Our Black Team travel the world with huge heavy windsurfing bags on monthly bases, if not weekly. They turn up to the check in of the airports with over 150kg of weight. It’s a nightmare if they are not organised and have an agreement before each travel.
When packing the bags, you already are thinking if it’s not too heavy, if you can have that 1kg more. When driving to the airport you have already the feeling that you are going to be treated as a criminal.
Once you rock up at the check in, you try to look at the counter with the friendliest person in charge, who will hopefully help, instead of tearing your ticket in front of your eyes!
Here is how our Point-7 Black Team approaches travel life with all of their equipment.
It’s a tricky time! I normally try to fly with AA or one World Alliance, so I know their gear policy but sometimes they don’t know the policy’s and try to screw you and over charge you. I normally let them say how much it is because they can make a mistake, and charge little, if it is the opposite then I tell them to have a look at their system.
Once from Gran Canaria to Maui, a long time ago with Iberia, they wanted to charge us 5200 Euros. We had to wait for the shift to change, and make a really “illegal” trick and at the end we payed 150 Euros! There are many tricks, but it will also depend on the person who is attending you, and the airport.
My advice is: take the least gear as possible and try to leave you bags light! If there would be a fair policy, there would be no reason to try to not to pay or fight to pay less. If you go on holiday perhaps check that it’s not cheaper to rent if you don’t stay long.
If they ask me to weight the bags, and they are too heavy, I try to empty them a bit, and then re-put back in the most necessary…hoping they won’t catch me!
Usually when I start traveling with my equipment I do my best to know approximately how much I will spend. You never know what can happen during your check in in the airport, because often also the people at the check in don’t even know their own policy with windsurfing gear, and they are already upset to see you with the big bags. Those who actually help us to make it smooth for us..I call them heros! I’m a professional windsurfer, and I already know what I’m going to go through at the airport at 90%, but the 10% is always a surprise. Call friends who had experience in flying to a place you’d like to go windsurfing and ask them what airline they used, and all advices. This way you will have less expensive surprises.
I’m not a fan of flying with equipment. I prefer to drive with my van and take everything, but so long you check the rules of the company if they take equipment you will be fine. Of course, we all try to get the equipment for free with us, but usually it doesn’t work like this. The price is really depending of the company. I luckily didn’t have bad experience that I had to pay a lot of overweight. If you know before what you have to pay you’re prepared for it! Luckily I do freestyle and don’t have to carry around all that slalom gear.
I make sure I know the rules. Then since it usually depends a lot on the check in person, I ask friends if they flew from the airport before. I’ve been very lucky so far. I think the maximum I had to pay once was 150 euro per bag but in that case, I made that 1 bag like 3 bags, so it was normal I guess. Make sure to know the rules and then try and interpret them in your favour. Normally always try to get around weighing the bags. Say it won’t fit or it’s too complicated and say oh but I know the weight it’s… insert the max allowed kg-1-2. Normally I make my bags heavier but leave myself the option of being able to repack at the airport in a way that will fit the regulations. Don’t be afraid of repacking at the airport… If you have more than 1 bag, the best trick that often works is to say that its 1 WINDSURF in several bags. So, you try and pay for just 1 EQUIPMENT even if it’s in more than 1 bag.
I usually do everything I can to arrive at the airport as prepared as possible! I look into all of the policy of the airline, the history they have of transporting sports equipment, the aircraft types they use, and I even sometimes will do research into the airports if I´ve got the choice to choose between airports. In that way, I always rock up to the check in counter super prepared, and will have an answer for everything.
Lets face it, if we abide completely by the airline policies, we pretty much have no choice of airlines left. Often, I will go for the more expensive flight knowing that I will only risk to pay a certain amount in excess as maximum. The best thing you can do, is to have things booked in advance, and even paid for. This is by far the easiest option, but not all airlines allow this, so your destiny will be in the hands of the check in staff at the airport. In this case, I´ve learned over the years, that the nice looking ones in the end are the ones who get you into most trouble. So the last few years, I´ve mostly approached the “non friendly” looking person, and tried to have a positive approach to whatever happens as I will know before arriving at the airport how much my maximum damage will be 🙂
But the years of checking in windsurfing gear on flights has taken its toll on me. Its super stressful and at times awkward. But in the end, a price we´re willing to pay to ride out our dreams.