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Catching a wave after your flight? If you’re planning to bring your own surfboard to your destination, you could face some hefty checked bag fees that usually can’t be avoided, even with an airline-branded credit card that offers free checked baggage.
Let’s cut to the chase: The best airlines for surfers are American Airlines and Alaska Airlines because they consider surfboards a normal piece of checked luggage. That means you won’t have to pay oversized baggage fees, as long as your board bag isn’t too heavy. Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines also have cheap rates when you fly between certain destinations. It’s also more cost effective to buddy up and bundle two surfboards together in one case, so you can fly two surfboards for the price of one on the airlines that allow the practice.
» Learn more: 6 ways to save baggage fees
Here are surfboard policies by airline:
American Airlines: As of May 21, 2019, travelers will only pay standard checked bag fees for their surfboards that are less than 50 pounds. That’s $30 if the surfboard is your only checked item. If you’re flying with fellow wave riders and can cram two surfboards into one bag, you’ll only pay one checked bag fee to transport both boards.
Alaska Airlines: It may be called Alaska Airlines, but this carrier has flights to Hawaii and other West Coast destinations that are known for their great waves. You can take a surfboard or paddleboard case with up to two boards inside for the same price as a normal piece of checked luggage. Alaska charges $30 for the first checked item, which makes flying Alaska one of the most budget-friendly ways to travel with your surfboard. If you have the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card, your free checked bag perk will waive the fee to check your surfboard. The maximum dimensions for the surfboards vary by aircraft, so check on its website before you go.
Delta Air Lines: You'll have to shell out at least $150 to fly with your surfboards on Delta. Other fees may apply as well if your bag is over 70 pounds, and boards are limited to 115 inches in length. If you’re flying between Honolulu and Maui, Delta only charges a $20 fee.
Hawaiian Airlines: Hawaiian Airlines charges different rates for surfboards based on where you’re flying. Heading over to a neighboring Hawaiian island? You'll pay $35 to check your surfboard. Going to or from elsewhere in North America with your surfboard will cost you $100, while other international destinations will cost you $150. There is an exception that makes it free to check your surfboard if you’re flying to Australia and New Zealand and the board counts as one of your two pieces of checked luggage. Regardless, your bag cannot be over 50 pounds, or it will not be accepted.
JetBlue: JetBlue allows you to check one surfboard for $100 each way. It cannot weigh more than 100 lbs. Surfboards are not accepted when flying to/from Bermuda, Haiti, Peru, Port of Spain, Santo Domingo and Santiago.
Southwest Airlines: Surfboards can fly for $75 each way on Southwest.
Spirit Airlines: Spirit Airlines charges $100 to check surfboards, but you can save money by putting two surfboards in one bag. Overweight and oversize charges do not apply to surfboards with Spirit.
United Airlines: Travelers with United will pay the normal checked baggage fee of $30 for the first checked item when flying to California, and this fee can be waived by having a United credit card and using it to book your flight. When you’re flying to and from destinations outside of California, surfboards are usually charged as oversized baggage that is $150 or $200 depending on the size.
If you’re planning to fly with your surfboard, it always makes sense to double-check baggage fees before you buy your ticket. It might be worth spending a little extra on airfare to book with an airline that doesn’t charge or charges lower fees for your board.
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Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: 5 new ways to maximize your travel booking on Google NerdWallet’s top travel credit cards This new website will help you find a cheap flight