With airline policy and airport security getting stricter, gone are the days when you can rock up to the airport with two kayaks, a bag of paddles, a suitcase, and a winning attitude. Nowadays you need to plan ahead to guarantee airport success, here are some tips and tricks to get you to your dream kayaking destination.
Check the baggage policy
Make sure you know what the baggage policy says. Some airlines have a maximum length and other airlines have maximum combined dimensions. If you have connecting flights the company may have different rules for routes which fly smaller aircraft (what fits in the Airbus A380 might not fit in the A318). Many airlines have specific policies on sports equipment which is helpful. Most airlines will charge you extra, but the amount varies, check this before you book in tickets so you can add it to the total price. Prebook all of your luggage. Arrive at the airport with a charming smile. Failing that bring your Italian arm gestures and never give up …
Take a ‘windsurfer’ or ‘surfboard’ instead
Many airlines have a blanket policy against carrying kayaks, but will happily check in a ‘windsurfer’ or ‘surfboard’ or ‘surfski’. Disguise your kayak in a surfboard bag if you have one or duct tape and cardboard works well too. Make sure when you check in you don’t let alarm words like ‘kayak’ or ‘paddles’ slip out and get you busted.
Have awesome friends pick you up from the airport
A Silverado is good, but a dump truck is better! Beg or bribe friends or friends of friends because it’s nice to see a friendly face when you arrive at your destination. Especially if you have been travelling for days and you’re not used to so much time indoors. If you have to hire a car a good trick is to hire one with rails and bring something in your paddle bag that you can lash onto the rails.
Airlines which will take kayaks
As of 5/6/2018 include:
Norwegian Air ~$100 NZD (Norwegians are awesome)
Air Asia will take your ‘surfboard’ from Malaysia to Medan for less than $20 NZD
Singapore Airlines – free as part of your normal baggage allowance
Malaysian Airlines $80 NZD
Air NZ $200 NZD (but only if there is room on the plane, hence why you need to arrive early)
Lufthansa will take your kayak for free if its your only piece of luggage and is less than 32 kg
Emirates $250 NZD providing total dimensions are less than 300cm
Etihad ~$85 NZD
Virgin Atlantic/Virgin Australia for free if your kayak is less than 190cm (if you’re packing a playboat)
These are the airlines that I have flown a kayak with in the past, as a general rule Norwegian Air and the asian airlines are the best because as long as you pre booked extra luggage they will take your kayak. Air NZ is good but expensive. The arab airlines will take your kayak if you prepaid but you might end up having a long argument at the check in counter. Virgin Atlantic/Australia is at the bottom of the list because they used to take kayaks for free but I haven’t flown with them for a while.
Have a good trip!