What can possibly go wrong?
Lost, delayed or damaged equipment
Unless you are based on the Australian East Coast, travelling to New Zealand includes at least one long-haul flight. Travelling half way around the world from Europe it is usually 2-3 flights or more, with various stop-overs. Every time you change plane, so does your luggage. It gets unloaded and loaded again, and you can only pray that the handlers are treating it careful enough and actually loading it in the correct plane – we all have seen the youtube videos. Since international travel picked up again after Covid, there is an increasing amount of luggage getting lost, delayed or damaged. Things that can seriously spoil you precious and well earned holiday!
Increasing costs and restrictions on baggage allowances
Airline code sharing is fantastic for long haul flights where departure airline and arrival airlines differ, however when travelling with large sports equipment this can create a bit of a mine-field when it comes to your journey home. What was acceptable to your ticketing airline one way may not necessarily be acceptable for the return. This can get extremely confusing and from experience even repeated calls and emails to the airlines concerned may provide you with various conflicting outcomes and costs. This can even change when you get to the check-in counter. Policies are not necessarily set in stone, what you can get away with is sometimes dictated by the mood and stresses of the check-in staff, so if you hear from a forum/blog/friend it’s no worries despite the policy, take care and be prepared it won’t workout as planned. Sometimes stating a windsurf board is simply a surfboard may work, then again you may upset someone who could make your life difficult.
We also learned the hard way that airline policies change regularly and without warning. What may have been a sweet free ride one way can change during your vacation and become an expensive returning fee.
So why would you bother taking your own gear?
However, there are sometimes reasons why you would want to go through all the hassle of bringing your own gear. Especially if you plan on travelling off the beaten track, it can be difficult to find good and suitable rental gear at your destination. Or the rental place doesn’t let you take the gear away to the specific spot you want to use it at.
How to best negotiate the risks and hassles of flying with kit
Save weight wherever you can
- Find light weight travel bags with excellent padding for all your gear. Roller bags seem nice, but add additional weight and are not essential, considering that airports always have trolleys for your gear. And even if not, a smooth floor allows you to just drag a bag behind you.
- Try to take as little gear with you as possible. Maybe you can bring some of your own kit and rent other parts? Usually the board is the biggest issue on a plane, as it is the most fragile part of your kit and also often exceeds the maximum length (especially windsurf boards).
- Leave sailbags and wingbags at home, put heavy items like foil masts, fuselages and windsurf extensions in your normal luggage (assuming you are not at your weight limit on that bag)
Pack your equipment well
- Make sure your gear is padded as well as possible: use your wetsuit, harness (without hook), towels, boardshorts etc. to add additional padding.
- Make sure your equipment is secure in the bag and not moving around. Use additional tie downs if necessary (they can come handy at your destination if securing equipment on a rental car). Secure smaller parts so they can’t be lost, even if your bag gets opened to be checked.
Tips at the airport
- Book your excess luggage in advance, print out confirmation of booking
- Arrive with plenty of time at the airport, just in case there are dramas and you are required to repack or come up with another solution to get your gear on board.
- Maximum weight allowance for oversize gear is 32kg, often less.
At your destination
- Ensure beforehand your rental car or airport transfer takes your equipment
- Soft racks fit on most cars, though rental companies often don’t like them as they can scratch the roof – be careful!
- An extra set of tie downs in your boardbag can go a long way!
There are only a limited number of airlines servicing New Zealand, many have very strict policies, if planning to bring equipment you need to do your research. We can recommend Airline Baggage Fees which has a comprehensive list and reasonably up-to-date policy links to help you decide. Though we absolutely do recommend verifying with the airlines website on their latest policy to be sure.