, and if that necessarily involves transporting hardware, then they are captive to that need. They don’t want to leave that expensive stuff behind, and have to bring it with them. If you don’t like it, then by all means find alternatives, like renting or borrowing at your destination, or shipping ahead for cheaper.

    When you must have something, you are vulnerable to someone charging/exploiting you for that requirement. And the price of it need not be related at all to the cost of providing it.

    I don’t know why airlines are so susceptible to their customers thinking along these lines. Maybe it’s their fee structure. But you don’t hear people complaining that the iPhone only costs $40 to make, yet they charge $300 for it.

    Or to be crass, it don’t cost a prostitute nothing to have sex with someone. But they still manage to charge $1000 an hour for it. Why do you suppose?

  53. Neurotic1 says:

    Well, I’ve worked for Delta for more years than I’d care to admit, so take it from me- there is absolutely nothing special about the type of care required for surfboards, golfbags,etc. that would require a fee of $150+ dollars. The “special” oversize belt that is used to send the larger items are just yards away from the normal belt to the baggage claim area, which would take just a few minutes of an employees time(if that). And if anything, the larger items are mistreated even more than usual. For example, I’ve seen ramp crews place surfboards across other bags to use as benches. So it’s just another way for the airline to get extra revenue.

    Same thing with surcharges for pets – oh please don’t check in your pet. The airlines do absolutely nothing for them behind the scenes. Your beloved pets are at the mercy of caring individual employees who might/might not care for them by giving them water, etc. but it is not something the airline does. I’ve seen frightened pets left alone in baggage carts for hours on the ramp while roaring jet engines are buzzing by just yards away.

    Same thing with unacccompanied minor charges- airlines do nothing. They’re soppose to keep an eye on them during the flight, but the crews are so understaffed now days, I seriously doubt, they have the time, even if they want to. And during my years at the airline, I’ve seen far too many cases where children are left alone at busy gate areas or put on wrong flights- and this is after they collect the surcharge!

  54. farmerjoe says:

    I’m going to hazard a guess that the furthest thing from Patrick Swayze’s mind at the moment is the charge for checking a surf board…. what with pancreatic cancer and all. Though i don;t doubt that he could afford it. so…. yeah.

  55. lastingsmilledge says:

    i always just lie and say that it’s a snowboard when i fly southwest – that way it gets on free.

  56. moran85 says:

    I’ve been surfing for 16 years. I’ve traveled quite a few different places to surf and all I can say is this is nothing new. The airlines have been slowly increasing rates every year since I first started traveling. Used to be about 40 dollars round trip if you can believe that.

    And that special handling they’re talking about? More times than not my boards would arrive in much worse condition then when they’ve arrived. A couple years ago I just stopped bringing my boards with me and just bought a new board wherever I went. It’s the same price as bringing it with me and the board isn’t messed up when I get there. Then I just sell it back to the store at the end of the trip and usually get at least half of what I paid for it.

    Bottom line, the airlines are completely out of touch with reality and I NEVER fly American Airlines, United, or Delta because of the way they have treated myself and possessions.

  57. moran85 says:


    Basing your opinion on the few people who travel with poor packaging is a great idea. Whenever most serious surfers travel anywhere they use a special traveling case that protects their boards. Why would we want our boards, which are easily damaged, messed up before we get to the destination? Especially with the track record of airlines in the first place. Again, think.

  58. jamar0303 says:

    @Jevia: Depending on how creative you’re willing to get with scheduling, you can at least fly to Hawaii on an Asian airline, for example (For example, fly to Hawaii through Tokyo/Shanghai/Singapore/etc). Again, means you have to be willing to spend a day or two in said city to get around stupid US regulations that prevent you directly booking such a flight in one go, but worth it..

  59. Lizard_King says:

    @moran85: I’ve only seen two surfboards on planes, both in rudimentary packaging – hell, if I could tell they were surfboards from the packaging, they were packaged wrong. I’ve seen dozens of snowboards, all in the less than protective nylon bags.

    I’m sorry, I feel little sympathy for someone paying a fee for something as large as a surfboard.

  60. kellkell says:

    @khiltd: I second that emotion!

  61. pantsonfire says:

    @moran85: My experience has been similar except that I usually look for a used board. I also find that if there is a good local shaper I can usually get a really nice demo model pretty cheap. I generally only lose about fifty bucks when I sell the board before flying home. Overall, it’s a much better deal than paying the airline to destroy my own board in transit.


    I have to disagree with some of the opinions here. While $200 each way is VERY excessive, I am in complete agreement with the airlines that surfboards require extra fees.

    The simple fact is that you are shipping a long, thin, fragile piece of sports equipment that is generally longer than a person is tall.

    It takes up as much floor space as 3 or 4 pieces of regular luggage, and unlike luggage you can’t stack anything on top of it or lie it on end or sideways to save space.

    Since it doesn’t fit on the carousel that means it requires special handling, which means somebody has to stop their regular work and give it extra attention and it will involve more physical labor than just letting a standard piece of luggage go through the system. Even if it’s only 15 pounds or so, it’s still an awkward package to carry.

    Add in the inadequate packaging some of the other commentators have mentioned and you can see where the cost comes from.


    We make hydraulic cylinders in the shop I work in as a machinist. These cylinders tend to be as long or even longer than than a surfboard, sometimes as much as 15 feet long.

    Do you know how we ship them?

    We start with a large pallet, sometimes two nailed together for the longer items. We put down foam padding, then 5 to 12 cylinders depending on diameter. Each cylinder is separated from the others by wood blocks at intervals along the length. Then they are strapped down with steel banding We put down boards supported by more blocks on top, add foam and repeat for up to 3 layers of cylinders.
    We wrap the whole magilla in plastic and add a “No Stack” cardboard pyramid on top.
    This is then loaded onto a truck and shipped to it’s destination, usually taking several days to get there.

    This is all for steel cylinders designed to function under high stress.

    If you want your surfboard to arrive inexpensively and undamaged at your destination you have to do more than toss it on a passenger plane in a nylon bag.

    Ship it through a freight company, and package it properly.
    If it was delivered to you when you purchased it, try for the same type of packaging the seller used. If you’re going with friends try to combine your boards into one larger package, which will be cheaper than shipping them individually.

  64. gatewaytoheaven says:

    Wouldn’t it just be cheaper to buy a board at your destination as opposed to bringing it along with you? Think of the ideas! Disposable surf boards!

  65. travelina says:

    Huh! British Airways carried my daughter’s bike to Ireland for free. As long as it’s in a bag or box. But the guy at the ticket counter said it’s not likely to be free much longer.

  66. Green Goth Brit Chick - AlternatEve says:

    @shufflemoomin That’s exactly why I sing the praises of BMI to anyone who’ll listen, they’re an excellent carrier. Make sure to fully utilise the free booze btw ;)

  67. Ultraprison! says:

    yeah, i have a fun time traveling with my twelve-pound dog… most airlines charge somewhere between $100 and $250 each way for me to carry my dog (in her carrier) through the airport and put her under the seat in front of me. couldn’t they at least provide a free rawhide or something???

  68. Meathamper says:

    It’s way cheaper to US Postal the thing than to carry it. What has the world come to?

  69. oneandone says:

    @HYDRAULICMONSTER: So why do other long, fragile and/or heavy pieces of sports equipment – all requiring the same type of special handling – not require a similar charge? The LAT article showed no fee or $15-$25 for skis and golf clubs, which are smaller, but still require the special elevator & workforce. I can’t see what the airlines’ distinction is between the different pieces of equipment.

    Also, what about strollers? Are there charges for those? I’ve never used one in an airport, but people check them right before going on board & get them immediately after. Someone is doing extra work to put them away & retrieve them, and they seem to have them ready pretty quickly.

  70. Tubed says:

    This is an outright travesty, I agree we need action! But how can we organize? Therein lies the question.

    Sign this petition!