How to Fly Your Bike or Surfboard For Less

Ever wanted to bring your bike or your surfboard on a trip— only to realize that flying with those items was going to cost you more in oversize baggage fees than your own roundtrip ticket?  Before you plan a trip, it makes sense to read the fine print or you could be finding yourself paying up to $150 each way to bring along the bike or the surfboard you plan to use when you get there. That’s the standard price to check most oversize sports equipment. (Skis, boots, snowboards and golf never seem to incur  oversize charges).

Here’s the good news: On July 16, 2019 Delta announced that you would no longer have to pay the surplus charge ($150) for oversized sports equipment.  “Delta customers traveling with surfboards, bicycles, golf clubs, scuba gear and other large-sized sporting equipment will now be allowed to check them as part of their standard baggage allowance.  The airline is eliminating the $150 specialty sports bag fee previously charged for these items, effective for travel worldwide on tickets purchased beginning July 17, 2019. Customers will instead pay a first, second or third checked bag fee according to the fare rules associated with their booking and/or SkyMiles Medallion status.” Complete checked baggage fee detail, including the new sporting equipment fees, can be found at

This follows a spate of other airlines reducing or eliminating fees.

Earlier this year, American Airlines announced that it was lowering the price for many common items of  sports equipment that previously counted as “oversized.” You can now fly most places in the continental U.S. with a bike or a surfboard for just $30, same as any checked bag on American. There are restrictions on weight (the item must be under 50 lbs.) and size (less than 126 inches long, if you measure length plus width plus height. ) If it’s a bike, it also has to be packed in a hard case. If you’re bringing a windsurfer or kiteboard, if you want to bring sails, booms, etc. you’ll still pay $150 in oversize fees. (Confession: I once stitched an extension onto a ski bag and disguised a windsurfer mast and sail as a pair of skis. Just sayin’.)

Other airlines run the gamut. For instance:

 United Airlines has some strange policies. Like American, it allows bikes on if they are packed in a hard case and weigh less than 50 lbs. But, get this, the hard case has to measure less than 62 inches (L + W + H). And that’s pretty small. Dive bags have the same restrictions (although bring along an empty tank and you are now looking at a $150 charge). United also seems to love California surfer dudes and dudettes. It seems that surfboards, paddleboards and wakeboards  incur oversize charges pretty much everywhere except if you are flying to, from or within California. Then it’s just a $30 fee.  Righteous, right? You can put as many boards in a bag as you want as long as it measures 115 inches or less and weighs under  99 lbs.

Jet Blue will take bikes in a cardboard or hard case box (pedals and handlebars removed) for a $100 fee each way  — less than the standard $150 many other airlines charge. Surfboards get the same $100 fee. The good news, fishing poles (even those longer than the usual 62 inches) are free.

Perhaps the best policies we came across are those of Alaska Airlines:  fishing gear (under 115 inches), scuba gear (including a tank), bikes, surfboards and even windsurfers can all be checked for the regular baggage fees of  $30 for the first bag, $40 for the second and $100 for the third.

Too bad Alaska doesn’t fly in and out of Burlington.

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