Travelling with surfboards sucks! There’s just nothing fun about it, no matter how many times you do it. I mean a few extra dollars is fair enough, but forking out hundreds of dollars for a board bag, or worse still, for every board within that bag, is just a shit way to start your trip, especially if you’ve only just scraped enough money together for it in the first place.
Over the years, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on surfboard baggage fees, but to save you from doing the same, here’s a breakdown of the world’s largest airlines and what they charge for surfboards. But so you don’t have to go through the same pain, I’ve created this guide to separate the most surfboard-friendly airlines from the ones that will sting you!
Table of Contents
What You Need to Know About Flying With Surfboards
Before we jump into the airlines, let’s get a few things straight.
So these airlines are the most surfer-friendly out there! We’re talking free boards as part of checked baggage, quality airlines with helpful staff, and generally problem-free surfboard transportation.
American Airlines have stepped their game up for surfers, after recently ditching its $150 surfboard fee. Surfboards now come as part of your checked baggage allowance as long as it weighs under 23kg. Standard checked baggage fees do apply, so you’ll need to check what baggage your fare includes when you book.
Air New Zealand
New Zealand’s national airline is a great choice for surfers, which is just as well, because they fly between major surf destinations across New Zealand, Australia, and South Pacific. Sporting equipment (including surfboards) less than 2m (78.7”) and up to 23kg are included as a standard bag. Extra fees apply if you go overweight, so if you’re over, book this beforehand. Bags are also counted as bags, not pieces within the bag, which is always reassuring.
Air Asia, although it’s what you may consider a budget airline, is actually pretty good when it comes to surfboards. They have a “complimentary surfboard policy” for flights to/from Australia. Their website wording states 1 surfboard up to 15kg. Bear in mind, you’ll need to add on extra sports equipment (for a fee) for flights elsewhere in Asia.
British Airways are one of the most surfboard-friendly airlines out there! Their website states “If it fits in your checked baggage allowance, it’s free”. Bags must be under 190cm in length, in a protective bag (obviously) and the site does say clothes and other items must not be in the surfboard bag. But I don’t know if this is something they check! I should also mention longboards and bigger boards need to be booked as cargo!
Also if you’re watching this from the UK, you can get Avios (British Airways points system) by using an Amex X British Airways credit card. I use this to put my daily spending on, to build up points (and hopefully by the end of the year, ill have a free flight). You also get bonus sign-up points if you spend over a certain amount. I’ll leave a link in the description where you can check that card out!
As is a theme with many of the top Middle Eastern-based airlines, flying with Etihad as a surfer is a dream! Surfboards and other water sports equipment are included as checked baggage allowance. They must be no longer than 300cm and like all airlines, don’t accept liability for your boards. While Etihad tickets are usually more expensive, they’re a solid airline with largely stress-free surfboard travel.
Emirates is my favourite airline in the world. You get treated well, the service is excellent and boards are classed as checked baggage. I try and fly Emirates whenever I can and have never had to pay extra for boards when travelling with them!
By far the best airline in Indonesia, Garuda is the best for surfers and while compared to many of the region’s budget airlines, travelling with Garuda is just more pleasant and best of all, boards are free! They offer sporting equipment at no extra cost which is made clear on their website. For Economy tickets, you’ll get 30kg of free checked baggage and surfboards are included in this.
I’ve flown with KLM a few times and never had any issues. You can bring surfboards on KLM flights instead of checked luggage. Note, you’ll need to make a reservation if it’s over 107cm. But again, a great airline, With routes all over!!
I’ve never flown with Omani Air, but surfboards are considered special baggage and come as part of your checked luggage. They must adhere to standard baggage sizes though and must be carried in a “rigid case” is their official website wording. Please let me know in the comments if you’ve flown with Omani before!
Despite Maylasia being the most unlucky airline on earth, with missing planes and getting shot down, etc. Flying with them is actually pretty good. Boards come free as checked baggage, however, this can change depending on location/destination. Must be under 3m in length (118 inches). So make sure you double-check this when you book.
As you’d expect from one of the world’s best surf destinations, boards are free as checked baggage with Australia’s top airline. I’ve flown with Qantas a number of times and always find it to be a great experience. Never had to pay for boards either which is epic! Officially, only accepted if enclosed in a surfboard bag and does not exceed 32kg (70lb) in weight and 277cm (109in) in length.
Next up we have one of my favorite airlines, Qatar. I’ve flown with Qatar a bunch of times (Between Aus and UK and Indo) and never had issues. Surfboards are classed as checked baggage but must be less than 3 meters in length. Qatar is an all-around good airline, but I think rules can change depending on the location, so be sure to check this before booking!
I’ve never flown personally with Royal Brunei, but boards (sporting equipment comes free as checked baggage, and can be a handy airline for travelling between Indo and Aus. Let me know of your experience with Royal Brunie.
Another top quality airline and one in which taking boards is a breeze. Singapore has routes all over, most notably between Europe and Asia. Singapore is a global hub, with flights connecting between Europe, Asia and Oceania. Surfboards are accepted as checked baggage but can’t exceed 200cm in length, 75cm in width and 80cm in height. This is pretty standard.
Sri Lankan is a great airline for surfers and as one of the best Intermediate surf destinations on earth, Sri Lankan Airways make taking boards on a trip (especially if it’s your first time) nice and easy. “Surfboard equipment” is included in the free baggage allowance. A great choice if you’re heading to Sri Lanka!
South African Airlines
Surfboards are included in free baggage allowance on all SAA-operated flights. (Not always on codeshare flights). Must be under 200cm. I’ve not spent enough time in South Africa to have flown with these guys, so if you’re from there or have flown with them, please let me know what they’re like!
If you’re travelling to somewhere as wave rich as Tahiti or Hawaii, then you’d expect all airlines to carry boards for free, while this isn’t the case, Tahiti Nui is actually one of the best and only carry boards for free in the region. With a standard maximum weight of 23kg, sports equipment (surfboards) is included in your standard baggage allowance. One or more boards can be carried in the same bag. A weight limit of 32kg and height of 250cm applies!
For Virgin Australia, sports equipment can be checked in as oversized baggage, but must not exceed your weight allowance. (Overweight fees apply). Your oversized item (surfboard) is included as free baggage.
In this category, we’ll dive into the airlines that accept surfboards and you can fly with them, but they slap on a fee. Now these fees vary, from $20-30 which is ok, up to $100+ which is annoying but tolerable as well.
Alaskan Airlines take surfboard as part of your checked baggage. While this isn’t free (baggage starts at $30 per piece) you can take your boards as part of this. So for routes and surf destinations across North America, Alaskan is a great choice. Their official airline wording states two x boards per case but not sure if they check that. And the measurement requirements are: 9ft, 7in in length, and shouldn’t exceed this.
If you’re flying between North, Central and South America, then Avianca is one of the main carriers, and with so many surf spots in this part of the world, chances are you’ll use them sooner or later. Surfboards (up to 3 per bag) come as part of your checked baggage, which you can purchase when you book.
Your board bag must be 3.7m or below. For International flights, booking surfboards cost $100, or at the airport, $120. It’s also worth noting for domestic flights (Within Ecuador, this only costs $25).
Another Latin American airline, that has flights between Central and South America. I’ve flown with Copa a few times between Mexico, Panama and Ecuador and found the airline ok, although it always involved paying for boards. There is a flat fee of $150 for surfboard bags (sports equipment fee) and their website states you must reserve ahead via phone. I’ve never done this the couple of times I flew with them and was always allowed on but this is something to bare in mind!
Europe is epic for cheap, fast flights, Portugal, UK, Ireland, France, and Canaries, all top surf destinations you can fly between for under $100. Easy Jet accepts surfboards but must be within your allocated weight limit 23Kg. I’ve flown with EasyJet more times than I care to admit, and usually pay £37 for “small sports equipment” online. Make sure it’s underweight though, as if it isn’t you’ll be stung with a £12 per kilo charge, a lot if you’re a few kilos over! And they can be strict. So Easy Jet is ok, and I like to think of it as one of the better budget Euro airlines. And yeah, $45 is pretty tolerable.
Jetstar is Australia’s largest budget airline and for domestic flights around the country or hopping over to NZ and Indo, Jetstar is a favourite. Boards are accepted on Jetstar flights but must come under the standard dimension requirements and the weight you’re allowed is how much-checked baggage you purchase on booking. Jetstar also slaps on a $25 “handling fee” for sporting equipment. So you pay for your weight and the handling fee. Check the weight prices via the link in the description.
I recently flew with Jetstar Melbourne to Bali and they were super anal about me being a few kilos overweight, so me being my stubborn self, I actually threw some older clothes away rather than pay extra for them, I also wore a few items and shoved stuff in my pockets, They also weighed my hand luggage. Normally airlines give you a couple of kilos of leeway and aren’t that strict, but because of this, I’ll never fly with Jetstar again.
Korean Airlines take surfboards as part of checked baggage, which you still have to pay for when booking. Boards must also be 23kg under and it within the standard maximum weight requirements.
I’ve flown with LATAM a few times, around South America and their policy on surfboards is as follows. Surf equipment is allowed but must be in one bag with a maximum of three boards. LATAM is a little complicated as the price you pay for boards depends on both the origin and destination. Generally speaking, it’s around $50 each way on domestic flights and $100 on international, but be sure to check this when you book as it can change.
Another budget European airline, Ryan Air have some stupidly cheap flights across Europe. We’re talking under $10 for some places. I even flew with them from the UK to Fuerteventura for $30 once. But like all budget airlines you’ll pay for boards.
Generally, boards cost around $55-60euro to book online. Make sure you do this online though as it gets bumped up if you do it at the airport and as always make sure it’s under your allocated weight. But if you can score a cheap flight this is one of the rare occasions where it can still work out affordably even after adding boards. For instance, a $30 flight plus $55 for boards is still pretty cheap!
While you’ll need to purchase baggage when you book (it doesn’t come free), sporting equipment is included in this. You can purchase up to 40kg when you book. Their website states Sporting equipment such as golf clubs, surfboards, canoes, diving apparel, skis and bicycles counts toward your pre-purchased baggage allowance.
TAP Air is a popular Portuguese airline with routes around Europe, so if you wanna go and surf sick waves in Portugal, chances are you’ll have flown with or have seen this airline. While the exact price you pay for boards with TAP depends on the origins and destination, booking surfboards online beforehand will cost around $77usd or $83 at the airport. The wording on their website says you must also fill out a form declaring surfboards, but I’ve never had to do this.
A South American airline with routes to soem of South America’s top surf destinations. You can take boards, but you’ll need to pay for the sports equipment fee! You’ll need to buy something called the more baggage combo for $160 to take boards! But check when you book as this is one of those confusing airlines where rules change depending on location.