Traveling with Snow Sports Gear on Airlines
Are ski and snowboard bags considered excess baggage?
The answer is no. Skis and poles, or a snowboard, count as one of two checked bags passengers can transport without charge. Most airlines allow for a "set of ski equipment," meaning, skis, poles, bindings and boots count as one item of luggage, even if the boots are in a separate bag.
Baggage policies vary slightly from airline to airline so check with yours to see if there are extra charges. Checked bags are oversized if they are heavier than 50 pounds OR have a total outside measurement (height, width and depth) of more than 62 inches. Find your airline’s baggage details here.
Virtually all skis and snowboards bagged for travel exceed the 62-inch rule. But airlines realize that sports travel is an important component of the tourism industry, which is why they make exceptions for certain kinds of sports gear.
These days, it's wise not to push the limits. Here are some tips for traveling by air:
Watch your bag's weight. Your ski or snowboard bag will be charged extra if the bag weighs more than 50 pounds but less than 70. Bags with one set of skis or a snowboard usually won't exceed that limit.
A double bag may or may not fly free, depending how you use it. Airline policies do not specifically address double bags. However, if two people traveling together use a double bag, check-in clerks probably will allow it, said a corporate communications spokesperson for Delta. But if the double bag belongs to one person, it could be subject to excess baggage charges.
The boot bag. Written policies say that skis, poles, bindings and boots count as one item. If your boot bag is your third checked bag, it should count with the ski bag as one item. But if you use a duffel bag with a boot compartment, you may get a check-in clerk who wants to charge extra for it. Airline snowboard policies usually state that snowboards are exempt from the oversized rules, but say nothing about boots. If you explain that snowboard boots are part of the equipment, you should be able to check them as a unit, airline spokespersons said.
You may have to sign a liability release form. Some airlines require that you sign a damage waiver for gear packed in a soft bag. Most soft-side bags for skis and snowboards are rugged and have protective features. Some companies make hard-shell travel containers for equipment.
Do not lock your ski or snowboard bags. If the metal in your ski and snowboard gear sets off a "false positive" during luggage screening, baggage handlers screening checked bags for explosives may need to open your luggage for a visual check. Rules allow for locks on sports luggage to be broken off to check contents.
Save the hassle and Ship Your Gear. Many people don’t realize they can ship skis/snowboards to their destination via FedEx®. Pack up your ski/snowboard with clothes or ship your gear in a tube. Some specialty shops have shipping programs or enroll in the Ship Your Gear FedEx Program for a discount up to 16% on FedEx Express® and up to an 8% discount on FedEx Ground®. Tell Your Gear to Meet You At the Mountain.
International baggage rules are different. If you're vacationing in the Alps, check with your airline regarding its baggage policy. The baggage limits listed here apply to flights within the U.S. and Canada.
Content courtesy of SnowSports Industries America | SIA and Snowlink.com.